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Charities who have missed their reporting deadlines need to submit information quickly to avoid reputational damage

13 Jan 2020

Latest figures show that 83.3% of Scottish charities submitted their annual return on time to the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) in 2019.

Every year, every charity registered in Scotland has to provide annual information by:

  • Completing an online annual return
  • Sending us a set of accounts, including a trustees’ annual report and an external scrutiny report.

Charities are required to submit this information within 9 months of their ‘year-end’. For example, when a charity has a financial year-end of 31 March the deadline date is 31 December. Before and after a deadline, a charity receives multiple reminders from OSCR. The Scottish Charity Register will clearly mark a charity’s register entry when they are late. Historically, around 12% of charities who miss their deadline submit within 1.5 months of being late.

Currently, 1,600 Scottish charities (6.5% of the total) have missed their deadline and have still to submit annual documentation to OSCR.

There can be legitimate reasons not submitting on time. OSCR actively works with charities and third sector organisations to discover any underlying issues. However, when we have contacted many non-submitting charities we have found that a common reason is that reporting has not been given the correct level of importance.

In addition to reputational damage, if a charity does not provide us with the required information the following could apply:

  • Under section 45 of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005, we can appoint an accountant to prepare the accounts at the trustees expense
  • Funding for the charity may not be granted as many funders use the information on the register to inform their judgements
  • It may affect some of the benefits that charitable status brings, for instance a water rates exemption.

Charities can submit annual information using our secure online portal OSCR Online. In addition to our proactive communication work, we have supporting guidance available in different formats on our website and we are extremely willing to help charities that are having difficulties when they contact us.

OSCR’s Chief Executive Maureen Mallon said,

“Being a registered charity is something to be proud of and this status comes with a number of responsibilities. A charity that fails to meet their obligations can damage their own reputation and potentially affect public confidence in charities.

“Annual reporting allows charities to demonstrate the great work they do. We recognise that the vast majority use this opportunity to their advantage.

“It is disappointing to see a number who have still to provide the information despite our reminders and OSCR and other bodies being there to help them. Although this number is proportionately small relative to the total number of charities, their failure is still of concern.

“As the regulator, we have powers to take action on charities who do not meet their duties and we allocate resources to enable us to engage further with charities that are significantly late. However, the best solution for the charities in question is to take this responsibility seriously and submit the required documentation quickly.

“There is guidance on annual reporting on our website, and if anyone needs further support they should not hesitate to contact us as soon as possible.”

 

Background

  • The Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) is a non-ministerial office and part of the Scottish Administration following commencement of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005.
  • We are the independent regulator and registrar for over 24,800 Scottish charities including community groups, religious charities, schools, universities, grant-giving charities and major care providers. Our work as Regulator ultimately supports public confidence in charities and their work.
  • We are independent of Scottish Government and report directly to the Scottish Parliament every year.
  • We use the annual information to update each charity’s entry on the Scottish Charity Register. When annual information is not submitted the charity’s entry will show this with a red line. Anyone, such as funders or members of the public, will be able to see that the annual information has not been submitted.
  • OSCR Online is available 24/7 and the system is designed to make sure that only correct and complete information is submitted.
  • The figures are taken from 08 January 2020.
  • The percentage of Scottish charities that submitted their annual return on time to the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) in 2019 was 83.3%. In 2018 it was 83.0%.
  • When a charity is late with its submission, they receive additional requests from OSCR asking them to provide the information.
  • Contact information for OSCR can be found here.