Summary information returns in charity accounts 'should be scrapped'

Jane Tully, head of policy and public affairs at the Charity Finance Group, says SIRs are an unnecessary duplication of reporting

Jane Tully
Jane Tully

The Charity Finance Group has told the Charity Commission that it should scrap summary information returns in charity accounts because they are "onerous" and "unnecessary".

The CFG was responding to the regulator’s consultation about the information that it collects from charities, which closed on 24 July.

The commission says the SIR, which must be submitted with the accounts of charities that have annual incomes of more than £1m, is designed to provide an easy and accessible account of a charity’s "key aims, activities and achievements" and enable the public to get a better idea of the charity’s work. 

Jane Tully, head of policy and public affairs at the CFG, said: "The SIR represents a clear example of unnecessary duplication of reporting, because the information in it is already available in the charity’s annual report.

"We don’t believe that it is used to the extent that justifies the time it takes for finance teams to complete it accurately."

Tully said the point of the SIR had "long been questioned", most recently in Lord Hodgson’s review of the Charities Act 2006, in which he said that many people had suggested to him that it should be abolished and he saw no reason to disagree.

Tully said: "As an alternative, we believe the commission should place more emphasis on encouraging charities to set out in their reports information that is clear and easy to understand and explores the charity’s impact.

"Technology also presents possibilities for opening up information that is submitted electronically. This would bring huge benefits without placing the burden on charities."

The CFG’s submission also criticised proposals to suspend Gift Aid to charities that file late returns and urged the commission to retain current registration thresholds.

A spokeswoman for the commission said it was in the process of examining the responses from the consultation and would publish its analysis in the autumn.

"It is already clear, however, that respondents' views about SIRs vary," she said. "There is by no means a majority in favour of ending them."

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