A forthcoming consultation will float the idea of fining charities that are late in submitting their annual information to the regulator.
Sam Younger, chief executive of the Charity Commission, told a public meeting in Birmingham yesterday that it was considering fines for late submissions and incentives for charities that filed their data early.
He said the proposals would be included in a consultation paper to be published early in the summer. He did not say how much any fines might be.
Younger said the paper would review the information that the commission requires from trustees, and ask whether the registration and reporting thresholds are right and if the commission’s online register should include charities’ complaints policies and governing documents.
Younger said the regulator would also carry out "dipstick sampling" of charity accounts to see whether there were general problems across the sector that it should address.
He said the commission was working with umbrella bodies on how they could help trustees weed out problems in their charities before they required intervention from the regulator.
"We are looking to shift regulatory engagement up a level and by working with the umbrella bodies allow trustees to catch problems before they reach the commission," Younger said. "We are developing an accreditation programme for that form of complementarity."
He said the change would "not happen overnight" but the commission was already "making progress with some umbrella bodies so that there is complementarity in the role we play and the role they play".
One audience member said she was concerned about whether umbrella bodies had the capacity to take on the work, given cuts to its funding.
Younger said: "It is enhancing what is available rather than taking away. With the umbrella bodies, we are looking to improve what it available. So those that do have the capacity to do better targeted advice and support for people in their area can do that."
The commission, he said, had no intention of stopping its helpline.
Two trustees in the audience expressed concern at the delay in implementing the new charitable incorporated organisation legal form. Younger said the final regulations for CIOs should be in front of parliament in the next few weeks and the commission had been "ready to run with this" since April last year.
Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the Charity Commission, said she would write to ministers to say that the delay was causing governance concerns for some charities.