All registered charities, with annual incomes of more than £10,000, are required to file their annual accounts with the Charity Commission. Those which are companies must also file accounts at Companies House.

The Charity Commission has looked at those charities which were late in filing their accounts during 2011. The obligation to file accounts with the Charity Commission does not appear to be taken as seriously as the requirement for charitable companies to file accounts with the Registrar of Companies.

35% of charities who were late filing their accounts with the Charity Commission actually signed off their accounts prior to the filing deadline but, for some reason, did not bother to file them within the required time.

Sam Younger, the Charity Commission’s Chief Executive, has commented that some trustees are “too relaxed about their legal duties” and that the Charity Commission needs to “toughen up its message” on late filing.

There appear to be serial defaulters. Nearly a quarter of defaulting charities with incomes of over £250,000 had defaulted in each of the previous 5 financial years. Only about a quarter of those charities had a clean bill of health with regard to their filing obligations.

There are potentially quite severe penalties for companies which fail to file their accounts at Companies House on time. There are automatic penalties and offences are potentially committed by the directors.

There is no corresponding sanction for the late filing of accounts with the Charity Commission. It has been suggested that those charities guilty of late filing their accounts with the Charity Commission should, in some way, have their access to Gift Aid restricted.

It does look as if the Charity Commission may well look to find ways of imposing sanctions on those charities which habitually file their accounts late.

So, all charities should make sure that they are aware of the date by which their accounts need to be filed with the Charity Commission and make sure that they do not miss the deadline. Where charities are obliged to file accounts, they have 10 months from the financial year end to prepare and file them. Is there any excuse?