By Andrew Holt

Large charities should be setting a good example to the rest of the charity sector by filing their annual information online and on time, the Charity Commission has said.

Nearly 50% of the charity sector’s income is due to be accounted for by 31 January 2013.

Many charities have a March 31 financial year end, and have ten months from this date to file their information, leading to thousands of charities needing to file their information online by the end of the month.

Charities are reminded numerous times about when their accounts are due, both before their due date and afterwards.

In addition, the Commission used to telephone large charities who had not filed by early January to remind them to do so, because of the large amounts of money that each set of accounts represents.

This time last year charities with an annual income of more than £5 million who were yet to file their Annual Return and Account information online were called and reminded, but this year the regulator says the charities should not need reminding of this important task.

Sam Younger, CEO of the Charity Commission, said: “We are looking to the larger charities to really set the example here by filing their information online and in good time.

"Not knowing how charities spend their money is the top reason the public give for not trusting charities, and it is a great shame for those that do meet their deadline in good time to be let down by those that don’t. It reflects badly on the whole sector.”

The online Register of Charities shows if charities are up to date or late with the information they are required to give to the Commission.

When a charity is late, the banner around its name on the Register turns from green to red to show potential donors that the charity is late accounting for its finances.

Charities’ details on the Register were viewed 6 million times last year.

The key messages for charities and trustees are:

File your accounts when they are ready - don’t wait for a reminder

File your accounts as a pdf online. Don’t send paper copies of accounts

Don’t send accounts unless you are required to – charities under £25,000 must prepare them but do not have to send them to the Commission

Chairs and CEOs should check that their finance departments have already filed all due information with the Commission

Accountants – get your charity clients to file online, don’t send us paper copies.

Research by the Commission in 2012 showed that over a third of charities that were late in filing their annual account information in 2011 had prepared the document in good time, and that 39% of late filers that were companies had filed their accounts on time with Companies House, suggesting charities were either more aware of or concerned about company law requirements.

Annual Returns are now fully online for charities and nearly 70% of charities are using online services for their accounts.

Online services are accessible on the Commission’s website at: www.charitycommission.gov.uk

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