Finance News: Examiners believe new rule on scrutiny will drive up charges

Annie Kelly

The Association of Charity Independent Examiners has warned that the Charities Bill may mean charities with lower incomes will be charged more for an independent examination of their annual accounts than they should be.

The draft Charities Bill includes a proposal that charities with an income of up to £500,000 can opt for an independent examination of their annual accounts rather than paying for a full audit by a qualified accountant.

Currently only organisations with an income of £250,000 or less can use an independent examiner, which is a more cost-effective option.

However, the Bill sets out that charities in the £250,000-£500,000 income bracket can only use an independent examiner from a prescribed list of professional associations, which currently includes only major chartered accountancy firms that are members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants England & Wales and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.

The Association of Charity Independent Examiners is not on the list.

"We're not against these bodies being involved per se, but we are concerned that this list doesn't include any organisation that has specific experience of charity accounting and that charities forced to use such big professional bodies will have to pay higher fees for an independent examination," said Fiona Gordon, director of the ACIE. She has asked that the ACIE be included on the list.

Gordon admitted that there was a degree of self-interest in bringing this to the attention of voluntary organisations. However, she added that the exclusion of the ACIE highlights the blunder the Government has made in compiling the list.

"We exist to help those whose job it is to independently examine charity accounts and who have a wealth of experience in this area. It makes no sense that this specific knowledge base is being ignored," she said.

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