Finance 2008: Our top stories of the year

Economic woes, a battle over land tax and the exposure of charities that filed their accounts late. Tristan Donovan looks back at the biggest finance stories of the year

Late filers highlighted

It all began in February, when Dame Suzi Leather, chair of the Charity Commission, criticised charities that filed their accounts late, asking why anyone would trust an organisation that took 10 months to do its accounts.

By October, the commission had added a new feature to its website that gave tardy charities a red border around their financial documents. The highlighted charities, however, said the commission's actions were unfair.

See: Leather hits out at the late-filers; Background: how the regulator's website will highlight charities that file accounts late and display key information; Charities protest at red border for overdue accounts

Lighter touch accounts

The Office of the Third Sector announced plans to raise the income threshold above which charities faced more onerous financial reporting requirements from £100,000 to £250,000.

The idea was to reduce the regulatory burden on small charities, but umbrella body Navca said the move could reduce public trust because it would increase the risk of fraud and financial mismanagement.

See: Government to reduce regulation burden on charities

The credit crunch bites

It was the year the credit crunch took hold – and 2008 came to a messy end, with major businesses going belly-up across the world and the outlook for the voluntary sector becoming progressively gloomier.

The Icelandic bank crash left charities out of pocket to the tune of millions, and chief executives body Acevo called for a £500m bailout from the Government.

See: Shock, horror! What surprised us in 2008; Sector leaders call for action to protect charities in recession

Land tax battles

Charities faced the prospect of a massive tax bill thanks to a new land tax proposed by the Government.

The community infrastructure levy, part of the Planning Bill, would have seen charities hit with tax demands based on the increase of the value of any land they owned every time they got planning permission.

A vocal campaign by charities did, however, win a concession for the sector, persuading the House of Lords to waive the tax on planned developments with a charitable purpose.

See: Campaign coalition demands exemption from new land tax; Lords vote against total immunity from land tax

MPs approve bank account bill

After slowly winding its way through Parliament over the course of the year, the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill finally became law in November.

The legislation allows money left in bank accounts that haven't been accessed for more than 15 years to be used by the Government for charitable purposes.

Some estimate the law could free up as much as £4bn for the third sector, but banks and building societies are not required to take part in the scheme.

See: Dormant cash 'could be close to £4bn'


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