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

All charities will need to update their details before they can access the annual return. Find out what you need to do.

You must submit your annual return no later than 10 months after the end of your financial year.

To send your charity annual return you’ll need:

  • your registered charity number
  • 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. When 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 the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).

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

Find out how to authorise your charity’s accountant or other adviser to submit accounts on trustees’ behalf.

New questions for the 2018 annual return

The latest annual return will ask new questions. You can view these before you sign in to send your 2018 annual return.

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.

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 you must complete an annual return within 10 months of the financial reporting year 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 must 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

By law you must keep your charity’s registered details up to date. You need to update your charity’s details before you complete the 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 need to complete an annual return form for financial years ending in 2014 or 2015, you can use this form and email it to us.

Annual return for financial years ending 2014 and 2015 (PDF, 521KB, 16 pages)

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

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

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 29 October 2018 + show all updates
  1. The deadline for submitting the 2017 annual return is the 31 October. Also added information about changes to updating your charity details and all new questions for the 2018 annual return.
  2. Added the annual return deadline for 2017 and updated links to the new questions for the 2018 return.
  3. Added translation
  4. The 2018 annual return service is now available.
  5. Updated the link to accounting essentials for charities. This is for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 November 2016.
  6. 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.
  7. Added a link to Charity reporting and accounting (CC15c) and quick summary tables showing what you need to submit.
  8. Added Welsh translation.
  9. 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.
  10. First published.