There are certain situations in which English and Welsh charities are obliged to register with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator. Once a charity has become 'cross-border' registered, it must observe the reporting duties of the Scottish regime as well as those of the Charity Commission. The OSCR accepts that the burden of this extra regulation could be prejudicial to charities and is consulting on ways to reduce multiple reporting for cross-border charities.
The main focus of the OSCR's proposals is to place reliance on information submitted to the commission or other home regulator. This will be done by asking cross-border charities to complete an 'information return' (replacing, in effect, the current supplementary monitoring return). A significant part of that return will be completed on an exception-only basis, meaning that if the information is contained in the trustees' annual report and accounts, the amount of form-filling to satisfy the OSCR will be reduced. An OSCR annual return will still be required, but should require only one question (gross annual income) to be completed.
The responses to the information return will be reviewed by the OSCR and it will contact the commission if it thinks further investigation is merited. Joint working will be important to the effective operation of the proposed rules, and the OSCR and the commission will prepare a revised memorandum of understanding if the new rules are adopted. The new memorandum will encourage joint working between the two regulators and the sharing of information about complaints and other serious incidents that come to the attention of the home regulator.
In relation to accounts, next year the Scottish Government will consult on financial thresholds for the type of accounts and external scrutiny required. The OSCR does not intend to examine in detail the accounts of charities that have a home regulator, except to validate their gross annual income and obtain information about Scottish activities set out in the information return.
- Alan Eccles is a solicitor at Maclay Murray & Spens LLP