Institute of Chartered Accountants calls for end of summary information returns

Anne Davis, head of charity and the voluntary sector at the ICAEW, says the SIR should be discontinued because the information it contains is unnecessary

The Charity Commission should abandon the summary information return element of charity accounts and introduce fines for organisations that file their accounts late, according to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.

The membership body for chartered accountants made the recommendations as part of its response to the commission’s consultation Register of Charities: A Review of Information Collected from Charities.

The SIR provides information on a charity’s aims, activities and achievements, and is currently a requirement for all organisations with annual incomes of more than £1m.

In its response, Anne Davis, head of charity and the voluntary sector at the ICAEW, said that the SIR should be discontinued on the grounds that the information it contained was unnecessary. She said: "The accounts of charities contain vast amounts of information that is looked at by their stakeholders and, if appropriate, externally scrutinised. As the accounts are easily accessible on the Charity Commission’s website, there is no reason to require information to be duplicated through other channels such as the SIR."

Last month, the Charity Finance Group also called for the SIR to be scrapped in its response to the commission’s consultation.

The ICAEW added that it supported the introduction of a fining system by the commission for charities that failed to file their accounts within the 10-month deadline, pointing out that the current naming-and-shaming approach was inadequate. But the institute acknowledged that there should be consultation to determine possible exceptions to the fines and how they should be collected. It also opposed introducing incentives or rewards to charities that file early, saying that such a move was unlikely to "have much impact".

The organisation said the commission should also consider including a charity’s governing documents within its register along with historical information such as whether a charity had been formed from a merger of one or more charities.

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