Responsibilities of Registered Charities

This sheet is intended as a quick and easy summary of the responsibilities of relatively small registered charities. It is aimed at unincorporated charities and Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIOs) which have an income below £250,000 and are not Limited Companies.

It isn’t a fully comprehensive list of all possible requirements, which can vary depending on the size and nature of your charity.

If you are not a registered charity, and want to find out if you need to register and how to do so, take a look at our information sheet Charity Registration. If you are a larger charity or a limited company you will find more detailed and wide-ranging information in Charity Reporting and Accounts. See the Books tab of our Charity Registration and Requirements section for more detailed reference books.

Keeping your charitable status

As a charity or Charitable Incorporated Organisation, you have to keep to certain rules and regulations set by the Charity Commission. If you don’t meet these requirements, the Commission can take away your status as a registered charity.

Follow your constitution

You have to operate within your charity’s constitution or Trust Deed. This means keeping to the agreed aims of your organisation, and sticking to the rules you agreed about how your organisation is run.

As a registered charity, your constitution or Trust Deed will probably have most of the Charity Commission requirements in it. As well as giving the aims of your charity, it is likely to state when you need to have your AGM, how many times your management committee will meet during the year, how your accounts should be kept, and what information you need to send to the Charity Commission.

It’s worth reading through your constitution or Trust Deed regularly and getting familiar with its requirements. If you are sticking to these, you will be meeting your main obligations as a charity and you won’t have any problems.

Accounts

Every charity must prepare annual accounts and make them available to the public on request. This includes charities (with an income below £5,000) which do not have to register with the Charity Commission.

Every registered charity with an income above £25,000 and below £1,000,000 must have a yearly independent examination of their accounts. If your income is over £250,000 this must be carried out by a qualified examiner or accountant.

Unincorporated charities with an income above £25,000 and all CIOs  must send annual accounts to the Charity Commission  within 10 months of the end of your financial year.

If you are receiving grants, you must be sure you are recording the use of the grant money correctly. The Charity Commission will ask for ‘restricted’ and ‘unrestricted’ funding to be clearly separated. This means that any funding you get for a specific project (restricted funding) has to be spent on that project, and your records must show that. Any money you raise yourselves – for example from membership fees – is unrestricted, and you can spend it as the group decides.

You must keep your accounts for at least 6 years after their date. This means all the records – bank statements, receipts, cheque books – not just a summary of the account.

The Resource Centre can carry out independent examinations of accounts and give training in keeping accounts for a limited number of groups. Also see our Examination of accounts page for more information about accounts examinations and links to other local organisations who can help with examinations of accounts.

Trustees Annual Report

Every registered charity must produce a Trustees Annual Report.

Unincorporated charities with an income above £25,000 and all CIOs must send the Annual Report to the Charity Commission within 10 months of the end of your financial year.

The Charity Commission produces a form which covers all the information they are interested in. This is in pack CC16 or CC17 which can be downloaded from the Charity Commission website. It asks for details of your organisation, its aims, and your achievements over the year. You can just fill this in the Charity Commission form, or draft your own Annual Report using the examples on the Charity Commission website.

The Trustees Annual report forms part of the annual accounts, and you should prepare one for your Annual General Meeting.

Annual Return

Unincorporated charities with an income over £10,000, and all Charitable Incorporated Organisations must complete an Annual Return within 10 months of end of financial year. Unincorporated charities with income under £10,000 should complete a Return if any of the details you have registered with the Charity Commission have changed since the previous year (for example names of trustees, contact details etc).

The Charity Commission no longer accept Annual Returns on paper forms. You must complete the online form on the Charity Commission’s website.

It’s a good idea to collect everything you need before you start completing the annual return. A list of the information is on the Charity Commission website in the section Annual Returns: How to complete. It asks for details of your organisation and policies, plus the names of trustees who are in post at the date of the return. There are also a few questions about your accounts.

Depending on your income you may not be required to complete the whole form. If you’re not sure you can check on the Charity Commission website.

Publicity

If your income is over £10,000, your headed paper must have your charity registration number and name on it, and any publicity you produce must have your charity registration number and name on it.

Register of Trustees (for CIOs)

Charitable Incorporated Organisations have to keep their own Register of Trustees. They can keep it as a paper file or a backed up computer file and should include:

  • The name, and any former names, of each trustee plus their correspondence addresses
  • The date they became a trustee, and the date they stopped being a trustee

Unincorporated charities do not have to keep a register of their trustees, but it’s useful to have this information for your own records.

Register of Charities

The Charity Commission keeps a register of charities on its website. This lists the main details of your organisation – its aims, when the constitution was adopted, who the trustees are, and annual income and expenditure.

It also provides information on whether your organisation is up-to-date with your Annual Returns and accounts.

This information can be accessed by any member of the public – just go to the Charity Commission website, then click on Find Charities. You can search under charity name or number.

The Charity Commission is there to make sure that charities are run well. They do check up on charities, but their aim is to help sort out problems constructively.

If your charity has fallen behind with its Annual Returns or accounts, it is far better to contact the Charity Commission and discuss how to sort it out than to ignore the problem.

The Charity Commission has detailed guidance on all aspects of running a charity on their website.

The Charity Commission

The Charity Commission has a very comprehensive website with guidance on all issues to do with running and registering charities.

Other useful information

Charity commission advice on annual accounts, reports and returns is available in their publication Charity reporting and accounting: the essentials (cc15b).

The Resource Centre publishes a wide range of information sheets. These are available at the Resource Centre, or can be downloaded from our website. You may find the following sections of our website particularly useful:

Charity Registration and requirements
Role of the Management Committee
Choosing a Legal Structure

Updated December 2015