Commission tightens grip on late accounts

The Charity Commission is encouraging solicitors to advise their clients to consider a charity's record of filing accounts when deciding which charities to include in their wills.

As part of its 'Accounts aren't Optional' campaign, which aims to get more charities to file their annual accounts on time, the Commission is pressing law firms to raise the issue of late filing of charity accounts with clients preparing their wills. It is hoping that the prospect of losing legacy income will force recalcitrant charities to meet statutory accounting requirements.

A commission spokeswoman said that casework had shown that those charities that don't submit their accounts on time may be less likely to be well managed and worthy of public support.

The commission is also targeting the many lawyers who sit on charity trustee boards to ensure that their charities comply with regulations.

"We would ask lawyers, whether they are acting as legal advisors or as trustees, to use their advice and influence to secure compliance with the legal requirements," said the commission's director of legal services Kenneth Dibble.

The spokeswoman said the commission was attempting to reach lawyers through press releases sent to legal publications, such as the Law Society Gazette, and through its general communications to charities with lawyers on their trustee boards.

Since the beginning of October the commission's campaign has targeted trustees along with local authorities and grant-givers. It emailed 8,000 charities to stress the importance of compliance and has begun 'naming and shaming' those that fail to meet their deadlines on the commission's website.

In the next few weeks, the commission also plans to write an open letter to the accountancy press and around 120 accountancy firms reminding them that the campaign is under way, and encouraging them to add their support by giving charity accounts high priority.

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