By Andrew Holt

The Charity Commission has released the new annual return for 2013 which is now available to complete online via the Commission’s website.

The information given on the annual return is used to update the information that appears on the online Register of Charities.

The Register also has a ‘flag’ system, which labels charities who file on time in green, and charities with outstanding documents in red.

This is a resource well-used by the public to find information about the charities that they support; charities’ details on the Register were viewed 6 million times last year.

The new annual return is largely similar to previous versions with only minor changes which reflect the results of a public consultation on the information that people most wanted to know about charities.

When charities complete their annual return this year, they will additionally be asked if the charity is registered for Gift Aid, whether the charity owns or leases any land or buildings, and whether any of the charity’s land or buildings are used for the charity’s purposes.

Meanwhile, previously voluntary questions on overseas activities and the number of volunteers are now mandatory.

This information will help inform the Charity Commission’s regulatory work as it will indicate which charities the Commission may wish to engage with.

Sam Younger, chief executive of the Charity Commission, said: “The information which charities give us through the annual return helps charities to tell the public about what they do and the benefits which they provide.

"The answers to the additional questions will now provide more information about how they work, by enabling the public to quickly and easily find out which charities collect donations from the public or have volunteers working for them.

"Better information helps to underpin the trust and confidence which the public has in charities both through increased public transparency and by enabling the Commission to better understand the sector and individual charities which it regulates.“

The annual return must be completed within ten months from the charity’s financial year end and should be submitted online via the Commission’s website.

Charity accounts should also be submitted online and nearly 70% of charities are using the online service.

The Commission has produced video tutorials which explain the process clearly. These can be found on the Charity Commission website: www.charity-commission.gov.uk.

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