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How Do You Submit Charity Accounts Online?

Updated: Dec 20, 2023

Understanding the Basics of Submitting Charity Accounts Online in the UK


Introduction to Charity Annual Returns in the UK

Charities in the UK play a pivotal role in society, contributing to various causes and community needs. As part of their operational transparency and accountability, charities registered in England and Wales are mandated to submit an annual return to the Charity Commission. This process ensures that charities report their income and expenditures, providing crucial information for both regulatory bodies and the public. The Charity Commission, as the regulator, has established guidelines and procedures for the submission of these returns, tailored to different sizes and types of charities.



1. The Annual Return for 2023 - 2024

The Charity Commission launched the Annual Return for 2023 (AR23) to adapt to evolving needs and feedback from charities. This new return, applicable to financial years ending on or after 1st January 2023, reflects changes based on consultations with the charity sector​​​​. The AR23 is distinct from the charity's annual accounts and the charity tax return sent to HMRC, focusing instead on the charity's total income and expenditure​.


2. Eligibility and Deadline for Submission

All charities with an annual income exceeding £10,000 must complete the online annual return form. The deadline is set at 10 months following the end of their financial year. For instance, if a charity’s financial year ended on 31st December 2022, they must submit their return by 31st October 2023.


3. Accessing the Charity Commission’s Online Services

Starting 31 July 2023, previous login details for charity accounts will no longer be valid. Charities must set up a new My Charity Commission Account using an individual email address and password. This account is required to submit the annual return and access other services.


4. Preparing for Submission

Before initiating the submission process, charities need to ensure that all previous annual returns are submitted. The first step in the online submission process requires charities to update their details, followed by entering their registered charity number.


5. Reporting Requirements Based on Income

  • Income under £10,000: Charities with this income bracket only need to report their income and spending. They must select ‘Annual return’ from the available services upon logging into their account.

  • Income between £10,000 and £25,000: These charities must answer specific questions about their charity in the annual return but do not need to include additional documents.

  • Income over £25,000: In this category, charities need to provide more detailed information. This includes answering questions in the annual return, declaring no unreported serious incidents, providing a trustee annual report, accounts, and an independent examiner’s report. Charities with an income over £1 million or gross assets over £3.26 million and income over £250,000 require a full audit. Preparing the annual report and accounts is a prerequisite before uploading them during the annual return completion.


The annual return is a crucial component for maintaining transparency and accountability in the charity sector in the UK. Understanding the requirements, preparing the necessary documents, and meeting the submission deadline are essential steps for charity administrators. The subsequent parts of this article will delve deeper into the specifics of the submission process, offering guidance to ensure compliance and efficiency.


How Do You Submit Charity Accounts Online?


Navigating the New Questions in the UK Charity Annual Return 2023

Introduction

Charities in the UK face an evolving landscape of regulatory requirements, with the Charity Commission introducing more comprehensive reporting standards. The Annual Return 2023 (AR23), applicable to financial years ending on or after 1 January 2023, brings additional questions across various key areas. These questions aim to provide a more detailed understanding of a charity's operations, finances, and governance. This part of the article will focus on the new questions introduced in AR23, discussing their implications and how charities can effectively respond to them.


1. Detailed Breakdown of New AR23 Questions

The AR23 encompasses a range of questions, covering nine key areas: income, expenditure, organizational structures, staffing, governance, risk, and more. This section will delve into each of these areas, highlighting the specific requirements and the rationale behind them.

  • Income Breakdown: All charities, including those with gross income below £500k, must confirm their income sources. Charities with income above £100k are required to declare high-value donations, enhancing the understanding of financial dependencies and potential conflicts of interest​.

  • Grant Making: Charities that primarily make grants must report the value of grants made to individuals, other charities, and non-charitable organizations. This information helps assess financial risk and stability within the charity sector​.

  • Spending Outside the UK: Charities spending money outside the UK must report values sent abroad, especially through non-regulated banking systems. This ensures compliance with legal obligations and helps identify evolving risks​.

  • Trading Subsidiaries: Charities need to disclose any trading subsidiaries or if any were dissolved during the period. This is part of assessing risks to ongoing operations​.

  • Charity Addresses and Property: Charities must confirm the accuracy of their public address on the Register of Charities and whether it aligns with their administrative headquarters. This enhances accountability and helps target geographical risks​.

  • Structure and Membership: Charities are required to confirm their structure, including any group affiliations, and the voting rights of their members. This helps prevent common risks across charity groups​.

  • Employees and Volunteers: Reporting on the number of employees and volunteers, including their contractual status and geographical location, is mandatory. This helps assess sector resilience and employment impact​.

  • Governance: Charities must confirm which of the suggested policies and procedures were in place at the end of the return period. This encourages better administration and management of charities​.

  • Safeguarding and Risks: Charities are asked to confirm if they provided services to children and/or adults at risk and whether they have obtained the necessary DBS checks. This targets charities with increased safeguarding risks for specific guidance​.


2. Quantity and Complexity of Questions

Charities will answer between 26 and 49 questions in the AR23, depending on their size and operations. This increased number of questions can be time-consuming but provides valuable insights for risk identification and trend analysis in the charity sector​.


3. Benefits and Challenges for Charities

While responding to these questions may be demanding, it offers an opportunity for charities to reassess their risk management strategies. This proactive approach can enhance their operations and governance, ultimately benefiting their long-term sustainability. Additionally, the information gathered through AR23 can offer valuable insights into sector trends and developments, aiding charities in navigating complex environments.


The AR23 represents a significant step in the Charity Commission's efforts to gain a deeper understanding of the charity sector. While the new questions add to the workload of charities, they play a crucial role in ensuring transparency, accountability, and effective risk management. Charities must prepare to respond comprehensively to these questions, leveraging the opportunity to strengthen their internal controls and governance structures.


Best Practices for Submitting Charity Annual Returns Online in the UK in 2023 - 2024

Submitting the Charity Annual Return (AR23) is a critical process for charities in the UK, necessitating accurate and comprehensive reporting. The updated AR23, effective for financial years ending on or after 1 January 2023, includes new questions and revised guidelines. This part of the article will provide practical tips and insights for charities to efficiently manage this submission process, ensuring compliance and effective communication with the Charity Commission.


1. Understanding the Revised Annual Return and Its Purpose

The Charity Commission has introduced 19 new questions in AR23, along with income thresholds to ease the burden on smaller charities. The revision aims to make the process more straightforward while collecting essential information to assess risk and regulatory compliance​​. It's important for charities to understand that these changes are not merely procedural but are designed to enhance transparency and accountability within the charity sector.


2. Tips for Efficient Submission of AR23

  • Early Preparation: Begin gathering necessary data well in advance of the submission deadline. Ensure that all financial records, reports, and documents are accurate and up to date.

  • Utilizing Updated Guidelines: Refer to the updated guidance and glossary provided by the Charity Commission. This will clarify the rationale behind each question and how the information will be used to support the sector​.

  • Embracing Flexibility: The Charity Commission is moving towards a more flexible approach in future Annual Returns. Be prepared for dynamic questions that may relate to specific notable events impacting the charity sector​.

  • Aligning with Accounting Frameworks: Ensure that financial data is in the format consistent with existing accounting frameworks. This streamlines the process and prevents redundant calculations​.


3. Leveraging Technology and Governance Standards

  • Data Sharing and Automation: Look forward to potential future developments where data sharing between the Commission and other regulatory bodies might simplify the process. Charities should prepare for possible automated 'data scraping' from their public reports to expedite the submission process​.

  • Governance Code Compliance: Although not currently a requirement, charities should consider voluntarily applying the Charity Governance Code. This demonstrates a commitment to higher governance standards and may become an integral part of future Annual Returns​.


4. Planning for Long-Term Compliance and Efficiency

  • Regular Review of Policies and Procedures: Regularly update and review internal policies and procedures to ensure they align with the suggested governance practices.

  • Staying Informed: Keep abreast of any changes or updates in the Charity Commission's requirements and guidelines.

  • Seeking Professional Advice: If needed, consult with professional advisors or governance experts to ensure that your charity’s submission is comprehensive and compliant.


The submission of the Charity Annual Return is a significant responsibility for UK charities, requiring diligent preparation and understanding of the revised requirements. By following these best practices and staying informed about potential future changes, charities can ensure a smoother, more efficient submission process. This proactive approach not only complies with regulatory requirements but also reinforces the charity’s commitment to transparency, accountability, and good governance.



Submitting Your Charity Accounts Online


How Do You Submit Your Charity Accounts Online?

If you're looking to submit your charity accounts online it's just a matter of filling in the form available on the gov.uk annual returns for charities website. You'll need your password in order to access the annual return form and you should ensure that your trustees as well as you have their passwords, as doing so could be time-consuming. The form is easy to fill out however, you must spend time reading each question and make sure that the tick boxes you select are in order. The application should take two hours to finish.


It's crucial to note that charitable accounts can't be filed via letters or emails. Make sure that you submit your accounts online by the deadline. Online submissions must be submitted in the first 10 months of each fiscal year. Any late submissions will be marked as late.


Can Someone Help Me Fill Out My Tax Return?

Charity accounts are easy to set up when your financial issues are easy and you are aware of how to manage them. But, it can take some time, and you could be paying more taxes than is necessary when you're not certain of the benefits and costs you are entitled to. The worst thing is that mistakes can result in penalties. In the case of more complicated financial statements, it's an excellent idea to engage an accountant to prepare your tax returns.


HMRC Guidelines

HMRC has provided detailed guidelines on Charity Annual Returns. Following is a summary of these guidelines:


  • Financial Period: Charities must confirm their financial period, which is typically 12 months but can vary for unincorporated charities and CIOs.

  • Income and Spending: Charities report gross income and spending, calculated based on the type of accounts prepared (receipts and payments basis or accrual accounts).

  • Government Contracts and Grants: Information on the number and value of contracts and grants received from central government or local authorities is required.

  • Income Breakdown: Charities with gross income under £500,000 and where grants or contracts are less than 70% of income must break down income from donations, activities, trading, and investments.

  • Donations: Details of the highest value donations from corporate donors, individuals, and related parties are required for charities with gross income over £100,000.

  • Grant Making: Charities primarily involved in grant making must report the value of grants made to different entities and disclose any related party recipients.

  • Trustee Payments: Information on trustee payments, excluding expenses, for various roles is needed.

  • Activities Outside the UK: Charities must report income received and activities conducted outside the UK, including details of formal agreements with partners.

  • Spending Outside the UK: Charities are asked about funds spent outside the UK, including methods of transferring money.

  • Trading Subsidiaries: Information on any trading subsidiaries and their status is required.

  • Charity Addresses and Property: Charities must confirm their public address and administrative headquarters, and for unincorporated charities, whether properties are held by custodian trustees.

  • Structure and Membership: Charities part of a wider group must disclose their structure and information on members with voting rights.

  • Employees and Volunteers: Details on the number of employees and volunteers, their roles, and payroll expenses are required.

  • Governance: Charities must report on the policies and procedures they have in place, tailored to their size and activities.

  • Safeguarding and Risk: Charities providing services to vulnerable groups must disclose safeguarding measures, and all must report on serious incidents and external risks impacting their operations.


This summary provides an overview of the key components of the guide for charities preparing for the 2023 Annual Return in the UK, highlighting the essential reporting requirements and data collection aims of the Charity Commission.



How a Tax Accountant Can Help with Charity Annual Returns

Charity Annual Returns in the UK are a critical aspect of financial compliance for charitable organizations. Navigating the complexities of these returns requires not only a keen understanding of the legal requirements but also expertise in financial management and reporting. This is where a tax accountant becomes indispensable. Their role goes beyond mere number crunching; they provide strategic guidance, ensuring that charities not only comply with the law but also optimize their financial health.


Understanding the Complexities of Charity Annual Returns

The Charity Annual Return (AR) in the UK, especially with the recent updates, involves intricate details that require careful attention. A tax accountant is well-versed in these complexities. They understand the specific reporting requirements, the nuances of financial disclosures, and the implications of non-compliance. Their expertise is vital in ensuring that the charity adheres to the regulations set forth by the Charity Commission.


Expert Guidance on New Reporting Requirements

With the introduction of new questions and income thresholds in the AR23, charities face additional reporting challenges. A tax accountant can provide expert guidance on how to answer these questions accurately. They can help charities interpret the new requirements and ensure that all necessary information is reported correctly, thereby avoiding any potential issues with the Charity Commission.


Efficient Financial Management and Reporting

Efficient financial management is key to a successful charity. A tax accountant helps in setting up and maintaining robust financial systems. They can assist in preparing financial statements, managing budgets, and ensuring that all financial activities are transparent and accountable. This level of financial management is essential not only for AR compliance but also for the overall financial health of the charity.


Strategic Planning and Risk Management

Charities operate in a dynamic environment with varied financial risks. A tax accountant plays a crucial role in strategic planning and risk management. They can help charities identify potential financial risks and develop strategies to mitigate them. This foresight is vital for long-term sustainability and growth, ensuring that charities can continue to fulfill their missions effectively.


Ensuring Compliance with Tax Obligations

Apart from AR compliance, charities must adhere to various tax obligations. A tax accountant ensures that the charity is compliant with all tax-related requirements, including VAT, Gift Aid, and other tax-efficient giving schemes. Their expertise in tax law is invaluable in navigating these areas, ensuring that the charity maximizes its financial resources while remaining compliant.


Training and Capacity Building

A tax accountant can also play an educational role, training charity staff and trustees in financial management and reporting. This capacity building is crucial for charities to maintain compliance and manage their finances effectively in the long term. By empowering charity staff with financial knowledge, a tax accountant helps build a more resilient and self-sufficient organization.


Liaison with Regulatory Bodies

Tax accountants can act as intermediaries between the charity and regulatory bodies, including the Charity Commission and HMRC. They can handle communications, respond to inquiries, and provide necessary documentation, ensuring that the charity maintains a good standing with these bodies.


In conclusion, a tax accountant is a vital asset to any charity in the UK, especially when it comes to preparing and submitting Charity Annual Returns. Their expertise in financial management, compliance, strategic planning, and risk management is invaluable. By partnering with a skilled tax accountant, charities can navigate the complexities of financial regulations with confidence, ensuring that they remain focused on their core mission of serving the community.



20 FAQs about Charity Annual Returns


Q1: What is a Charity Annual Return in the UK?

A: It's a yearly report that charities in the UK submit to the Charity Commission, detailing their financial activities and governance.


Q2: Who is required to submit a Charity Annual Return?

A: Charities in England and Wales with an annual income of over £10,000 and all charitable incorporated organisations must submit an Annual Return.


Q3: When is the Charity Annual Return due?

A: The return is due within 10 months of the charity’s financial year-end.


Q4: What information is included in the Charity Annual Return?

A: It includes information on the charity's income, expenditure, governance, and activities.


Q5: Has the Charity Annual Return changed in recent years?

A: Yes, the Charity Commission introduced new questions and income thresholds in AR23, applicable from financial years ending on or after 1 January 2023.


Q6: Can a charity file the Annual Return online?

A: Yes, the Charity Annual Return must be submitted online via the Charity Commission’s website.


Q7: What if a charity's income is below £10,000?

A: Charities with an income below £10,000 need to report their income and spending, but may not have to complete a full Annual Return.


Q8: Do all charities need to get their accounts audited?

A: No, only charities with an income over £1 million or gross assets over £3.26 million and income over £250,000 need a full audit.


Q9: Are there different rules for Scottish and Northern Irish charities?

A: Yes, charities in Scotland and Northern Ireland are regulated by different bodies and have different reporting requirements.


Q10: What happens if a charity fails to submit its Annual Return?

A: Non-compliance can lead to regulatory action by the Charity Commission, including fines and legal consequences.


Q11: Can a charity amend its Annual Return after submission?

A: Yes, amendments can be made after submission, but they should be done promptly and accurately.


Q12: Are there exemptions to certain questions in the Annual Return?

A: Some questions have income thresholds, so smaller charities may not need to answer all questions.


Q13: How can a charity prepare for the Annual Return submission?

A: Charities should keep accurate and detailed financial records throughout the year and review the Charity Commission’s guidelines.


Q14: Is there any support available for completing the Annual Return?

A: The Charity Commission provides guidance and a glossary, and professional tax advisors or accountants can also assist.


Q15: What if a charity operates internationally?

A: Charities operating internationally must report on funds sent abroad and comply with specific reporting requirements for international activities.


Q16: Do charity subsidiaries need to file separate Annual Returns?

A: Yes, if they meet the criteria for submission, charity subsidiaries must file their own Annual Returns.


Q17: How does the Annual Return impact a charity’s public image?

A: Timely and accurate submission of the Annual Return helps maintain public trust and transparency in the charity’s operations.


Q18: Are there new questions regarding safeguarding in the AR23?

A: Yes, charities are asked about services provided to children and/or adults at risk and the level of DBS checks obtained.


Q19: How does the Annual Return address risk management?

A: Charities are required to report on governance policies, financial controls, and risk management practices.


Q20: Can changes in the charity’s structure affect the Annual Return?

A: Yes, changes in structure, such as the addition of subsidiaries or changes in trustees, need to be reported in the Annual Return.



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