Late filing: excuses, excuses…

The Charity Commission’s class inquiry into ‘double defaulters’, charities who have failed to submit their annual accounts two or more times in the last five years, rumbles on.

Various reasons were given by the dozen charities whose non-compliant behaviour has been outlined in the reports released so far, in three batches of four; the first in January , the next in March, the most recent last week. And, albeit from a relatively small sample size, a pattern begins to emerge.

One of the charities had dissolved and merged into another charity, a trustee explained.

Two charities blamed hectic circumstances: in one case submission fell under its radar in a period of rapid growth, the other said it had had building work going on, with files placed in difficult-to-access storage.

Into the top three: a trio of responses talked about various issues of organisational, structural or lack of communication, internally and/or with the external auditor. In one case the accountant had accepted the blame.

Coming in at number two, three charities referred to a trustee or accountant being ill.

In the top spot: we have – drumroll please – no reason at all! There were three charities not actually explaining themselves, with the fourth alluding to illness of their accountant but not pinning the blame on that.

None of these, of course, were valid in the commission’s eyes. While it does strike me as a little odd that four charities were able to avoid detailing their wrongdoings in any detail, they are at least doing better than some. In January, an amusing news release from HMRC (these are few and far between) gave its top ten excuses for people sending in late tax returns, including the death of a builder’s goldfish, an accountant who had been too busy submitting his clients’ tax returns, and an individual who couldn’t concentrate on anything else after seeing a volcanic eruption on the news.

However, these are not just hapless individuals, but charities overseeing hundreds of thousands and even millions of pounds of money and failing to account for it.

I await the next 12 reports – and wonder if anyone who has been involved in accounts and annual reports might suggest whether we should expect similar patterns of excuses.