Please click here to read OSCR’s COVID-19 Guidance for Charities

Reminder to charities to submit your annual information on time

29 Jul 2021

Up to March 2020 and the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, charities had 9 months after their ‘year-end’ date to submit their annual information to OSCR. Because of the additional pressures that organisations came under at the beginning of this crisis, OSCR allowed charities extra time – a ‘grace period’ - to submit annual reports and accounts. This grace period extended a charity’s annual information deadline by an additional 9 months if their deadline date fell between 01 March 2020 and 31 March 2021.

From the 1 April we returned to our regular timescale for charities’ submissions. This means that charities with deadlines for submitting their annual information from 01 April 2021 onwards no longer receive additional time to do so, and so should submit within 9 months of their year-end date.

Although the majority of charities have been submitting on time since the end of grace period, we would like to remind charities that they must submit annual information on time.

We use the information to update each charity’s entry on the Scottish Charity Register. A charity’s register entry will highlight when they have failed to provide us with the information on time. Anyone, such as funders or members of the public, will be able to see that the annual information has not been submitted.

Submitting the information is straightforward:

  1. Log in to OSCR Online
  2. Click on the link to complete an online annual return
  3. Answer the questions in the return and attach the annual report and accounts (including the independent examiners or audit report) when asked.

There is a huge amount of information on charity accounting available on our website – webinars, guidance, templates, blogs and much more. You can find specific information on how to prepare your charity’s accounts here, and there is guidance on completing an online annual return available on our website to help you complete yours correctly.

We have also created a number of FAQs to help you through the submission process:

Before starting an online annual return

  1. Should every charity submit an annual return?

Yes. Every year, every charity registered in Scotland must send us their:

  1. Annual accounts
  2. Trustees’ Annual Report, and
  3. External scrutiny report from an independent examiner or auditor

Charities must submit this information to us within 9 months* of their accounting ‘year end’.

This can be done by completing an online annual return using OSCR Online.

Information needs to be submitted covering any period that a charity is active, so even if a charity is planning on winding up soon after its annual deadline, we still need the information.

* Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, OSCR allowed an additional 9 months grace period for charities that were due to file their annual information between 01 March 2020 and 31 March 2021

 

  1. I am no longer involved with a charity, how do I transfer the responsibility onto another person?

If you are receiving emails about the online annual return deadline from OSCR Online, it is likely you are listed as the charity’s principal contact.  Every charity must have a principal contact at all times so that OSCR knows who to get in touch with when necessary.

When any of the principal contact details change, this must be updated as soon as possible. This is a requirement.

Remember, we mainly communicate to principal contacts by email, so it is important that whoever it is has an email account which is active and checked regularly.

This change is made using OSCR Online. Guidance on changing a principal contact can be found here.

 

  1. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we can’t get our accounts signed – can we still send them?

At this time, we are allowing charities to submit annual reports and accounts with typed signatures to help you meet your deadlines and finalise your accounts without physical or ‘wet’ signatures.  The accounts must still be approved in line with any relevant provisions in the charity’s governing document.

 

  1. Do our accounts need to be independently examined or audited?

Yes. Under charity law all annual reports and accounts for Scottish charities are still subject to independent external scrutiny from an independent examiner or auditor. Charity law does not provide OSCR with the power to grant exemptions from audit or independent examination, even under the current conditions. All annual reports and accounts must have the appropriate external scrutiny report. Our guidance explains the rules about which form of external scrutiny of a charity’s annual report and accounts must happen, which may be different from one year to the next depending on a number of factors.

More information is available within our COVID-19 guidance for charities.

 

  1. I have forgotten my password, what do I do?

If you cannot access the system there is a password reset link on the OSCR Online login page. However, if this is not working for you, our staff can look into your access during our opening hours.

 

Completing the annual return

  1. Where do I tell you about changes to our trustees?

You do not have to contact OSCR every time there is a change to a charity’s trustees.

A charity should state these changes within its Trustees’ Annual Report. This report should be submitted to OSCR as part of the online annual return.

 

  1. I don’t understand some of the questions on the annual return – where can I get help?

Each question on the annual return on OSCR Online has a round help icon to the left of it.  If you click on that icon, you will see relevant guidance to help you understand what the question is asking. We also have guidance on our website to help you submit your information.

 

  1. Why should I provide a web link to my accounts?

The very best way for a charity to share their reports and accounts on our register is by also publishing them on their own website then providing us with a link when you complete your online annual return.

For a charity, this can have the added bonus of using that page on their website to share other information about the charity’s activities and impact. There are 50,000 searches on the charity register every month, so this is a potential opportunity for charities to reach a new audience.

You can provide the link in Section A (Question 4) of the Annual Return. If text box won’t accept your link, please answer this question with ‘no’

 

  1. Why can’t I attach my accounts in the ‘sending documentation’ section?

Here are the common reasons why users cannot upload accounts in OSCR Online:

  • The files are too large - When you are uploading a file using OSCR Online, it cannot be larger than 8mb in total. Tips on reducing the file size can be found here.
  • You are uploading too many separate files – Charities sometimes attempt to send us separate pages of a document as separate files. Ideally, you should send one file for each document.
  • OSCR Online does not accept the file type – OSCR Online accepts most file types but there are some less common types that will not be accepted. Generally, we advise charities upload pdfs or Microsoft Office formats.

 

After submitting an online annual return

  1. Have you received what I sent in?

Once you have submitted your annual return and attached your annual report and accounts, you will receive an email from us to confirm that we have received this information. If you have selected that you are going to post the accounts to OSCR you will receive an email from OSCR Online with your annual returns reference number and you can post in your accounts with the email.

If you have not received this, please check your spam folder. Once we have received the accounts they will be attached to your annual return and this will be submitted. The status of the annual return submission for the charity will also be updated the following day to reflect that the information has been received.

If we haven’t received the accounts the charity you be sent a reminder email, you can phone in and we will tell them that the accounts haven’t been received and you will be told you can either to post in another copy or send them in an email to info@oscr.org.uk