The Charity Commission has set out several possible mechanisms for charging charities for its services.
At the regulator’s public meeting at Southampton Solent University yesterday, Jane Hobson, head of policy at the commission, laid out some ideas for how it might raise extra money from the sector to cover cuts in the funding it receives from the Treasury, which has roughly halved in real terms since 2008 to £20.3m a year.
She was speaking after William Shawcross, the commission’s chair, said the regulator would consult the sector on whether and how it should impose fees on charities.
Ideas mooted by Hobson included a fixed annual fee of £140 for all registered charities and a sliding scale that would involve the largest charities paying £1,500 a year.
But she said the options were only examples, and did not confirm whether they would be the options presented in the consultation.
An annual fee for charities, said Hobson, would raise about £23m a year and could be levied in a variety of ways, including a fixed fee of £140 for all registered charities or a fixed fee of £265 to be paid by all registered charities with incomes of more than £10,000.
A sliding scale fee could also be charged, which would range from £50 to £1,250 a year depending on a charity’s income if all charities were included, or £140 to £1,500 a year if only those with incomes of more than £10,000 were included.
A one-off fee of £140 charged for applications for registration and a £100 penalty fee for late filing of accounts would both generate £1m each a year, Hobson said, although she acknowledged that the introduction of such fees and penalty charges could lead to a fall in the number of late filers and registrations.
"You’ve all seen the consequence of us getting less and less each year, because we’re not doing what we used to do," she said. "We’re not providing as much advice, and you’d like us to.
"And although we’re taking lots of steps to do as much as we can with the little that we’ve got, there’s still a question mark about who pays."
One audience member said charities might be more likely to comply with commission regulation if they felt a greater sense of ownership of it.
But the majority of responses from those present were unsympathetic to the notion of charging. One delegate pointed out that every option presented was extra money that voluntary organisations would have to find.
"Every charity in this room has had to try to deliver more for less, all under the same pressures," he said. "And for every single pound that’s on there, we have to go to members of the public and say ‘forget what our charity’s about – can we have this extra 265 to 1,500 quid to pay for a regulator?’"
He added that if the commission was able to extract funding from charities it might well decide to expand its budget by charging more.
Hobson said the commission would be considering the issues raised by delegates at the meeting as part of the consultation.
"These are all things we want people to think about and consider and feed back to us," she said.
It is not known exactly when the consultation will start.
Hobson said it was unlikely any resulting fee system would be introduced before 2018.