Commission figures show that the proportion of the sector's income accounted for on time has increased by 5 percentage points to 91 per cent, the highest level ever achieved, while the proportion of returns submitted online has hit 18 per cent.
The regulator launched its ‘File Early’ campaign last April following the failure of 11 of the top 100 charities, measured by income, to file their 2005 accounts within the legal deadline of ten months beyond the end of the financial year.
Andrew Hind, chief executive at the commission, called the success of the campaign a “remarkable achievement”. He said: “I'm really encouraged by the way these charities have responded to the need for public accountability. They set a great example for other charities to follow."
All charities with an income of more than £10,000 a year are required to file annual accounts. The commission doesn’t have any power to prosecute or fine charities that file late, but it does flag them up on its website.
A spokeswoman said that the commission’s research revealed that lack of knowledge and misconceptions were the problem. She said: “Some charities seemed to think that they couldn’t file accounts until they had been signed off by their AGM. So we wrote to them all and set up a ‘how to’ section on our website.”
She said the commission also “banged on” to them about accountability. “It wasn’t acceptable that the top 100 charities weren’t getting it right,” she said. “They are the ones with the resources and they are the ones whose accounts people want to see.”
She added that incidences of late filing are highest with small charities that tend to rely on accountants taking on pro bono work.Keith Hickey, chair of the Charity Finance Director's Group, also welcomed the news. He said: “It's important that charity beneficiaries, donors and other stakeholders have up-to-date information on the work and results of charities, and this is just the example that these charities should be setting."