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ICOS has written to all member co-operatives to advise them that the deadline for filing their annual returns of financial information to the Registrar of Friendly Societies has been extended to 31st December, 2020, arising from the current COVID-19 public health emergency.

Under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act, the majority of co-operatives are usually required to submit annual returns including financial, corporate governance and other business administration information, by 30th April each year but this has already been extended once, and is now further extended until the end of this calendar year owing to the exceptional circumstances presented by the global pandemic and its impact on Irish businesses.

James Doyle, Legal and Governance Executive of ICOS said:

“This is a measure that we had requested from the Registrar of Friendly Societies and which we welcome as it gives additional time to co-operatives to manage this important corporate governance requirement.  The extension means that co-operatives will now be deemed to have met their filing obligations provided that all elements of the relevant return are submitted by 31st December this year. The annual return is an important compliance event declaring particular financial and governance information, specific to an individual co-operative, to the State and other stakeholders. The extension is a practical step, giving co-operatives more time to prepare, verify and file financial information at a time when caution also needs to be exercised around meetings of individuals.

“The extension does not affect the statutory obligation on co-operatives to present financial information to their members. Related to that obligation is the requirement to convene an annual general meeting within every financial year. In March, ICOS wrote to all co-operative members planning AGMs, advising them to check their rule books to enable the deferment of AGMs until later in the year, pending the reopening of the economy which has now started. In most instances, co-operatives have good flexibility in this regard.

“If the economy reopens as hoped for through each of the phases, it will be feasible for AGMs to be held, although this may still be in restricted circumstances where social distancing will almost certainly feature. It may also be necessary to have members participate via technology however it must be emphasised that the law currently makes no provision for co-operatives to convene general meetings electronically. This is an evolving issue for all co-operatives and one on which ICOS is actively engaging with the relevant authorities.”