The Charity Commission consultation that will ask whether charities should be fined for late filing, has launched today.
The consultation, with a wider remit of reviewing the information it collects from charities, calls for views from anyone who has an interest in its approach to collecting information, including the general public, funders, and researchers.
The consultation period for Register of Charities: a review of information collected from charities will run until 20 July.
Sam Younger, chief executive of the Charity Commission, spoke at the regulator’s public meeting in Birmingham last Thursday of a commitment to holding charities to account through transparency requirements in general. Then he revealed that today's consultation would explore the prospect of revoking gift aid tax relief from charities filing their accounts late.
The consultation asks for responses on three possible scenarios for late filers: the suspension of gift aid for those that claim it; the introduction of fines, or the introduction of incentives for those filing on time.
No quick fix
Younger said today of the consultation: “We collect information from charities so that we can publish it for the public to use and to help charities fulfil their responsibility to be transparent.
“This information is also needed to allow the Commission to discharge its regulatory role, for example checking a sample of accounts each year and monitoring regulatory trends in the data to inform our regulatory approach.
“This consultation is not about a quick fix. Some of the issues and questions we are exploring would require changes to legislation or accounting regulations in order to be taken forward. We do not have the power to make such changes ourselves, but we hope that people will use the opportunity to give their views on charity information and help set the agenda, both for short term and longer term change.”
The Commission is seeking views both on the information that is collected when charities register, and the details they later submit through the regulator’s annual update and annual return. An annex summarises the annual return 2012, and clarifies which information is currently collected, and what does and does not get published. Whether it should collect and publish more, less or different charity information is among the issues the Commission is seeking feedback on.
The regulator is also seeking to discover how users employ the data from its register of charities; how useful this information is; and whether the updating of basic details should be made possible at any time or remain as an annual requirement.
In a statement, the Commission said that it is seeking responses now to make sure any decisions it takes that affect the content of the 2013 annual return can be made in time.
"We [also] anticipate that some of the issues that are raised will have longer-term implications and will contribute to a programme of information development work over the course of several years.
"We are awaiting the recommendations from Lord Hodgson's review of the Charities Act 2006, part of which asked questions about charity information and the range of different thresholds for information required from charities.”
The consultation document can be found at the Charity Commission website here.