CIC Association

Serving Community Enterprise

I'd like to know if anyone else has experienced any problems filing accounts with Companies House.

 

Last year they gave us access codes to file online- we did that - only to be told that CICs could not file online - we were then presented (after much correspondence) with an invoice for late payment.

 

This year our accountant filed the accounts on time - he didn't know about the CIC statement. They reminded him, he sent the statement immediately. Because he didn't send the accounts and the statement at the same time they say we have filed late - this time the invoice is for £750.

 

I despair. It's maladminstration and we are asked to pay the cost.

 

Does anyone else have tales of woe - or is it just us?

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14th April 2011

 

Scottish DEB

Companies House

4th Floor

Edinburgh Quay 2

139 Fountainbridge Road

Edinburgh

EH 33 9FF

 

Your ref  AA/SC317140/MP

My ref R-Soul

 

Dear Sir

LOCH TAYSIDE COMMUNITY INTEREST COMPANY

It is apparent, after opening last months post, that you have no appreciation of the problem that you are facing. Unlike most of the companies you deal with, there is a small group that do not have any staff, or even an office, to deal with the requirements of both yourselves and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.

We are a voluntary organisation that has been obliged by our funders to incorporate ourselves before we have any need to. The problem really reveals itself when it takes four years to get to the starting line. In the meantime we have to imagine that we can actually do what our future employees will. I have done my best at filling in your forms and paying the annual filing fee of £15, and now another fee of £15 to file the accounts. That was a 100% increase in your charges in the middle of a recession by the way!

Year one wasn’t too bad. I did actually know how to file company accounts, hence why I got the job. Well that and the fact that I was only one at the meeting that didn’t use expletives when asked about being the treasurer.

Year two we were obliged to convert the company to a community interest company. That took some head scratching, reading, lots of meetings and an increase in membership from a dozen to one hundred and fifty. Still no income though, but we did have the promise of a building. So I dutifully followed the instruction received from our new ‘Registrar of Community Interest Companies’ and sent a copy of our accounts and a completed CiC34 together with £15 of my hard earned cash to said registrar. Some months later I get a letter from you saying that I haven’t filed the accounts. I call you up and we agree that there appears to have been a breakdown in communication somewhere, but that I would still have to send a copy of the accounts to yourselves. So I did.

Year three I think I’ve cracked it. In the November you send me a reminder letter to file accounts so  I put the numbers together, compile the accounts and send a copy to you and a copy to the CiC Registrar together with another £15 of my money. Only to have you returning the accounts because I hadn’t included the CiC34 or the payment. I also got back the copy, the form and the cheque from the CiC Registrar advising me that in future everything should go to you. So I paid your £150, out of my own money, and appealed to your better nature and thankfully received a refund of the penalty.

So here we are in year four and I do exactly what I was told to do last year. I compile the accounts, I fill in the CiC34, I make out another £15 cheque, and wait. I was waiting because I was at the bottom of a 3 in 1 snow covered hill half a mile from an ice covered road and couldn’t actually post anything. But finally, on the 28th December, I decided that keeping Her Majesty happy was of more importance than my own health and ventured out. Thanks to a friend with a four wheel drive vehicle I did actually get to Killin. Paul, the postmaster, confirmed that provided I gave him 96p my envelope would be delivered on or before 31st December.

Success I thought. I’d got them in on time and sent them to the right person. Then on the 19th January I got the letter from you. It informed me that I had failed to submit my accounts by the 31st December and would therefore be liable to a penalty. I phoned. Something I very rarely do as having a hearing impairment I find phone calls very difficult. But I thought I needed to sort this out quick. So I told you that I had definitely sent them on time and asked you what day you did receive them. After a small intermission I was advised that I should ignore the letter as you had actually receive the return on the 31st December but that due to the overwhelming number of submissions you were currently 19 days behind. Your apology for sending the letter did sound sincere, although I did wonder why you sent out a letter on the 17th January when you clearly knew that you hadn’t even opened all the post from the 31st December. Still, you had got the return and I could tear up the letter.

Then, two days later, I get the paperwork back. Evidently I had put the wrong clause on the bottom of the accounts. Silly me. It would of course have helped if, when you reminded back in November, you also mentioned

 

Continued…

that there had been a change in the law. I appreciate it is not your job to tell me what the law is, but it should be somebody’s don’t you think? How else am I ever going to find out that somebody moved the goal posts? This was even more alarming since it meant that in the space of four years, the regulations affecting a voluntary organisation had changed four times. Do you seriously believe we keep up with this rate of change? Trust me, we don’t. We don’t mind the odd change, but four years in a row is definitely assuming a little too much..

So I go online. Find out all there is to know about the change in the Companies Act and change the wording on the bottom of the accounts and send them back to you in record time.

The 28th of January dawns and there is a letter from you. I open it to find my accounts have been returned once more because I had failed to print my name. I signed them with a reasonably legible signature, put on my position within the organisation and off they went. The curious thing was that I hadn’t done that on the previous submission either. So why wasn’t I told the first time? I can’t believe you actually set out to maximise the penalty, did you?

So I print my name on the bottom and send you back the accounts and what do you do? You send a demand for £375. Now I don’t know what planet you live on, but here on planet Earth around Loch Tay, £375 is around sixty hours work. Assuming I could actually get another sixty hours work, do you seriously believe that I would give the proceeds to you? I don’t mind paying taxes, in fact I think we should increase them, but I do object to being penalised when you are so clearly at fault for not advising us of what you actually require.  

Then to cap it off you sell the debt to Lewis Debt Services within a month. Excuse me for being a wee bit pernickity but last year it took you seven months to refund the penalty fee I had paid. So how comes we don’t get the same terms that you assert?

If you believe for one minute that you can bully me into paying you despite your own mistakes then you are living in cloud cuckoo land. You could at this point enforce this supposed debt and I will respond by declaring the company insolvent and publically blaming you for preventing my community from achieving its aspirations.  You will of course spend many thousands of pounds prosecuting the case and I will take great delight in bringing it to public attention that you threaten people without any reason and waste public money pursuing fruitless debts.

Game on.

Your move.

Or you could just cancel the penalty in the knowledge that next year we will actuially have an income and be able to pay someone to put a smile on your face.

Sincerely yours

 

Brilliant - and so true.

We should make a film about all these 'occurences'. Mr David Cameron, who you may recall is standing in as Prime Minister until we elect one who has gained 50% of our votes, has promised we can have street parties and ignore bureaucracy.

So, send you letter to him, perhaps as a Freedom of Information request, giving him 21 days to drag out the miscreants responsible (they are all trainees for the Ministry of Finance) so we can demand, from them, an explanation.

This is no longer funny. Something is clearly going wrong. I suspect it's all about ensuring that each government department is standalone and can make a profit. Your measly £15 is not enough, so they have been told to insist on perfection, and to punish us all when we deviate.

The answer is to refuse - let them take us all to court. Make them pay the price of ridicule. Send me to prison for failing to submit my CIC34 - didn't I give you a copy when I created the company? Should there be any reason to change? If so, why not demand the Art & Mems as well? Maladministrator!

Administrators should be put on public display - they hide behind politicians, poor innocents who just want a flat in London for their mistresses. We need the officials, those snidey creatures who deserve to live in a Charles Dickens novel.

 

 

.....and the Coalition expect to generate an enterprise culture!!!!  Perhaps their first step needs to be to establish a Companies House that holds information people want to access.  At one fell swoop, more than 50% of the staff would be redundant - which is hard on those individuals but it might encourage them to set up social enterprises and do something useful for the State.

 

Perhaps you should submit a freedom of information request to Companies House to find out what percentage of all their records are actually accessed.  However, you will probably get the reply that it would take far too long to determine that kind of management information!

 

David

Genius letter! Bravo! Bravo!

 

I'll let you have the answer when it comes :)

 

As an association we should ask the Regulator and the Prime Minister for their support. We can't carry on like this. My company's case is clearly not unique. The country is wasting money with this mindless bureaucracy, and it is really upsetting to small CICs to be faced with large bills, with no independent arbitration immediately available.

 

If the system was crystal clear I might be sympathetic - although I cannot abide the 'rules are rules' approach to life. As entrepreneurs we push boundaries - and this is one that needs to be tackled.

 

Will the Regulator respond? Will Companies House?

This wont be a quick fix, I think we have to have a policy of making as many people aware of the issue before it becomes one for them, and to give some encouragement to those wishing to appeal.

The Regulator would be happy to see this solved but it isnt an issue she can deal with, it is Companies House.

I have spoken to them and they have a plan to have the majority of companies able to file their accounts online by 2013, although at the moment we have conflicting information about whether this does or doesnt include CICs.

My understanding is it doesnt, and that at the moment there are no plans to address the issue. The only real extra piece of paper for us is the CIC34, I'm happy for someone to tell me my information isnt correct  but again we seem to have fallen through the cracks.

I'll write a letter to them shortly, does anyone have anything they want included? 

 

Thanks John

 

Just remind them that bureaucracy is to be reduced. The PM says so,

Hi Trevor,

Yes, we are experiencing something very similar, I submitted my account on line and as it was rejected,I rang them and was advised by their staff that they do not know much about CIC regulation but I had to send only a report CIC34 by post. Which we complied on time than I only received a letter by them asking for a Accounts as well and it was sent on the weekend so I tried faxing the account to avoid the deadline but they are still asking for £150 penalty.

I am rather fed up with them as there does not seem to be a trust and respect for CIC company directors and I am finding this quite offensive.

They want me to send them a time of my call and incorrect advise I was given by their staff.

Would like to know how you managed to resolve your problem.

Sonal

Kamson-Edutech CIC

Not sure it was ever formally resolved. We wrote to Companies House, copying to the CIC Regulator and our local MP. We refused to pay the penalty - and I suggested that if they wanted the money we should let a court of law decide who had acted correctly.

For me this has resulted in bad training of Companies House staff, and lack of supervision - and the staff that are supervising given no power to deviate from stated procedure, or to even recognise that the system may have some weaknesses.

John (above) says this will not be a quick fix - but I do not believe it should be lefty to Companies House - who have real management problems that need to be resolved.

I suspect those problems are the result of the new malaise attacking all government departments, quangos and local councils. You must save money! You must make as much money as you can! Money is the New God. Don't worry about providing a service - it's all about money.

My advice - don't give up. Make them take you to court. We should all do that. Nothing will be changed by being compliant when faced with incompetence.

I started this correspondence in February. Here we are in August and there has been no official response.

The CIC Regulator has access to this site - which now has several thousand members since I started it some time ago. This is a platform - not just to moan, but to receive practical information.

CICs are capable of moving this country forward - but we need cooperation.

 

Has there been any progress with this matter? I'm currently sorting out my accounts for submission before October 2011. I don't want to get it wrong, get a penalty or fine and am terrified this is exactly what's going to happen based on what I'm reading! 

 

I'm going to ring Companies House and see if we can now submit online or not. Will let you know what happens.

 

Kathryn: Thank you. Don't be scared. They are only pseudo-civil-servants. If you act in a reasonable and responsible manner then (if there be justice in our land) the judgement will side with you.

David Cameron, our Prime Minister, has promised to stop all this bureaucratic bullying. Perhaps he should be told that his staff are not obeying his decisions.

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