'Sorry we didn't file our accounts: there was a good show on TV'

Charity Commission unveils a list of the most unusual excuses charities have used in the past year to explain why they haven't met their legal obligation to submit their accounts to the regulator

Charity Commission
Charity Commission

A distractingly good TV show, a flood on top of a large hill and an inability to find their own charity number are among the excuses charities have given the Charity Commission for failing to file their accounts on time.

The commission today released a list of the most unusual excuses received over the past year as the filing deadline approaches for charities that measure their financial years from 1 January to 31 December.

One charity told the commission it could not file because it lost the accounts paperwork in a flood – but its office is based on top of a large hill.

Another told the commission: "I know I have made a mess of the charity annual return three times in two days, but there was really good TV show that distracted me." Another claimed not to know its charity number, despite having been sent the number in the email reminding it to file.

Another said: "I want to unsubscribe from the Charity Commission and I want my money back." One charity said it had already filed with HM Revenue & Customs and asked the commission representative why the regulator was bothering it.

Charities have a legal duty to submit accounts to the commission within 10 months of their financial year ending. Because many charities align their financial years with the calendar year, this means many are due to file by 31 October.

At least one charity in the past year has submitted a file labelled accounts that contained one line: "accounts to follow". One person refused to give their birth date, a detail needed to log in to the online system, out of fear it could be used by "unscrupulous people", the commission’s list of excuses said.

There also seemed to be some confusion about the role of the commission – one charity asked how much grant funding it would get in return for filing its accounts, and another threatened to withhold its accounts until the commission revealed what interest rates it offered.

One organisation said it was run by an international charity based in the US and told the commission to ask the US arm of the charity for details.

As of Friday evening, 1,579 charities with a last reported annual income of £250,000 that are due to file in two weeks’ time had not yet submitted their accounts, according to the commission.

In a statement, the commission said: "Trustees have a legal obligation to submit these documents and the failure to file may be an indicator of wider poor governance issues within the charity.

"Failing to file, or filing late, can affect your charity’s reputation as well as jeopardise public trust in charities more generally."

The commission has also published advice for charities, telling them what they need to file depending on their size, and warning them that the responsibility for submission belongs to the entire board.

- The phrase "with a last reported annual income of £250,000 or more" was added into the sentence about the number of charities that had yet to file their 2015 accounts. It had been omitted from the original information provided by the Charity Commission.

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