Charity regulator launches new Annual Return question set reflecting sector feedback
The Charity Commission has published an updated set of questions as it launches its new Annual Return in response to charity sector and public feedback.
Today (Wednesday 21st December), the Charity Commission has published an updated set of questions that charities will have to complete as part of their 2023 Annual Return.
A number of changes and improvements have been made to the new Annual Return as a result of feedback from charities and interested parties. This follows a full consultation launched by the regulator which ran from the 9th June 2022 to 1st September 2022.
The Annual Return is the online form that all charities with yearly incomes of £10,000 or more complete within 10 months of the end of their financial reporting period. It must also be completed by all those registered as charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs).
Following the consultation, changes we have introduced in the 2023 Annual Return are:
- A reduction in the maximum number of questions that can be asked of charities to 49, 3 less than proposed in the consultation
- The introduction of income thresholds for 5 of the new questions to further reduce the burden for smaller charities
- Reworded 19 questions to improve clarity and/or reduce resource and time required of charities where possible
- Substantial improvements in the glossary and guidance we provide to help charities answer questions quickly and accurately.
A new guide will be released in January to support charities as they set about compiling the new information required. The number of questions asked of all charities in AR23 will increase slightly, to 26 – however this is 4 less than proposed in the consultation. A further 6 questions will be removed from the Annual Return from 2024 onwards, once some data has been captured in AR23, reducing the number of questions further at this point.
As is the case currently, the amount of information needed by the Commission will continue to vary based on the size and scope of any individual charity.
Helen Stephenson, CEO at the Charity Commission, said:
I’d like to thank all of those who took the time to respond to our consultation. We have listened to feedback and are now introducing changes that will improve the Annual Return for charities and allow us to regulate more effectively.
We know that it will take time for charities to adjust their reporting and so we will be publishing a guide in January to help trustees and nominated contacts as they look to file their returns next year.
I’m delighted we have reached the latest milestone in our ambitious strategy to become a more data-driven regulator and help ensure we are serving the public and sector as best we can.
The Annual Return and these improvements are a key step to improve the data reported by charities, enabling the Commission to better identify risks and problems in the sector, helping the public make informed and confident choices about charities, and allowing policy-makers, researchers, the sector, and the public to gain a richer understanding of the sector in England and Wales.
The Commission will publish a new guide to assist those looking to complete their Annual Return for financial years ending on or after 1st January 2023. The guide will also set out to further explain how data will be utilised by the Commission, following sector feedback.
The Commission will be expanding enrolment onto the My Charity Commission Account. Trustees and nominated contacts will, if not already, be invited to create an account on this platform.
Early Summer 2023:
The Annual Return filing portal opens via the My Charity Commission Account platform. Trustees will be expected to submit their Annual Return for 2023 and future Annual Returns through the regulator’s improved digital service.
Changes do not apply to AR22 and charities should continue to submit these as planned. The full set of questions that will make up the Annual Return for 2023 are published on gov.uk.
Notes to editors
The Charity Commission is the independent, non-ministerial government department that registers and regulates charities in England and Wales. Its purpose is to ensure charity can thrive and inspire trust so that people can improve lives and strengthen society.
The Commission received 456 responses to our consultation on proposed changes to the Annual Return. 423 responses were through our online tool, with 16 responses providing additional written feedback.
54% of respondents to the Commission’s consultation found the proposed question set to be proportionate, while 22% disagreed and a further 24% were unsure or neutral. Most respondents (72%) felt able to complete financial questions as proposed, however the regulator noted from previous user research that this can be an area which charities find difficult or time consuming, so the Commission has now amended the Annual Return for 2023 onwards to enable trustees to submit figures aligned to those used in account preparation, rather than the calculation of percentages.
Incoming changes apply only to AR23 and do not impact AR22 submissions. Charities yet to file their ARs for 2022 should continue to do so.
The Commission is working to improve its digital services. The new My Charity Commission Account platform is currently in its pilot phase, with a selection of charity contacts invited to set up their accounts. We will be expanding this onboarding process further early in 2023 to ensure a smooth transition when submitting Annual Returns this summer.
Original article link: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/charity-regulator-launches-new-annual-return-question-set-reflecting-sector-feedback
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