We have updated OSCR Online - click here for more information on how to submit your annual return

A Guide to Charity Accounts

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

You can download a PDF version of this guidance here

What this Guide covers

This Guide sets out the legal requirements for preparing charity accounts and getting those accounts externally scrutinised.  

The type of accounts that your charity should prepare and the kind of external scrutiny that is required depends on several factors, which we explain in this Guide.

Please read this Guide before you begin to prepare your charity’s accounts in order to be clear about what your charity needs to do.

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 this Guide

The Guide is split into three parts. 

1. The Overview

This Guide is for all charities. It gives an overview of the law regarding charities’ accounts and essential information relevant to all charities. It will help you decide what kind of accounts you need to prepare.  

2. Receipts and Payments Accounts

This Guide is for charities that need to prepare Receipts and Payments accounts.

3. Fully Accrued Accounts

This Guide is for charities that need to prepare Fully Accrued Accounts.

All charities should read Part 1, you will then need to read part 2 or 3 depending on the type of accounts you have to prepare.

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 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.

  • Charity Finance Yearbook 2019 from Charity Finance Magazine.

  • Practical Guide to Financial Management for Charities and Voluntary Organisations. By Kate Sayer, 3rd edition, 2007, Directory of Social Change. ISBN 978 1 903991.

  • Practice Note 11 – The Audit of Charities in the United Kingdom produced by the Financial Reporting Council

  • The Charity Treasurer’s Handbook. By Gareth Morgan, 5th edition. 2017, Directory of Social Change. ISBN 978 1 78482 013 8.