Have you heard the one about the dog who likes to eat homework? It’s an excuse which is now so much part of folklore that you pity the poor child whose canine companion really does have a taste for textbooks. But it’s also an excuse which is so much a part of childhood that we almost have to leave it behind when growing up.
So where does that leave us as adults? What is the grown-up equivalent of a canine paper-muncher? Step forward slugs and goats. In terms of companionship they may not be as good as a dog but according to the recent list of excuses for late or missing returns released by Companies House slugs and goats do like to chew down on company accounts. Proving that growing older shouldn’t stop us from giving free rein to our imagination; other excuses received and rejected by Companies House include the eruption of a volcano and pirates who have apparently abandoned their thirst for pieces of eight in favour of company returns.
Excuses such as these released by Companies House and HMRC may bring a light-hearted moment to the day but they do underline a more serious problem. According to Companies House, in 2017 the account filing deadline was missed by more than 26,000 companies whilst 583 just made it on time, filing their accounts within an hour of the deadline. That is a level of brinksmanship which companies cannot afford to maintain; particularly with the making tax digital initiative on the starting blocks.
What is the answer? It may be easy to claim, as one other individual did, that our business is so successful we simply don’t have time to file. Nevertheless, busy or not, statutory returns are an intrinsic element of business life and we simply can’t afford to ignore them. One solution may be to delegate filing responsibilities to an accountant or company secretarial organisation but even here the business has to produce the information which is required to compile the return. So maybe it’s time to change the approach and look at:
Time Management training. When you start to believe that you haven’t got time then you need to re-evaluate the time you have and how it is spent. How often does a lack of time excuse equate to a reluctance to perform the task? What systems do you have in place to track and ensure that key milestones are met? Are internal priorities really more important than statutory returns; and if you start to think that then what else are you failing to prioritise such as responding to customers or ensuring a robust supply chain?
Most importantly, when you stop to evaluate and refresh your attitude towards time management, don’t confine it to the upper echelons of the company. Invariably poor time management at the top places time pressures on others across the organisation; eventually leading to attitude changes which will adversely affect culture and day-to-day processes. So look at delegation, look at systems, look at processes but also look at attitudes and approaches as part of the overall time management reset. Get it right and not only will you make statutory deadlines, you may have a little time left over to read the excuses posted by other less organised companies.
Director of Elemental CoSec, a company secretarial firm. Lawyer. Triathlete.
Elemental is one of the leading corporate services firms in the UK, providing company secretarial services, administrative services, accountancy services and corporate services to a full range of clients.