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The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
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Annual reporting FAQs

We would strongly encourage anyone who would like information on annual reporting to refer to one of our Annual reporting guidance documents, which are available here. Below you will find our top tips as well as answers to our frequently asked questions on annual reporting.

If you click on a question in the FAQs list below, you will be brought to the answer for that question. Alternatively, you can scroll down to read all of the top tips and FAQs

Top tips for filing your annual return

1. Don’t wait to the last minute. Failure to file on time is against the law. Deadline extensions are not offered, and if you fail to file on time your online register entry will be flagged red as being in default.

2. Make sure you have all the necessary information to hand including your charity’s login details. You need a password to access the annual monitoring return, so all trustees must ensure they know who has the password and that it is handed over if that person leaves, otherwise it can be a time-consuming process. Submitting this information is the collective responsibility of the entire trustee body, not just the person the task has been delegated to.

3. Double check the documents you plan to upload. Check the accounts and reports are for the correct financial year and make sure they do not contain any sensitive information, such as bank details or personal data. The names of trustees must be included in your annual report but make sure addresses etc are not included. If you prepare receipts and payments accounts remember to include a Statement of Assets and Liabilities!

4. File your annual information online using online services. Attempts to file by way of a letter or by email will not be processed and your charity’s online register entry will be marked in default if you miss the deadline.

5. Income and expenditure must be recorded in whole pounds – not thousands of pounds, and no decimal points.

If you have all the information you need, completing your annual return should only take about 20 minutes – so get online, and file on time!

Annual reporting FAQs

Questions on the annual monitoring return form

Questions on accounts and reports

Questions on deadlines and financial year end dates

Compliance related questions

Questions on reminders and notifications

Questions on the register of charities

Answers


1. I've been asked to provide my charity's annual monitoring return (AMR). What is it?

The annual monitoring return (AMR) is an online form that registered charities must submit on an annual basis, reporting on their activities during the year. 

The information required is streamlined according to each charity’s level of gross annual income.

Charity trustees have a legal requirement to report annually to the Commission. This is essential to keep the register of charities up to date, promote the transparency and accountability of the charitable sector, and to allow the Commission to monitor and regulate charities effectively.

The Commission has produced a suite of guidance on the accounting and reporting requirements for registered charities. The guidance is available here.

2. How can I complete my charity's annual monitoring return and file annual accounts and reports?

You can complete and submit your charity's annual monitoring return, accounts and reports securely through the Commission's Online services portal.

You will need your charity number and password to log on securely. Once you have successfully logged on select option 'Open pending annual return' under the 'Annual monitoring' heading.

3. Can I post or email my charity's annual monitoring return, accounts and reports?

No. You cannot post or email your charity's annual monitoring return, accounts and reports. You must complete and submit your annual monitoring return through the Online services portal.

However, requests for a paper return form may be considered where there are special circumstances, such as accessibility needs, that mean no one in, or associated with, the organisation can complete the online annual monitoring return.

Please email your request to monitoring@charitycommissionni.org.uk including your name, reasons for the request, the charity’s name, registration number (NIC), full address including postcode, and a telephone contact number.

4. How much of the annual monitoring return form do I have to complete?

It depends. The annual monitoring return is divided into three sections (A,B and C).

  • Part A: All registered charities must complete this part, irrespective of the charity's gross income. 
  • Part B: All registered charities with an income over £10,000 must complete this part. 
  • Part C: All registered charities with an income over £250,000 must complete this part.


5. Do I have to complete the annual monitoring return form on the same day?

No. You can choose to 'save and exit' the screen at anytime and return to the form as often as you would like before it is submitted.

6. Can I receive a copy of the annual monitoring return once I have submitted it?

Yes. You should receive a copy of your charity's annual monitoring return straight away. This will be sent to your charity email address, as registered with the Commission.

7. I don’t know anything about computers and can't complete the annual monitoring return online.

A number of groups and umbrella organisations have volunteered to provide practical support to individual organisations. The helper group list is available on our website here.

8. What type of information should I submit with my charity's annual monitoring return?

Charities must attach PDF documents of their charity's accounts (receipts and payments or accruals format), trustee annual report and audit or independent examiners' report.

9. I am trying to complete my annual monitoring return online but something is going wrong…

If the examples below cannot help you, please contact the Commission by email to monitoring@charitycommissionni.org.uk, outlining any error message you are receiving.

 Example 1 - Can't upload files

Please ensure the information you are trying to upload is in PDF format only and not larger than 20MB.

 Example 2 - I've clicked the 'submit' button and nothing happens

It could be a simple technical glitch with the system, save and exit the screen and log back on in the first instance.

 Example 3 –  error message when I try to 'open pending annual return'

This could be because the charity's bank details have not been registered with the Commission yet. Select option 'view/amend charity details' and then 'bank/building society' and insert details of the charity's sort code, bank name, account number and account name. Save and exit the screen. You can then return to the 'open pending annual return'. 

If the charity does not have a bank account you can insert 'no details' then save and exit the screen, and return to the 'open pending annual return'.

10. Can everyone view the information provided with my annual monitoring return form?

No. Only some of the answers will be publicly available on the register of charities. These questions are marked with a blue and white 'P' on the return.

11. I am not a charity trustee. Can I complete and submit the annual monitoring return on behalf of the charity?

Yes, as long as you can confirm that the information you enter on the form has been approved by the charity trustees and you are authorised to submit the information.

13. What are inactive charity accounts?

All registered charities must submit an annual monitoring return and accounts and reports to the Charity Commission within 10 months of their financial year end. If there has been no financial activity in your charity during the particular year, you must still report to the Commission.

For example, consider a charity which is newly formed on 24 July 2016, receives its first funds on 1 April 2017 and prepares accounts to a 31 March year end. The first accounts cannot run from 24 July 2016 to 31 March 2018 because that is more than 18 months. So it will be necessary to prepare an initial set of accounts with nil figures that cover just over 8 months: from 24 July 2016 to 31 March 2017. Then the first active accounts will cover the 12 months from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.

These should not, however, be described as “dormant accounts” because the legal concept of dormant accounts only applies under company law. If a charity has an accounting period in which all the figures are nil, accounts should still be produced in the normal way, showing the nil figures, and must include a trustees’ annual report. In particular, the trustees’ annual report will need to explain what plans the trustees are making for the future to advance the charity’s purposes for public benefit.

Furthermore, the legal requirement to have an independent examination must be adhered to, and this will give assurance to those outside the charity that there was no income or activity to report for that year. 

Please note if a charity’s gross annual income is nil they are only required to complete Part A of the annual monitoring return, therefore the reporting requirements are reduced.

12. Should I prepare 'receipts and payments' or 'accruals' accounts?

Charities with an income of £250,000 or less, and that are not charitable companies, can prepare receipts and payments or accruals accounts. 

Charities with an income of more than £250,000 must prepare accruals accounts in accordance with SORP (Statement of Recommended Practice).

Charity trustees must also follow any rules set out in their governing document.

13. What type of Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) accounts should I prepare?

Registered charities must prepare their accounts in accordance with the Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and Republic of Ireland (FRS 102)

14. Should I prepare an Independent examination or audit report of the charity's accounts and reports?

It depends on the level of gross annual income. 

Registered charities with an annual gross income of above £500,000 must prepare an audit report.

An independent examiners' report can be prepared for an annual gross income of below £500,000.

Charity trustees must also follow any rules set out in their governing document.

15. Who can be an independent examiner?

It depends on the level of gross annual income. Only Charities with a gross income below £500,000 are permitted to have an independent examination under charity law. 

An independent examiner must be someone independent of the management and administration of the charity and have no decision making role in the day-to-day running of the charity. He/she must not be connected to a charity trustee, such as a family member, or be a substantial donor or funder. 

If your charity's gross income is below £250,000 you can appoint anyone that has the ability and experience to scrutinise charity's accounts.

If your gross income is between £250,000 and £500,000 the independent examiner must be a qualified person, namely a qualified member of one of the professional bodies listed in the Charities act.

16. What things I should consider when appointing an independent examiner?

When appointing an independent examiner, charity trustees could ask for a set of charity accounts the examiner has previously examined and how many charities the examiner has acted for.

If the examiner is required to be a member of a professional body, you should check what body they are registered with and the level of membership they hold to ascertain if they are eligible to carry out the examination. 

Charity trustees must confirm with their independent examiner whether they are aware of any reason why they might not be perceived as independent to the charity.

17. Do I need to have an agreement between the charity trustees and the independent examiner?

Yes. The Commission would recommend charities prepare an engagement letter, that is a written agreement between the charity trustees and the examiner that enable both parties to understand the work, duties and timescale involved in the process of preparing the report.

18. I have a nil income for this financial year end. Should I still have to submit the annual monitoring return?

Yes. You must complete and submit your charity's accounts and reports even if your charity has had no activity throughout the financial year you are reporting on.

19. I am not registered with the Commission for Northern Ireland. Should I submit an annual monitoring return?

No. Only charities registered with the Commission have a legal requirement to submit their accounts and reports on a yearly basis.

20. I don't know/I’m not sure of my deadline date for submitting my annual monitoring return.

Charities must submit their annual monitoring return, trustees' annual report and audit/independent examiners' report within 10 months of the relevant financial year end (FYE).

For example, a charity that has a financial year end of 31/03/2017 MUST submit their annual monitoring return by no later than 31/01/2018.

As good practice we encourage charities to file annual reporting information as soon as possible after their financial year end.

21. I can't submit my annual monitoring return on time. Can I get an extension?

No. Charities are given a 10 month deadline from the end of their financial year to submit their accounts and reports and this cannot be extended. 

If they fail to submit this information on time the charity's entry on the register of charities will be automatically marked in red as 'In default' and therefore non-compliant with charity law. 

This will allow members of the public and other stakeholders, including donors and funders, to see that your charity is non-compliant. 

22. Do I have to pay a fee for failing to submit my annual monitoring return on time?

No. However, failing to submit your annual monitoring return on time may result in the Commission opening a compliance investigation into your charity as failure to submit annual documents may be considered mismanagement and/or misconduct in the administration of the charity. 

Under section 71 of the Charities Act, failure to submit annual documents, when required, is a criminal offence.

23. I have filed my annual monitoring return late. What happens next?

Once all information has been received by the Commission your charity's entry on the register of charities will change from 'In default' to 'Documents submitted late'.

24. Can I change my financial year end date?

Yes. If your charity has changed its financial period, it is important you amend the details on the register of charities to show the correct financial period end date. This is important as it will ensure the deadline on the register of charities is accurate and up-to-date.

When successfully logged onto Online services, under the heading 'Charity services' select 'View/amend financial periods'.

Once submitted, your request must be approved/rejected by the Commission. This may take up to five working days and until then you cannot submit your annual monitoring return.

25. I have filed my annual monitoring return form but it contained mistakes on it.

You must email monitoring@charitycommissionnni.org.uk and provide details of what information you wish to amend.

Please include details of your charity's name and registration (NIC) number.  The request for amendment of an annual monitoring return information must be from a charity trustee or the same person that submitted the annual monitoring return form.

26. I have tried to replace the current PDF document already submitted with a different one but it is not working.

Once you have submitted your annual monitoring return you cannot return to the form. Please e-mail the Commission at monitoring@charitycommissionnni.org.uk and provide us with the PDF document that you wish to replace and explain the reason why. Please include details of your charity's name and registration (NIC) number. The request must be from a charity trustee or the same person that submitted the annual monitoring return.

27. I don't know how to calculate my gross income?

Your charity's gross income is the combined income from all sources in the relevant reporting period, with some exclusions, for example gifts of endowment or net gains from investments. 

The Commission's has prepared guidance documents ARR03 Receipts and payments accounts and ARR04 Accruals accounts, which may be of assistance.

28. I have received an email from the Commission requesting an assets and liabilities statement - what is it?

If you have received this email that means that your charity has failed our compliance check and the Commission cannot proceed with assessment of your accounts and reports until this information is received.

Charities must prepare a statement of assets and liabilities under charity law.

An asset is something of value that an organisation owns. Some assets can be owned over the long term (usually more than one year) and these are called fixed assets, for example, property, vehicles etc. Other assets can  be owned for a short term (usually equal to one year) and these are called current assets, for example, cash in hand, cash at bank, savings accounts.  

Liabilities is an obligation to pay for something for example, loans, creditors, bank overdrafts. The Commission has produced a toolkit to assist charities preparing their charity's accounts you can refer to our Example receipts and payments accounts.

29. I have received an email from the Commission requesting for an independent examiners report or that my independent examiners report was incomplete. What does this means?

If you have received this email that means that your charity has failed our compliance check and the Commission cannot proceed with the assessment of your accounts and reports until this information is received.

Independent examiners must prepare their report as per legal requirements. 

If charity trustees haven't already appointed someone to carry out an independent examination they must do so with immediate effect.  By independent examiner we mean someone who is independent of the management and administration of the charity and has no decision making role on the day-to-day running of the charity. That person must also have the ability and experience to scrutinise charity's accounts.

If your charity’s gross income is above £250,000, the independent examiner must be a qualified person of the professional bodies listed in the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008. Please refer to the Commission's guidance ARR07 Guidance for independent examiners and Template examiners reports.

30. I have received an e-mail from the Commission requesting for a trustees annual report. What is it?

If you have received this email that means that your charity has failed our compliance check and the Commission cannot proceed with the assessment of your accounts and reports until the requested information is received.

A trustee annual report is produced by the charity trustees and, along with your charity's accounts, tells people about your charity's work, where your money comes from and how you've spent your money during the financial year you are reporting on. It must include administrative information about the charity, such as where the charity is based and who the charity trustees are. You must also explain how the activities undertaken during the year have furthered the charity's purposes for the public benefit.

All charities are required to prepare a trustees' annual report and submit it to the Commission when filing the annual monitoring return and accounts and reports.

Charities preparing accruals accounts must incorporate the requirements set out in the Charities SORP.  Please refer to the Commission's guidance ARR08: The trustees' annual report and Public benefit reporting guidance for further information.

31. I have received an email from the Commission requesting for confirmation of my charity's income and/or expenditure figures?

If you have received this email that means that your charity has failed our compliance check and the Commission cannot proceed with the assessment of your accounts and reports until the requested information is received by the Commission. 

You must write to the Commission’s Monitoring and Compliance team at monitoring@charitycommissionni.org.uk and provide details of the charity's gross income and/or expenditure. Please include details of your charity's name and registration (NIC) number.

32. I have received an email from the Commission requesting information to be provided by a certain date. Can I have an extension to this deadline?

Please put any requests for extensions in writing, including the charity’s details and reasons for the request, and send by email to monitoring@charitycommissionni.org.uk

33. I have received an email from the Commission alerting me that I should submit my annual monitoring return but I have already done that.

Charities must submit their annual monitoring return, accounts and reports on a yearly basis. 

The Commission usually issue three notification reminders to a charity. The first notification is issued 1+ day after the financial year end date, the second notification three months to deadline date and the final reminder is one month to deadline date.

If you received a notification when you have already submitted the annual monitoring return please contact us by email to monitoring@charitycommissionni.org.uk

34. I have received an email from the Commission reporting that my charity is in default - what should I do next?

This means your charity is currently in default of its legal annual reporting obligation and is marked in red on the register of charities. You must take immediate action to remedy this situation.

You can complete and submit your charity's annual monitoring return, accounts and reports securely through the Commission's Online services portal.

You will need your charity registration (NIC) number and password to log on securely. Once successfully logged on select option 'Open pending annual return' under the 'Annual monitoring' heading.

35. I was told that my charity is in default what does this mean, and what can I do to fix it?

If your charity is in default you must take immediate action to remedy this situation. You can do so by completing your charity's annual monitoring return, accounts and reports. 

You should have received at least one out of three default notifications from the Commission, alongside three previous notification reminders issued prior to your submission deadline date.

If you failed to receive these notifications that means that your charity's contact information is not accurate and up-to-date on the register of charities. Charity trustees have a legal obligation to ensure that the register of charities is kept up-to-date and accurate at all times.

36. I need to update my trustees details – how do I do this?

You can log on to Online services to update some of your charity’s details on the online register of charities. The details you will be able to update are:

  • charity contact details
  • email addresses for Commission use and for public display
  • financial year end
  • your charity’s website address
  • where your charity operates
  • who does your charity help
  • description of activities
  • your trustees’ details.

37. I am no longer a trustee of this charity please remove my details from the register of charities.

You must contact the charity and request that the current charity trustee details are updated on the register of charities.

Charities trustees have a legal obligation to ensure that the charity’s entry on the register of charities is kept up-to-date and accurate at all times. If the charity refuses to remove your details from the register while you are no longer a charity trustee you should email the Commission to monitoring@charitycommissionni.org.uk

38. I have received self-regulatory or regulatory guidance from the Commission – what does this mean?

Depending on the seriousness of the non-compliance issue in question, and the approach of the charity trustees, the Commission may identify that the issue can be resolved through the provision of guidance.  

Self-regulatory guidance will usually be offered where the issue is a matter of best practice and the risk to the charity is limited. This is guidance that the charity is expected to implement itself. 

Regulatory guidance will be given where the Commission considers there is a greater risk to the charity that requires corrective action to be taken, and we will monitor and follow up to ensure full compliance. Regulatory guidance will usually include a timeframe for implementation.

39. How can I check the charities that are currently in default?

You can visit our website and on the homepage select the Charity register button, then filter to search the register by 'only show in default'.

The homepage of the website also contains a link to a list of charities which have been in default for more than six months. This list is updated regularly.

I have received a text message reminder about the annual reporting deadline of a charity, of which I am a trustee. However, I think the charity's accounts and reports have already been submitted.

Please check the charity's entry on the public register of charities. Once the required annual reporting information is submitted, the accounts and reports will be published on the charity's register entry. If a charity submits on time, their register entry will be marked in green as up-to-date. However, the entry will automatically be highlighted in red if a charity is in default (failed to provide information within the 10 months) or has submitted documentation late.

Some individuals are a trustee on a number of charities and it may be that it is a different charity, of which you are also a trustee, that is due to submit accounts and reports. So, for example, charity x has submitted accounts and reports but charity y has not. if you are a trustee of several charities please check which charity may be due to submit accounts and reports.

Alternatively, it may be that the person who has agreed to submit the accounts and reports, has not done so yet. Please check with the person responsible for submitting the required that they actually did so.

Why are you using my mobile telephone to send me text messages about annual reporting?

This telephone nuimber is the one supplied to the Commission and we use it to provide information to you in connection with your legal obligations as a charity trustee.