Charity Commission proposes scrapping summary information return

Changes to annual return, out for consultation, would gather more information on charities with little burden, says Jane Hobson of the regulator

Jane Hobson
Jane Hobson

The Charity Commission has proposed scrapping the summary information return, which charities with annual incomes of £1m or more must submit to the regulator with their accounts.

It is one of 10 proposals in a consultation about changes to the annual return from financial years that end from 2014 or later.

They come as a result of recommendations made by Lord Hodgson as part of his review of the Charities Act 2006 and responses to a commission consultation on what information it should gather from charities. 

Under the proposals, the summary information return, which summarises a charity’s aims, activities and achievements, will be scrapped and all registered charities will be able to complete an optional box describing their achievements and aims for the year. This new information would then be published on the register, the commission says.

The consultation includes proposals for new questions to be added to the annual return asking for information that is readily available to charities, such as whether they have particular policies in place and whether they pay trustees for certain duties, the commission says.

After a consultation, a new annual return was introduced in January for charities to use when filing information about financial years ending in 2013.

Another proposal is for the commission to publish some of the information it already holds on charities on its register. For example, the commission could publish information on whether a charity is a member of the Fundraising Standards Board and whether a charity was formed as part of a merger.

Jane Hobson, head of policy at the Charity Commission, said: "It’s really important that we get the right balance between the need for charities to share information about themselves, without making the annual return too much of a burden. We urge all charities and others with an interest to respond to this consultation."

Registered charities that complete the annual return, and anyone who uses the online register, are invited to take part in the consultation, which closes on 17 July.

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