Guidance

Prepare a charity annual return

You must send an annual return (or update your details) every year if your charity is registered in England or Wales.

What a charity annual return includes

You can now send your 2018 annual return online. This service can also be used for the 2017 and 2016 annual return.

To log in and send your charity annual return you’ll need:

  • your registered charity number
  • registration numbers for any linked charities (if applicable)
  • your charity’s online services password, you can request a new password if needed

This password gives people in your charity access to detailed information about your charity and individuals connected with it. In giving access to this password you need to have measures in place to make sure that the system is used only for proper purposes, and that the information accessed through the Commission’s services will be treated carefully and sensitively and in accordance with legal requirements including GDPR.

You will need to submit your annual return for 2017 before you can do the return for 2018. Charities must submit a return no later than 10 months after the end of their financial year.

Read the annual return privacy notice before you use the service.

This guide explains what is included as part of the annual return and how to prepare it.

New questions for 2018

The latest annual return service includes new questions.

To find out more about why we asking these new questions read our annual return news story.

Financial information

If you need to send an annual return, provide the following from your charity’s latest accounts:

  • start and end dates for the financial period you’re reporting (for example 01/04/2017 to 31/03/2018)
  • total income and total spending for this reporting period
  • total spending outside England and Wales (if applicable)

Serious incident reports

If your charity’s income is over £25,000, make sure you have reported all serious incidents to the Commission before you submit your charity’s annual return.

As part of the annual return you will need to declare that there are no serious incidents or other matters that trustees should have reported to the Commission but have not done so.

If you are not sure what a serious incident is or whether you should have reported it, please read the guidance on reporting serious incidents.

What you need submit by organisation type

You can use our online tool to find out how to prepare the right annual accounts for your charity’s structure and income.

Our guide to accounting essentials for charities will help you understand the type of accounts your charity has to prepare, and whether they need an audit or independent examination.

The tables below give a quick summary of what you need to submit for your annual return by organisation type.

Un-incorporated organisation

Income What you need to submit
£0 to £10,000 Update charity details online through the annual return service
£10,001 to £25,000 Your annual return online
£25,001 to £250,000 Your annual return online, PDF copy of accounts and trustees’ annual report (external scrutiny required)
£250,001 to £1 million and total assets below £3.26 million Your annual return online, PDF copy of accounts and trustees’ annual report (external scrutiny required)
over £1 million or gross assets over £3.26 million and gross income over £250,000 Your annual return online, PDF copy of accounts and trustees’ annual report (with external scrutiny and full audit)

For accounts with incomes below £25,000 you don’t need to go through external scrutiny unless stated as a requirement in your governing document.

Charitable company

Income What you need to submit
£0 to £10,000 Update charity details online through the annual return service
£10,001 to £25,000 Your annual return online
£25,001 to £250,000 Your annual return online, PDF copy of accounts and trustees’ annual report (external scrutiny required)
£250,001 to £1 million and total assets below £3.26 million Your annual return online, PDF copy of accounts and trustees’ annual report (external scrutiny required)
over £1 million or gross assets over £3.26 million and gross income over £250,000 Your annual return online, PDF copy of accounts and trustees’ annual report (with external scrutiny and full audit)

For accounts with incomes below £25,000 you don’t need to go through external scrutiny unless stated as a requirement in your governing document.

Charitable incorporated organisation (CIO)

Income What you need to submit
£0 to £10,000 Your annual return online, PDF copy of accounts and trustees’ annual report
£10,001 to £25,000 Your annual return online, PDF copy of accounts and trustees’ annual report
£25,001 to £250,000 Your annual return online, PDF copy of accounts and trustees’ annual report (external scrutiny required)
£250,001 to £1 million and total assets below £3.26 million Your annual return online, PDF copy of accounts and trustees’ annual report (external scrutiny required)
over £1 million or gross assets over £3.26 million and gross income over £250,000 Your annual return online, PDF copy of accounts and trustees’ annual report (with external scrutiny and full audit)

For accounts with incomes below £25,000 you don’t need to go through external scrutiny unless stated as a requirement in your governing document.

When to complete your annual return

Complete your charity’s annual return as soon as you approve its latest accounts and trustees’ annual report.

If your charity’s income is more than £10,000, by law, you must complete an annual return within 10 months of the financial reporting period ending. All Charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs) must complete an annual return regardless of their income.

As trustees, you’re responsible for making sure your charity’s annual return is completed on time. If you delegate this task to a member of staff, make sure they know what to do and when it is due.

Plan ahead to make sure your charity completes its annual return on time. You should also:

  • update the charity’s details whenever something changes, such as a trustee being replaced
  • keep your charity’s password safe, particularly if the person who has it leaves the charity
  • arrange handover training if someone takes over responsibility for completing the annual return
  • arrange a trustee meeting to agree the accounts and trustees’ annual report within two months of the financial period ending

Completing annual returns – the law

As a charity trustee, by law you must keep your charity’s registered details up-to-date. You need to update your charity’s details before you complete its annual return.

If your charity’s income is more than £10,000, you must complete an annual return within 10 months of the end of each financial reporting period. Charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs) must complete an annual return regardless of their income.

If you fail to meet this legal requirement, your charity’s details will be marked ‘overdue’. This could put off potential donors, funders or volunteers.

If you don’t submit your annual return it may be viewed as an indication that the charity is no longer operating, or doesn’t exist. If we find that a registered charity no longer operates or exists, we may remove it from the register of charities.

If your charity is not a CIO and its income is under £10,000, complete the annual return to meet your legal obligation to keep your registered details up-to-date.

Charity annual returns and the register

Over 6 million people search the charity register every year. The annual return you complete tells potential donors, funders, volunteers and beneficiaries about your charity. For example:

  • how people can contact your charity
  • what it is set up to do
  • how it meets its aims
  • how much money it makes and spends
  • where it operates

You can find most of the information you need in your charity’s accounts and trustees’ annual report.

Published 23 May 2013
Last updated 11 September 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added translation
  2. The 2018 annual return service is now available.
  3. Updated the link to accounting essentials for charities. This is for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 November 2016.
  4. You can now submit your 2017 annual return. You will need to submit your annual return for 2016 before you can do the return for 2017.
  5. Added a link to Charity reporting and accounting (CC15c) and quick summary tables showing what you need to submit.
  6. Added Welsh translation.
  7. The annual return service for 2017 is now available. You will need to submit your annual return for 2016 before you can do the return for 2017.
  8. First published.