Charity Commission urged not to 'over-burden' charities with reporting requirements

In response to a consultation on changes to the annual return, three sector umbrella bodies say the return should strike a balance between the burden placed on charities and the need for transparency

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

Charity Commission proposals to reform the annual return should not unduly burden charities with regulatory requirements, three major umbrella bodies have warned.

The regulator opened a consultation at the end of last year to consider whether structural changes to the annual return are needed. The consultation closes today.

Questions included whether charities should keep fundamental information refreshed more regularly, rather than annually, and whether the annual return could be made more targeted and proportionate to reduce the regulatory burden on charities.

In a letter sent to the commission yesterday, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Charity Finance Group and the Association of Charitable Foundations said the annual return should "strike the right balance between the burden placed on individual charities seeking to comply and the need for transparency".

The letter, which was sent in addition to individual responses to the consultation from the three representative bodies, expressed concerns that the commission’s proposals could prove too onerous for some charities.

"We welcome the commission’s aim to minimise the burden on charities and to focus on the key risks to the sector," it said. "However, we are concerned that some of the proposed changes risk not striking the right balance between enabling the commission to fulfil its statutory duties and ensuring charities are not unduly burdened by regulatory requirements.

"We look forward to further engagement with the commission in order to find solutions which fulfil the commission’s regulatory objectives while simultaneously allowing charities and their volunteers to continue serving the public good, and enabling them to tell their story to the public."

The letter also called for the commission to consider how charities reliant on volunteers might be affected, especially those less proficient with digital technology.

"Many charities are entirely led by volunteers undertaking compliance at home, and even many of those that have some professional assistance have limited staff and office capacity," the letter said.

"We would encourage the commission to consider how the impact of its regulatory changes can be minimised for such charities, and would like to work with its officials to ensure this can be achieved."

The letter said that the annual return proposals should be considered in the context of guidance on reporting serious incidents and how to make the two reporting mechanisms "sufficiently different" to avoid burdening charities.

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