Reseller News

Vendors; file or pay: Companies Office

THE Companies Office is reminding overseas IT vendors of their legal requirement to file financial statements on time every year.

Penalties for not filing include fines of up to $100,000, of which directors are personally liable.

In October last year, Reseller News reported that Acer had not filed its 2000, 2001 and 2002 accounts — but has since done so, and apologised to its customers for being late.

Novell is the most recent vendor to come to Reseller News’s attention. Last month, the company filed its 2001 and 2002 statements two years and one year late respectively, and last week, filed its 2003 set of accounts, for which it copped a $100 fee for being over a month behind.

Novell’s Melbourne-based finance director Paul Gregory says the 2002 delay was due to a mix up with the auditors’ letterhead.

“Ernst and Young sent through the accounts with a New South Wales letterhead. And the Companies Office took a hell of a long time to come back to us.”

He does not know why the 2001 accounts were late. But Gregory says all the other late years were due to administrative reasons and not matters of “non-compliance”.

The Financial Reporting Act 1993 requires overseas companies that trade in New Zealand and ones that have at least 25% of their voting shares held outside the country to file annual financial results within six months of their year end. Privately owned New Zealand companies that issue securities to the public are also classed as “filers”.

Companies Office Auckland solicitor Mark Flood says the government agency sends a reminder letter to all registered “filers” a month before their financial year end. If companies are late filing, they receive another reminder four weeks after the due date and a “sterner” letter if they have still not complied. “Then we refer them to our enforcement unit.”

Flood says he does not have figures to show whether IT companies are more tardy than ones are in other industries. But he says the Companies Office has updated its computer system for initial reminder letters.

“We only recently introduced an automated system for those who have historically filed.” The trick is to identity which of around 350,000 registered companies need to file, Flood says.

He cannot recall any directors of IT firms being fined for non-compliance. The last high-profile case that the Companies Office brought about under the 1993 Act was that of Tasman Pacific Airlines — formerly Ansett and trading as Qantas New Zealand — in July 2002. Director Kevin Doddrell was fined $27,000 for failing to complete the company’s accounts to the year ended June 30, 2000.

IT firms whose financial statements are due by the end of this month include IBM, EDS and Ceritas New Zealand (the bulk of Computerland).