Charities’ annual return deadline is a week away

There is just one week to go before the deadline for charities to make their 2017 annual return, the Charity Commission has warned, highlighting the additional requirements that will be present in future annual returns

The cut-off date for submitting the 2017 annual return is 31 October 2018, if a charity has a 12-month accounting period (ends in December). While thousands of charities have already filed, the regulator cautions that those who have left it late risk trying to file nearer to the deadline, potentially without the correct information or the password needed to access the service.

Not filing on time means a charity will go into default and this will be displayed to the public on the charity register. For those submitting an annual return for the first time, or anyone uncertain about what should be included, the Charity Commission has guidance available online.

The regulator points out that the 2018 annual return will include new questions which charities can view before they log in to send their annual return. The Commission says it recognises that for some charities the new questions will create additional work. Certain questions will be optional this year to give charities time to put the systems in place to collect the information easily, requiring less effort in future.

These include more information about salaries to increase accountability. The annual return for 2018 will ask for a breakdown of salaries across income bands, and the amount of total employee benefits for the highest paid member of staff.

In response to concerns raised during the consultation, the Commission will not publish details of benefits given to the paid member of staff on the public register.

The current annual return questions about charitable expenditure overseas will be expanded to establish how charities transfer and monitor funds sent overseas. The Commission says it is doing this because all money transfer processes bear risks, and it is important that charities take appropriate steps to manage these.

Some charities will need to make changes to their recordkeeping to answer parts of this question. For this reason the questions about methods of transferring money outside the regulated banking system, and about monitoring controls and risk management, will be optional for the 2018 annual return, but mandatory for the annual return 2019 onwards.

To get a better understanding of the income sources from outside of the UK, the Commission is introducing questions about the breakdown of sources of income from each country a charity receives funds from.

The options to choose from are overseas governments or quasi government bodies; overseas charities, non-governmental organisations or non-profit organisations (NGOs/NPOs); other overseas institutions (for example private company donations); individual donors resident overseas; and unknown.

Some charities will need to make changes to their financial systems to collect and sort the information more easily. For this reason, those parts of the question set relating to other private institutions outside the UK (other than charities, NGOs/NPOs) and individual donors outside the UK are optional to answer for the 2018 annual return, but they will be mandatory from 2019 onwards.

Send a charity's annual return online is here

Guidance on preparing a charity annual return is here

Report by Pat Sweet

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