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Volunteering Community

Giving back as a pro bono Independent Examiner

Author: Chris Owens BSc BFP FCA

Published: 02 Nov 2022

The squeeze that charities are facing at present is unprecedented, with a rise in demand for services combining with a significant fall in donations as disposable income drops. For many small charities, every pound counts and as chartered accountants we have considerable skills that we can use to help their money go further. One of the ways we can help is by carrying out an independent examination of their annual trustee report and accounts, a ‘light touch’ alternative to an audit.

So, if you are approached for help, as an ICAEW member, what do you need to consider?

Firstly, you need to check the charity is able to take this option. Their governing document may specify an audit is required or a major donor or a regulator may have requested it. If this is not the case, then find out how much gross income they have recorded in the last year.

The thresholds are different for England and Wales to those in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In England and Wales, this option is open to all charities with gross income between £25,000 and £1m. Charities under £25,000 do not usually require any form of external scrutiny.

In Scotland and Northern Ireland, all charities require some form of external scrutiny and for charities with up to £500,000 gross income, they can opt for an independent examination.

Secondly, you need to be independent! This means you must not in any way be influenced, or could be perceived to be influenced, by your relationship with the charity or its trustees. So, for example, you cannot review the accounts if you were also their treasurer, or oversaw their finances, were a major donor or beneficiary, or had a close relationship with the trustees.

Thirdly, you need to check if you need a practising certificate. If you volunteer your services or charge less than £100, you do not currently need a practising certificate if the charity’s income is less than £250,000.

Finally, make sure you have the skills and expertise to carry out the review. There are so many good resources available via ICAEW and the respective charity regulator websites (see links below) that can help you to build these skills. ‘Receipts and payments basis’ accounts are relatively straightforward but there is a lot more to Charities SORP accounts and charitable companies.

From my experience, this form of ‘light touch’ scrutiny is so valued by small charities and you could make a real difference by providing them with this re-assurance and help their money go further.

Charity Commission

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