Many clients of business support agencies like London Registrars may have noticed the recent introduction in Parliament of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, which proposes the replacement of the familiar Annual Return with something called the ‘Annual Confirmation Statement’. It may sound like a drastic a change but it only really amounts to a rebranding of the Annual Return.

The change was made in response to a small number of complaints during the Government’s Red Tape Challenge about the need to disclose information on the Annual Return that they had already submitted during the year. However, it isn’t really necessary to submit information twice, as is apparent to those filing their Annual Return online. Nonetheless, the existing legislation does give the impression of this being a requirement.

For clarity’s sake, it is possible to provide most of the details that are requested on the Annual Return simply by confirming the accuracy of the information already held by Companies House. However, this can only be done online, those submitting a paper return need to submit the same information twice – that is why the majority of existing users of business support agencies already use the Internet to file their Annual Returns.

The Bill will amend Part 24 of the Companies Act 2006 so that instead of stating a requirement for the submission of the same information twice, the new Act will simply stipulate a need, at least once every twelve months, to confirm that the information held by Companies House is correct, updating it at the same time if this is not the case. The legislation will therefore be modified to reflect how most people actually experience the filing of their Annual Return when doing it online.

For the minority who still their Annual Return in paper form, the change will make little sense, given that they will be asked to confirm information held by Companies House, which they cannot check unless they switch to online filing. Nor, in any case, is the Annual Return simply about confirming the accuracy of information held by Companies House, with even those submitting online being asked to provide further information about matters not previously filed, such as share transfers occurring over the preceding year.

Another requirement to be brought in by the Bill will be the creation of a register of Persons with Significant Control which will need to be confirmed or updated as part of their Annual Confirmation Statement.

It all means that the Annual Confirmation Statement will not be about simply confirming things. The latest of the annual return change amounts largely to a cosmetic makeover that will make little meaningful difference to the vast majority of those using business support agencies.