Charity Commission chair Geraldine Peacock told the CAF Conference that she wanted the commission to do more reporting and less investigation.
She admitted that the commission found it impossible to regulate 188,000 charities effectively.
"Do we really want all these charities?" she asked. "Maybe it's the role of the Charity Commission to instigate a debate about what institutional form best fits an organisation's purpose.
"I'd like to see the growth of self-regulation and people taking responsibility for themselves."
She also confirmed reports (Third Sector, 3 November) that the commission will consider fining charities that submit their accounts late. "Just because you are a charity does not mean you should not act professionally," said Peacock.
"Would you get away with it in the private sector? No you would not," she said.
Peacock also said she wanted the Department for Trade and Industry to change the law to allow trustees time off work.