There are more than 1,000 charities that have not filed their annual accounts for more than four years, analysis by Third Sector has revealed.
An examination of the first 1,000 entries on the charity register in order of how long their accounts are overdue found 50 charities that have accounts that are almost five years overdue and a further 926 charities that are four-and-a-half years late.
But the number of charities that are at least four years late with their accounts is likely to be much higher because there are more than 16,900 registered charities with accounts overdue on the register.
The Charity Commission said its response to late fillings was “robust” and referred to its ongoing statutory inquiry into “double defaulters”.
But the commission revealed in August that just dozens of charities have been removed from the register for filing late accounts since 2013.
In the same month it issued official warnings to two charities that had repeatedly failed to file their annual documents on time.
The commission stressed that charities were legally required to submit their accounts no later than 10 months after the financial year ends and all trustees were legally responsible for making sure their charity’s annual return is completed on time.
In March this year, the regulator ran a pilot of outbound calls to charities with the aim of improving the compliance rate of annual return submissions.
In just one month, the commission said its compliance rate rose from 76 per cent in the previous year to 90 per cent.
Failure to submit accounts to the commission results in a charity showing as “in default” on its public register of charities and trustees receive repeat reminders to file their accounts, the commission said, but continued failure can result in further action.
Where charities are insolvent, the commission said it could take time for a charity to close and be removed from the register.
A spokesperson for the commission said: “It is vital that charities demonstrate to the public the difference they make and how their money has been spent, via their annual published accounts.
“This supports public trust and allows people to donate confidently to causes they care about in the knowledge that registered charities are accountable to the commission.
“Where a charity fails in this essential duty, this is clearly flagged on our register of charities for the public to see.
“We take robust action against persistent late filers as part of our ongoing statutory inquiry into ‘double defaulters’.
“Where problems persist around filing accounts or further concerns are identified through this engagement, we can open an individual statutory inquiry into a charity and compel trustees to act.”