For some time now, the Companies Registration Office (CRO) have adopted a hardline “zero tolerance” approach to company annual return submissions which are mislaid or otherwise delayed in the postal system.
Basically, if your company return is delayed or lost in the post en route to the CRO, it’s your problem, and they don’t want to know. Even if you have strong evidence that you sent your submission in good time before the applicable deadline.
Today, the new CRO monthly eZine reiterates this unforgiving policy in stark terms:
“Where a document is delivered to the CRO after its filing deadline as a result of being lost or delayed in the postal system, the law leaves the CRO with no option but to treat it as being late.”
It gets worse. Even if you’ve been prudent enough to send your return by Registered Post, they will still punish you if you’re late:
“If a document is sent to the CRO by Registered Post and is delivered after the filing deadline, CRO has no option but to treat it as being late.”
You might just be in luck if you’ve used An Post Express Post or a similar time-guaranteed delivery service:
“The only circumstance where CRO will consider an application for an exception to be made to this rule is where the company has sent the document using a time guaranteed service on a date which, under the guarantee, should have resulted in on-time delivery to the CRO and where the service provides proof of delivery or tracks the document to its destination.”
And even then, they can still reject your plea:
In such circumstances, CRO will require the presenter to provide independent documentary evidence to support their case and will also take account of our own internal systems for recording the contents of envelopes delivered using a time guaranteed service.”
And if you fall foul of this, you’ll have to shuffle off to your local District Court, and pay a solicitor or barrister to plead with the judge for an extension of your annual return deadline.
This will cost you at least €500 – maybe more – and there’s no guarantee of success.
If the Judge has had a bad day, or just doesn’t like the cut of your jib, you’ll lose your audit exemption, and you can look forward to mandatory audits of your accounts (each costing the guts of €2,000, and maybe more) for two years.
And you will be forced pay an extortionate penalty of €100 + €3 per day for the entire period between your original annual return date and the date when your audit is completed, and your audited accounts are finally ready for filing with the CRO.
This, by any measure, is a ludicrously harsh policy which, let’s remember, actually punishes those who endeavour to comply with their CRO filing obligations.
I’m not a lawyer but it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s illegal too, as it seems to offend the basic legal precepts of force majeure and natural justice.
If the CRO aren’t themselves willing to change it, their bosses in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation should insist on a more humane and customer-friendly policy.
Are you listening, Minister Bruton?