THE RECENT NEWS that Companies House will move to electronic filing of statutory annual returns and accounts in 2013 could spell good news for its users. Receiving accounts information in xbrl digitised format instead of paper will provide an opportunity for the house to do some validation checking before it offers it up for public consumption.

Visitors to the Companies House website will see a disclaimer there saying that at the present time, information received by its staff is done so in good faith, and that no checking of the data is undertaken. There are two big reasons why not; one is that the paper format gives very little opportunity to run checks on the content, and two, Companies House does not have it in its remit to do validation checks to ensure the information is "kosher".

Potential fraudsters know this....that's why many fictitious sets of accounts are being filed on recently acquired shelf companies for the purpose of tricking trade suppliers into providing goods with no intention of paying for them. Fortunately, the main credit reference agencies like Graydon do run such checks once the house's information hits their databases because by that stage, data is digitised and therefore "checkable".

Electronic filing in 2013 will, for the very first time, gives Companies House the chance to validate the data it offers up to the public...but will the Government grasp the nettle and plan to provide officials at Companies House with the remit to do so? A question for BIS to ponder on over the next few months. I know what I would recommend. The public deserves to trust in information that it is asked to pay good money for.

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