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Charity Commission 12 late-filers are mainly religious groups

Charity Commission 12 late-filers are mainly religious groups
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Charity Commission 12 late-filers are mainly religious groups3

Governance | Vibeka Mair | 27 Sep 2013

The majority of the 12 charities that are the subject of a class inquiry by the Charity Commission for late filing of financial information, are religious organisations.

And Bournemouth Borough Council is a corporate trustee of three others.

Today the Charity Commission has announced the names of the 12 charities which have been placed under a class inquiry for not filing financial information with the regulator for two years or more out of the last five.

The Charity Commission had identified 86 charities with incomes over £500,000 which were in "double-default". Most were in liquidation or administration, leaving 12 still operational. 

Seven of the 12 are religious charities, with two being religious fee-paying schools.

Bournemouth Borough Council is a corporate trustee of three of the others - Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum; Lower Central Gardens Bournemouth and The Five Parks, Bournemouth IE Kings, Queens, Meyrick and Redhill Parks and Sealfield Gardens.

A spokesman said that it had agreed with the Charity Commission to file accounts for all three on 30 September.

For the charities where accounts are available - sometimes dating back to 2008 - most of the religious ones that are not schools get the bulk of their income from donors and spend most of it on grants or staff costs.

For example, the Apostolic Faith Mission International Ministries, got most of its £1m income from what it describes as "love offering" (£100,000) and tithes (£500,000) in 2010. It spent a large proportion of this (£295,538) on what it calls "spiritual leader costs", a range of expenditure on the charity’s pastor, including mobile phone expenses, hospitality and council tax.

Many of the charities under inquiry also have a small number of trustees, on average three.

Achiezer Association Ltd, whose charitable objects are the relief of the aged, impotent and poor; the advancement of education, and the advancement of religion, has three trustees which are family members with the surname Chontow.

The majority of its income for the year ending 31 September 2010 was gift aid from the Chontow family and gift aid from companies controlled by the Chontow family, amounting to £1m of its £1.8m income. It spent £629,558 on grants to charities in this year.

Civilsociety.co.uk was unable to reach the Apostolic Faith Mission International Ministries and the Achiezer Association Ltd for comment.

Over half of the 12 charities do not have an operational website. All have a history of being consistently late since 2008, if they filed at all. The full list is on the Charity Commission's website. 

Charity Commission working with HMRC

Speaking at the Charity Commission’s annual general meeting yesterday, its CEO Sam Younger said the regulator would be ramping up its accounts scrutiny. He said the key issue it needed to tackle was the perennial problem of charities failing to submit their annual accounts and returns when they should.

Expanding on this, Neville Brownlee, head of compliance monitoring, said that the majority of charities did report on time, and warned those that did not that it was a criminal offence.

He said the 86 late-filing charities that the Charity Commission initially contacted about their compliance had mixed reactions.

“Some were mortified, and filed their accounts soon after, one within 25 minutes of the phone call,” said Brownlee. “This is really positive, but if their accounts are ready why don’t they just send them in? What mechanisms do they have in place where basic administration stuff is not taken care of?”

Brownlee continued that some charities were not interested. “They said they were too busy. In some cases, if we explained it was a criminal offence, they replied ‘And?’.

“Some blamed their accountants, but it is the trustees' duty to see that they are done.”

Of the 12 that are now under inquiry, some have partially-filed, said Brownlee. He also revealed that the Charity Commission was working with HMRC as part of the investigation.

The Charity Commission has initially focused on charities with a last-known income above £500,000. It plans to contact other late-filing charities soon. 

Michael Levitt
28 Sep 2013

Getting the accounts in is a start, but the next step must be to address the quality of those accounts. For instance, entirely at random, I accessed the Commission's website for one of the charities, Yad Vachessed Association Limited, which filed one outstanding set of accounts at the beginning of September. However, although clearly a grant making charity, the TAR says absolutely nothing about what the charity does, who it funds, or what are its plans. And the actual accounts do not break down income beyond stating that almost 100% of it is in the form of voluntary donations (£1.7 million), the remainder (£6) being interest; neither do they break down expenditure (of £1.7 million) beyond "grants" and "mailing costs". What grants? To whom? Almost not worth having these standard of accounts!

John Hudson
27 Sep 2013

So the head of compliance monitoring at the Charity Commission is now warning that charities that do not report on time are committing a criminal offence.
The obvious question therefore is what the Charity Commission has been doing about this over the past five years (well before the recent ill-conceived governmental reduction of staff.) I cannot recall any prosecutions for this criminal offence!
The obvious answer is nothing - apart from playing pretty colour schemes (green/red) on the CC website.
The obvious explanation is that Charity Commission resources were being wasted on an ill-conceived political campaign against private schools.
(And no, I am not a governor of a 'public' school.)

Kevin Allard
27 Sep 2013

The report says that the charities on the list are charities "with a last known income over £500,000 that have failed to file annual documents for two or more years".

However looking at one of the charities, Grace Church Christian Centre Limited, the Charity Commission's own website shows that this charity has had an annual income of less than £30k every year between 2009 and 2012.

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