What Does Compulsory Strike Off Mean?

A compulsory strike off is a legal procedure enforced by Companies House that removes a company from the official register, effectively dissolving it and prohibiting further trading. This action occurs when Companies House believes a company is no longer operational or fails to meet specific legal obligations, such as filing annual returns or accounts.


Common Triggers for Company Strike Off

The reasons for a company being struck off compulsorily typically involve non-compliance with statutory requirements. Key triggers include:

  • Failure to Submit Annual Accounts: Under Section 441 of the Companies Act 2006, companies are required to file their accounts and reports with Companies House annually.
  • Failure to Submit an Annual Confirmation Statement: Previously known as the annual return, the confirmation statement is a report that must be filed under Section 853A of the Companies Act 2006. It confirms the accuracy of the company’s information on the register, including directors and share capital.
  • Legal Non-Compliance: This broad category covers various breaches of the Companies Act, such as failing to keep proper records or maintain correct registered office details.
  • Lack of Appointed Directors: Companies must have legally appointed directors to operate. If Companies House records show no directors, it may assume the company is no longer active.

The Strike Off Process by Companies House

A compulsory strike-off begins when Companies House identifies potential non-compliance or inactivity based on its records.

Initially, Companies House sends at least two formal warning letters to the registered office of the company, outlining the discrepancies or compliance failures and indicating the potential for strike off. These communications are intended to prompt the company to rectify the issues within a specified period.

If there is no adequate response to these warnings, Companies House will proceed by publishing a First Gazette Notice for Compulsory Strike Off. This publication serves as a final alert to the company and the public, stating that the company will be struck off the register in two months unless objection or resolution steps are taken.

Options Following a Strike Off Notice

Agreeing to a Strike Off

For companies that find the strike off notice justified—perhaps due to a decision to cease trading or because the company was set up for a purpose that is now fulfilled—the directors may choose to accept the strike off.

In this scenario, it is essential that the company ensures all debts are settled, assets are disposed of, and any legal obligations are fully met before the company is dissolved. This path avoids the complications of liquidation and can be a straightforward closure method if managed correctly.

Contesting a Strike Off

On the other hand, if the company intends to continue trading or the strike off notice has been issued in error, the directors must act swiftly to contest the decision. This involves submitting an objection to Companies House directly, usually by filing a DS01 form to dispute the strike off.

The company must address any specific issues cited by Companies House, such as submitting overdue documents or correcting errors in previously filed information. Additionally, if proving ongoing trading activity is required, evidence such as recent invoices, contracts, or financial statements should be presented.

Consequences of Ignoring a Strike Off Notice

Ignoring a compulsory strike off notice from Companies House can lead to severe consequences for the company and its directors. Once the company is struck off the register, it legally ceases to exist. This cessation means that all bank accounts will be frozen, and any remaining assets may be seized by the Crown under the bona vacantia rules. Furthermore, without a legal entity, the company cannot enter into contracts, initiate legal proceedings, or continue operating in any form.

For directors, the repercussions extend beyond the dissolution of the company. Failure to respond to a strike off notice may result in an investigation by the Insolvency Service, potentially leading to personal liability for company debts if misconduct or negligence is discovered. This could include significant financial penalties or disqualification from holding directorships in the future, as stipulated under Sections 1000 and 1001 of the Companies Act 2006. These sections grant powers to investigate and penalise directors who allow their companies to be dissolved to avoid financial responsibilities.

Steps to Challenge a Strike Off Notice

Prompt and decisive action is required to prevent a compulsory strike-off and mitigate the associated risks. The first step is to address the issues highlighted by Companies House comprehensively. This may involve submitting any overdue financial statements or correcting inaccuracies in the company’s filings. Companies must ensure that all filings are up to date and comply with the statutory requirements laid out in the Companies Act 2006.

If the strike off action is disputed on valid grounds—such as the company still being active—the directors can apply to Companies House for a suspension of the strike off process. This is typically done by providing evidence that the company is trading or rectifying the compliance failures cited.

Directors should also consider seeking legal advice to navigate the complexities of contesting a strike off. Legal professionals can assist in preparing the necessary documentation and evidence to support the company’s case, ensuring that all procedural requirements are met and enhancing the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Role of Creditors in the Strike Off Process

Creditors play a significant role in the strike off process, particularly if they believe that dissolving the company could impede their ability to recover debts owed. Under the Companies Act 2006, creditors have the right to object to a strike off by providing evidence that the company has outstanding liabilities. This objection must be lodged with Companies House, which will consider the creditor’s claim as part of its decision-making process.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is a common creditor that frequently objects to strike offs, especially if there are unpaid taxes or other financial obligations. If a creditor such as HMRC objects to the strike off, Companies House is likely to halt the process and require the company to settle any outstanding debts or enter into a formal insolvency process like liquidation or administration.

How to Get Help with a Compulsory Strike Off

For expert advice and support on compulsory strike offs, reach out to us via live chat, email us at info@companydebt.com, or give us a call at 0800 074 6757. Let us help you find the best path forward for your company’s financial future.

Compulsory Strike-Off FAQs

If you receive a compulsory strike-off notice, you must act quickly. Check if all necessary documents have been filed. If any documents are missing, file them with Companies House right away. Contact Companies House to discuss why the strike-off notice was issued and inform them about the actions you are taking to resolve the issue. It’s crucial to deal with this efficiently to prevent the strike-off from proceeding.

Yes, you can apply to restore your company after it has been struck off. This requires a court order and you’ll need to provide a good reason for the company to be restored, such as ongoing business activity or to deal with certain assets or claims. This process can be detailed and you may need professional legal advice.

Transferring assets before a compulsory strike-off is possible, but it must be done correctly and legally. If assets are disposed of to avoid creditor claims or in a way that disadvantages creditors, such actions can be reversed by the court. If the company is insolvent, directors must act in the best interest of creditors. Professional advice is essential here to ensure compliance with the law.

When a company is struck off, it no longer legally exists, which means it cannot maintain contracts. Existing contracts with clients or suppliers would typically be considered terminated, and you may be in breach of contract. It’s essential to communicate with all parties involved to mitigate potential legal and financial repercussions.