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What happens when a charity doesn’t submit their annual report and accounts on time?

17 Mar 2023

All charities in Scotland have a legal duty to provide OSCR with an annual report and accounts every year. Charities must submit this information within 9 months of their financial year-end.

This is one of the charity trustee duties as set out in The Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005. Failure to submit is a breach of the charity trustees’ statutory duties.

Without this annual information, there’s no evidence to show OSCR, other organisations and the public that you are carrying out charitable activities and providing public benefit – and there’s no way for us to determine if you are meeting the charity test.

What are the risks of failing to submit?

Failing to submit your annual return and accounts can seriously affect your reputation as a charity.

If a charity is late or has not submitted their annual information at all, this can:

  • Decrease public confidence in your charity
  • Affect your ability to get funding from the public or funding bodies
  • Damage your reputation as a trustworthy charity
  • Affect whether potential donors choose to support your charity or not

If you do not submit by the deadline, a red box with your late submission date will appear on your Scottish Charity Register entry to highlight this to the public and others, such as funders.

It’s important to remember that your register page will continue to show historical data from annual returns from the previous five years, so everyone can see whether you submitted on time.

What to do if your charity has not submitted annual information

1. You must submit your accounts now

Log into OSCR Online as soon as you can to upload your annual report and accounts.

If you are no longer a charity trustee or member of staff, it is your responsibility to log in to OSCR Online and update the contact details for this charity. You can do this by reviewing both the users in the ‘Manage charity users’ section of your charity’s page, in addition to updating the principal contact in the ‘Making changes to your charity’ section. Read our guidance on using OSCR Online for more information. You should contact us if you are having issues making these changes.

2. Make sure your charity’s details are up to date

We appreciate that the contact details held by OSCR for a charity may no longer be up to date. Charity trustees should regularly check their entry on the Scottish Charity Register to ensure the address and principal contact details are correct.

If you need to make changes to your charity’s contact details please log in to OSCR Online and update the ‘Making changes to your charity’ section.

3. Contact us if your charity only has annual reports and accounts for some years but not others

If your charity has not submitted annual information for more than one year but can only provide information for some of those years, please contact us immediately at defaulting@oscr.org.uk and we will let you know what steps to take.

4. Contact us if your charity has stopped operating

If your charity stopped operating and you are not going to restart operations then you need to contact us immediately at defaulting@oscr.org.uk. We will be able to advise you of the appropriate process to allow us to remove you from the Scottish Charity Register.

5. Contact us if your charity still operating but no longer wishes to be a charity

If your charity wants to keep carrying out activities but no longer wants charitable status and the responsibilities that come with it, please contact us immediately at defaulting@oscr.org.uk and we will let you know what steps to take.

Please contact us immediately if you have any updates about your charity’s status or any further queries:

What action does OSCR take?

Throughout the year, we send out regular reminders to all charities to encourage them to submit their annual information within the 9 month deadline. We also send several emails to charities when they have failed to submit on time.

If a charity still fails to submit its annual return, we will consider it to be “defaulting”. We will then carry out checks to find out if the charity is still active:

  1. If the charity still appears to be operational, we will try using different contact methods to get in touch with the charity.
  2. If we find no evidence the charity is active, we will consider using our legal powers to remove the charity from the Scottish Charity Register on the basis that it no longer meets the charity test.

To tackle this issue of non-submitting charities, OSCR is allocating further resources to:

  • reducing the number of charities who fail to submit their annual report and account; and
  • preventing charities from becoming defaulting, by proactively contacting individual charities to understand the reasons why they are failing to submit.

This will help us to issue appropriate support and guidance to the sector.

For further information about the responsibilities of charities and how to submit annual reports and accounts, please see our guidance: