Charity Commission to scrap the summary information return in 2014

It will also display information about payment of trustees and FRSB membership on its online register; head of policy Jane Hobson promises guidance in January

Jane Hobson
Jane Hobson

The Charity Commission is to scrap its summary information return and will display information about whether charities pay their trustees on its online register.

The regulator said that from next year each charity’s entry on the online register of charities would also show whether it was a member of the Fundraising Standards Board.

The changes are among 10 amendments that the regulator will make to the annual return that charities must complete and the information that it displays on its online register. They come in the wake of a consultation held earlier this year.

These include dropping the summary information return, which summarises a charity’s aims, activities and achievements, and has to be completed by charities with annual incomes of more than £1m.

The Conservative peer Lord Hodgson recommended that it should be scrapped in his review of the Charities Act 2006.

All charities will instead be able to complete an optional box describing their achievements and aims for the year, and any information given will be published on the register, the commission said.

Other changes will include a new question on the annual return form about whether the charity pays its trustees. The answer will be published on the charity’s entry on the regulator’s online register.

The changes to the annual return form will be introduced for financial years that end in 2014 or later, the commission said.

From January, using information from the Fundraising Standards Board, the commission will publish on the register whether a charity is a member of the fundraising watchdog.

The commission will also say whether a charity is "insolvent, in administration or subject to enforcement action for non-submission of accounts", and whether the charity’s accounts have been qualified by an auditor or independent examiner, the commission said.

According to the statement, the commission will also publish "information of interest to the public that it already holds, or that is held by others" on its register. A spokeswoman for the regulator said this could include information such as whether a charity was formed as part of a merger or was set up to receive the assets of an unincorporated charity.

Jane Hobson, head of policy at the Charity Commission, said the commission would publish guidance in January 2014 to help charities complete the new annual return form.

"In developing the proposals for the consultation, we were mindful of getting the balance right between the need for charities to be transparent without making the task of completing the annual return too much of a burden," she said. "We are pleased that all 10 proposals were agreed to by the majority of the respondents to the consultation.

"These changes do not affect the annual return for 2013 that many charities are still due to complete. The changes will come into effect for the annual return for 2014 and the new questions and form will be available in January 2014."

Alistair McLean, chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board, said that the commission’s decision to publish whether a charity was signed up to the FRSB was a significant move that "recognised commitment to self-regulation as a key measure of accountability for fundraising charities".

"Inclusion on the register will also help to build awareness that fundraising is regulated, strengthening public confidence in charitable giving," he said.

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