Background: how the regulator's website will highlight charities that file accounts late and display key information

Charities that do not file their accounts and annual returns on time will be publicly shamed by a red border in a new version of the Charity Commission's online register, launched today.

Red alert: late filers will be flagged up
Red alert: late filers will be flagged up

Each charity's entry on the register will include a 'due documents received' box, which will be edged in green if the documents have been received by the commission and in red if they have not.

A compliance history chart will be included for all charities, and for those with incomes below £500,000 it will be on the first page. The chart will indicate whether the charity has filed its returns and accounts within 10 months of the end of the financial year over the previous five years.

Sheila Birch, head of information compliance at the commission, described the existing online register, which receives 15 million page impressions a year, as "quite dated in look and feel".

She said: "The register will encourage greater transparency and accountability in the sector, drive up standards in charity reporting and encourage charities to file accounts on time."

The commission has spent £225,000 on developing the new register, which will take its information directly from charities' annual returns. The financial information that charities with incomes of more than £500,000 have to provide will be converted into a series of charts and graphs breaking down income (including investment income), spending, assets and liabilities, and numbers of staff and volunteers.

A bar graph will also show the charity's balance of charitable spending and overheads. Charities that file their returns electronically will see the information appear on the register overnight.

Each charity's entry will include its trustees' statement of its activities and areas of operation, rather than reproducing the statement of objects from its constitution. Mark Pinford, head of charity information at the commission, said: "If there is a natural disaster, it's helpful to know which charities really do work in that area."

Users will be able to click on the names of each of a charity's trustees to find out whether that person is on the board of any other charity. The compliance history of those charities will also be displayed in red or green.

"It will help charities find potential trustees with particular interests, and to see whether a trustee is over-burdened," said Pinford. "But if there are lots of reds next to the trustee's name, charities should think 'hang on a minute'."

The commission consulted many interested organisations as it developed the new register, including online donor information services Intelligent Giving and GuideStar UK. Pinford said: "We are very pleased with it. It will be a useful tool for us too. It might mean more causes for concern are brought to our attention, but the public should contact the charity first with any questions they have."

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