Charities registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland: what Annual Reporting is required?

October 1, 2015

Charity law relating to accounting and reporting has not yet been fully developed. The Department for Social Development (DSD) is responsible for developing the full accounting and reporting regulations which will specify the form and content of charity accounts, and the level of review or audit these accounts must have. They will also set out the content requirements for the trustee annual report.

On 1 September 2015, the Social Development Minister, Mervyn Storey MLA, launched a consultation, to seek views on how the accounts of charities in Northern Ireland are prepared and scrutinised. It is hoped that the new regulations, which will apply to all registered charities, will come into operation from 1 January 2016, taking effect for the financial years of registered charities beginning on or after that date.

Until these regulations take effect all charities registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (CCNI) fall under the interim reporting arrangements and by law must report to the CCNI on their first full financial period after this date.

Charities are allowed ten months after their financial period end to gather annual reporting information, compile their accounts and reports, and submit these to the CCNI. For example, Charity A registers on 15 December 2013 and has an accounting period end date of 31 March. The first full accounting period after 1 April 2014, is period ending 31 March 2015 and Charity A has 10 months to file with the CCNI. The filing deadline for Charity A is therefore 31 January 2016.

As a matter of good practice charities are encouraged to do this as soon as possible after their period end, rather than leaving this close to their reporting deadline.

In the absence of full accounting regulations the interim arrangements allow charity reporting to be introduced on a phased basis. This makes it easier for charities to get used to reporting while simultaneously allowing the CCNI to carry out its monitoring and compliance work, and ensure the register of charities is up to date in the interim period.

Under interim reporting arrangements registered charities must submit to the CCNI:

  1. An annual monitoring return which will ask questions on the charity’s activities, governances and finances;
  2. A copy of the charity accounts in the format they currently prepare them;
  3. A copy of the charity trustee annual report (if applicable); and
  4. A copy of the charity audit report (if applicable).

The key difference during the interim reporting period is that registered charities are permitted to submit their accounts and reports in the format they currently prepare them.

The annual monitoring return is a permanent aspect of annual reporting. All registered charities must complete and submit an annual monitoring return under interim arrangements and when full accounting and reporting regulations come into effect. The annual monitoring return can be accessed here.

For more information please contact Sarah Burrows or Peter Moorhead at Cleaver Fulton Rankin telephone number 028 9024 3141 or email s.burrows@cfrlaw.co.uk or p.moorhead@cfrlaw.co.uk .

Please note: the content of this article is for information purposes only and further advice should be sought from a professional legal advisor before any action is taken.