Charity annual returns – be aware

We have been alerted through the Sandy Adirondack legal advice to charities bulletin that the Charity Commission is no longer providing copies of annual returns after they are submitted online so please be warned  to print your return in draft form before submitting it, rather than expecting to receive a PDF of the final version automatically as has happened in the past….

Please see the exchange between a group and Sandy for your information and consideration.

Group – “I’ve just come across an issue that you might like to include in one of your legal updates so it doesn’t catch out others.

The Charity Commission has changed its IT systems so they no longer send out a PDF of the annual return you’ve submitted. Worse than that, once it’s submitted, there is no way for the charity to access or save the information. So basically, unless you manually save/print each individual page in draft WHILE filling it in, there is no longer any way for charities to get hold of their own file copy of the annual return.

Which is, of course, completely rubbish. It is also not made obvious enough during the process of completing the annual return. You’d think they’d at least produce a summary page of all the info filled in at the end of the multi-page process with options to review, save and submit, as they do for many of their other forms – but no.

So I think it would be good to warn people of this, so others can make sure they save the information they enter. Unfortunately it’s too late for us!

As you can see below, I requested a copy of our annual return from the Charity Commission and received a pathetic ‘no can do’ response.”

From the organisation’s query to the Charity Commission

Please specify why you need to contact us
We have not got a copy of our 2019 annual return.

What specifically do you need to contact us about?
I have recently submitted our charity’s annual return. However, while we have received an email confirmation of receipt, we do not seem to have received a copy of the information we submitted.
In previous years, a copy of the annual return was always emailed to us in PDF format and we keep that copy for our own records. This year, that has not happened.
Would you be able to send us a charity copy of our annual return?
Would you also please reinstate that feature to the annual return submission process (at least as an option when submitting) so we do not have this issue in future years?

What do you need from the Commission?
We would like you to send us a PDF of our annual return.
We also propose that you revert to doing this automatically when an annual return is submitted.

How are the trustees satisfied that this is in the best interests of the charity?
The trustees feel it is important and best practice to retain a copy of correspondence with the Charity Commission, especially of compliance documents such as the annual return.”

The Commission’s reply to the organisation

“Thank you for your below form submission.

Due to a system update, the annual return is only available to print in draft format, once the submission has been made you can no longer obtain a copy. This is outlined twice within the form.

Due to the manner in which we hold the annual return, I am unable to send you a copy.

This is a factor we are looking to amend in the future.

I trust this answers your query.”

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A reminder that if your financial year ended 31 December 2018 your charity annual accounts and return were due 31 October, and if the organisation is a company the company accounts and return were due 30 September. For a financial year ending 31 March 2019 the charity accounts and return are due 31 January, and company accounts and return 31 December. Don’t leave it to the last minute – especially for the charity annual return, which has a different process this year, which involves collecting information you may not have easily to hand.

 

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