Spend on campaigning will not have to be included in annual returns, says Charity Commission

The proposed measure garnered a broadly negative reaction from the sector when included in a consultation last year

Regulator backed down
Regulator backed down

The Charity Commission will not ask charities to include in their annual returns the amount they have spent on campaigning because of concerns about the administrative burden.

The regulator said after running a consultation last year that it would not include the question for annual returns for financial years ending in 2015 but would return to it for the 2016 returns.

The commission’s analysis of its consultation on the contents of the annual return said that collecting and publishing information on charities’ campaigning activities would help to improve transparency, "and we think that it merits further consideration".

But it announced on Friday that it would not ask charities to account for campaigning spend in returns for 2016. It has no plans to return to the question, a spokeswoman for the commission said, although it could not be ruled out indefinitely.

"While recognising that there remains public interest in charity campaigning, the commission has taken account of the administrative burden that such an additional question would place on charities and so will not include a question in the 2016 annual return on campaigning expenditure," a statement from the commission said.

The only changes to the annual return would be changes to the financial information required from charities with annual incomes of £500,000 or more because of changes to the Statement of Recommended Practice, the commission said.

The proposal to require information about campaigning spend got a broadly negative reaction from sector umbrella bodies that responded to the consultation. They emphasised that it would be difficult to define what campaigning comprised.

Sarah Atkinson, director of policy and communications at the commission, said: "We have listened to the views expressed about the administrative burden charities would face in detailing what they spend on campaigning.

"We always aim to strike the right balance in the annual return between making it accountable to the public and ensuring it is manageable for charities, while still collecting important information for our regulatory work. We are working closely with users on the new format to make sure it is easy and intuitive for charities to use."

She said a test version of the annual return that people would be able to give feedback on was planned for release early next year. 

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