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Section 1 Introduction

Published: 18/04/2019
Updated: 18/04/2019


What this guide covers

This Guide gives an overview of the law and essential information regarding charities’ accounts that is relevant to all charities. This includes:

  • The requirements for accounting records
  • How to set your financial year
  • Appointing an external scrutineer and their rights and duties
  • Reporting to OSCR.

Part 1 also contains information and flowcharts that allow you to determine which type of accounts should be prepared (section 2) and which type of external scrutiny should be used (section 3). 

When you have decided which type of accounts you need to prepare, then you can read the part of the Guide that applies:

A Guide to Charity Accounts Part 2: Receipts and Payments Accounts

A Guide to Charity Accounts Part 3: Fully Accrued Accounts

Who is this Guide for?

This Guide is for:

  • charity trustees
  • people working in or with charities
  • independent examiners
  • auditors
  • professionals who advise charities or who assist charities to prepare their accounts may wish to use this Guide as a tool to help their clients.

Some charities will also have to prepare accounts in line with other legislation and regulations, for example:

  • charitable companies
  • registered social landlords
  • further and higher education institutions
  • community benefit societies (CBS or Bencom).

For these charities the Guide will need to be read alongside the other legislation or regulations that are specific to them.

How to use the Guide

The Guide is split into sections to help you find the information most relevant to you and your charity.

Key terms are highlighted in bold purple type. Clicking on these terms will take you to either the charity law glossary on our website or to our specific accounting terms glossary


The main piece of charity law in Scotland that sets out the requirements for being a charity and establishes OSCR.

The 2006 Regulations set out in detail what information trustee annual reports and charity accounts must contain and when they must be submitted to OSCR. 

The SORP sets the framework for charity financial reporting in the UK for charitable companies, charities with income of £250,000 and more and all other charities preparing accruals accounts.

OSCR publishes general guidance for charities, but we can’t provide specific advice on the full range of things which can happen in or affect your charity.

Below is a list of organisations, professional bodies and publications that can help with some or all of the areas set out in the Guide and more:

Professional bodies:


  • Accounting and Reporting by Charities: Statement of Recommended Practice 2015. Copies can be downloaded at: charitiessorp.org. Hard copies may be purchased from CIPFA. Contact 020 7543 5600.