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How do you submit charity accounts online?

The Charity Commission has specific regulations around filing your online annual return, report and accounts. Submitting your accounts is an essential way to remain accountable to the public by providing information around how charitable money is spent. If you’re a registered charity, here’s what you need to know and do to submit your accounts online.
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What’s the difference between charity commission annual returns, annual reports and impact reporting?

Before you start, it’s important to understand the difference between Charity Commission annual returns and annual reports.

  • Annual returns: every registered charity is required to submit annual returns online.
  • Annual reports: every registered charity has to produce a charity trustee annual report. However, if your income is below £25,000, this doesn’t need to be uploaded as part of your online annual return.
  • Impact reports: these aren't a regulatory requirement but many charities still choose to create impact reports. They are an accessible way of communicating your work to stakeholders.

What do you need to do before submitting your charity accounts?

Before you can submit your charity accounts, you’ll need to be a registered charity and have your registration number at hand. Depending on the size of your charity, the requirements of your account filing may differ, so check online to see what’s required from you before beginning your submission.

In general, charities that have an annual income of more than £5,000 must be registered with the Charity Commission and are required to produce annual reports that cover income and expenditure, even though you may not be required to send a full annual return.

Another thing to remember is that any annual returns from previous financial years must be submitted before the most recent annual report. This means if you have missed the deadline for submission in a previous year, you’ll need to revisit it.

How to prepare your charity accounts

Annual return

For small charities with an income of under £500,000, the preparation of annual returns is simple. Annual returns are essentially a breakdown of what your charity does and how it runs. The return must include the following information to successfully be submitted:

  • The charity’s name, full address, registration number and trustee names
  • A breakdown of the charity structure, including how it’s managed and how trustees are recruited
  • A summary of the activities held by the charity and its objectives for the year
  • A list of its achievements and performance, including details on its public benefit
  • A financial review, including debts and your reserves policy
Annual accounts

Annual accounts can be a little more complicated and focus specifically on the financial status of the charity. It’s an important process that ensures transparency for the public, allowing them to see how money is being spent. These accounts can be produced in two forms: receipts and payments, and accruals.

Receipt and payments summarises the money that has been received and paid out during the financial year, providing a final balance of the money left at the end of the period. This is the simplified method of accounting and is better suited for small organisations with less financial activity.

Accrual accounting is a more complicated method but does present a clearer picture of a charities financial status. All income and expenditure in these reports are related specific to the year in question. For example, it will make adjustments to consider debtors or accruals, where services such as electricity have not yet been invoiced but will impact the final figure.

If charities are in need of an easier solution for their accounts, they may choose to invest in a charity accounting software that will support them in their financial recordings.

How do you submit your charity accounts online?

When it comes to submitting your charity accounts online, it’s a simple case of completing the form on the charity annual return website. You’ll need to know your password to access the annual return submission, so ensure that you and your trustees have the password recorded, as resetting it can be a time-consuming process. The submission is straightforward, but ensure you take your time and read each question carefully, checking selected tick boxes are correct. The submission should only take around 20 minutes to complete.

It’s important to remember that charity accounts cannot be filed by letter or email, so ensure you’re submitting your accounts online before the deadline. Online submissions need to be completed within 10 months of the financial year and any late submissions will be flagged as overdue.

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