Companies House criticised over £150 big chill fines

Companies House has been accused of taking advantage of the extreme weather last month to hit small firms with fines for filing late reports.

Financial Mail has been contacted by small businesses, which say they were fined £150 each despite having posted their returns long before the December 31 deadline.

The heavy snow that blanketed most of the country led to widespread postal delays. Royal Mail could not operate in some areas for days at a time.

A worker scrapes snow and ice from the engine of a Royal Mail aircraft at Edinburgh Airport

Snow go: A Royal Mail plane is stuck at Edinburgh Airport during the big freeze


One businessman told Financial Mail he had contacted Companies House to complain about being fined despite posting his return 'well before the deadline'. He said a Companies House official responded: 'Tough luck.'

'We are not trying to avoid penalty charges for late delivery,' said the businessman. 'We spent long evenings preparing our returns and posted them long before the December 31 deadline.

'There must be thousands and thousands of businesses in the same predicament. We're not asking for special treatment  -  just the application of common sense.'

Companies House said it had fined 632 companies on January 4, but it refused to release further details, including figures for the same period last year.

A spokesman said: 'Companies House categorically does not operate a policy of using the disruption caused by bad weather to increase the revenue from late filing penalties.

'Accounts that are delivered late to Companies House automatically receive a statutory late filing penalty.

'Disruption by bad weather may well be an exceptional circumstance for some companies, but the disruption to the postal services was not uniform across Britain and the majority of companies managed to get their accounts delivered on time, despite the weather.

'If a company has received a penalty, we provide guidance on our website on the appeals process.'

Have you had a bad experience when filing a return to Companies House? Email enterprise@ financialmail.co.uk.

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