Charity Commission releases updated annual return form

The form, which must be filled in online, includes new questions on money from government sources, pay policies and financial controls

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has released its updated annual return, which includes new questions about how much money charities receive from government grants or contracts, their pay policies and their financial controls.

The new annual return must be completed within 10 months of the financial year-end of all charities with annual incomes of more than £10,000 – and all charitable incorporated organisations regardless of size – for financial years ending in 2015 onwards.

Alongside existing questions about the charity’s finances, trustees and activities, the new annual return asks how much income a charity received from central or local government from contracts to deliver services or grants, whether or not it has a written policy on paying its staff and whether or not it reviewed its financial controls during the financial year.

The commission had proposed adding a question about how much money charities had spent on campaigning activities, but after a broadly negative reaction from the sector, the commission decided not to. But it said it would "revisit the issue when it considers changes to the annual return for 2016".

The 2014 update to the annual return removed the requirement for charities to fill in a summary information return and added seven new questions, including whether a charity paid its trustees, raised money from the public or owned a trading subsidiary.

Annual returns must be completed online; the commission provides guidance for charities on how to do so.

Sarah Atkinson, director of policy and communications at the commission, said: "Charities will recognise that the public’s appetite for information about where their money comes from, and how they use it, is growing. It is therefore vital for charities to provide the regulator with up-to-date information. Completing the annual return is about meeting both your legal responsibilities and the expectations of the public – there’s no excuse.

"As well as improving transparency, I hope the new questions will promote good governance by prompting trustees to consider carefully their charity’s financial controls and the basis for setting staff pay."

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