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Can I undertake an independent examination of a charity?

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Published: 24 Jan 2020 Updated: 13 Feb 2023 Update History

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Technical helpsheet issued to help members who are approached by charities asking them to undertake independent examinations. It explores some of the factors to consider before accepting such an appointment.


Many ICAEW members are approached by charities and asked to undertake independent examinations for them. This helpsheet has been issued by ICAEW’s Technical Advisory Service and explores some of the factors to consider before accepting such an appointment.

Members may also wish to refer to the following related helpsheets:

Do I need a practising certificate

If the charity’s income is less than or equal to £250,000, you would not require a practising certificate to undertake the independent examination of a charity where you do so gratuitously or for financial equivalent value reward of less than £100 per assignment, provided there are no other circumstances that would require you to hold a practising certificate (ICAEW statement on engaging in public practice). If the charity’s gross income is in excess of £250,000, a practising certificate would usually be required.

Do I need professional indemnity insurance (PII) cover

If you need a practising certificate for the role, you will need appropriate PII cover. If you are not engaged in public practice, do not hold a practising certificate and are undertaking the independent examination on a voluntary basis, you would not be required to hold PII cover. Care should be taken, however, as claims may still be made even if you do not hold such cover. If you do not have PII cover, you should notify the charity in writing of this fact.

You may wish to purchase a professional liability insurance product, designed specifically for volunteers.

Am I sufficiently independent

An independent examiner needs to be sufficiently independent of the charity to ensure that their independence is not compromised. As such the independent examiner must not have a connection with the charity or its trustees which might inhibit or be perceived to inhibit the impartial conduct of the examination.

The charity regulator(s) include independence in their respective guides for independent examiners (see How do I undertake an independent examination?).

In addition to the requirements imposed by the relevant charity regulator(s), members should have regard to the independence requirements of Part 4A of the ICAEW Code of Ethics.Where firms have elected to apply the FRC Ethical Standard instead of Part 4A of the ICAEW Code of Ethics, they should refer to the Ethical Standard.

Do I have sufficient skills and expertise

A further consideration is whether you have the professional competence to undertake such work. Whist it may be possible to present accounts on a ‘Receipts and Payments’ basis for certain charities, the presentation of charity accounts in accordance with the Charities SORP (FRS 102) can be more challenging.

Members undertaking such work should ensure they have a good understanding of the applicable requirements and that they fully comply with the ICAEW’s CPD requirements.

How do I undertake an independent examination

Guidance on completing an independent examination is available from the relevant charity regulator(s):

The helpsheet, Charities – financial reporting and scrutiny also covers key requirements for charities.

If in doubt seek advice

ICAEW members, affiliates, ICAEW students and staff in eligible firms with member firm access can discuss their specific situation with the Ethics Advisory Service on +44 (0)1908 248 250 or via webchat.

Terms and conditions

© ICAEW 2024  All rights reserved.

ICAEW cannot accept responsibility for any person acting or refraining to act as a result of any material contained in this helpsheet. This helpsheet is designed to alert members to an important issue of general application. It is not intended to be a definitive statement covering all aspects but is a brief comment on a specific point.

ICAEW members have permission to use and reproduce this helpsheet on the following conditions:

  • This permission is strictly limited to ICAEW members only who are using the helpsheet for guidance only.
  • The helpsheet is to be reproduced for personal, non-commercial use only and is not for re-distribution.

For further details members are invited to telephone the Technical Advisory Service T +44 (0)1908 248250. The Technical Advisory Service comprises the technical enquiries, ethics advice, anti-money laundering and fraud helplines. For further details visit icaew.com/tas.

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Changelog Anchor
  • Update History
    24 Jan 2020 (12: 00 AM GMT)
    First published
    09 Jul 2021 (03: 50 PM BST)
    Changelog created, helpsheet converted to new template
    09 Jul 2021 (03: 51 PM BST)
    Word ‘Usually’ added to section headed Do I need a practising certificate, to cover situations where a member required to undertake as part of employment (NOT employed by a public practitioner) and not held out as principal.
    28 Jan 2022 (04: 10 PM GMT)
    Word ‘PII’ added to section headed 'Do I need professional indemnity insurance (PII) cover' for clarity.
    31 Jan 2022 (03: 50 PM GMT)
    In section headed 'Do I need professional indemnity insurance (PII) cover', second section amended to say "the Volunteering Community which offers management liability cover", rather than PII. Link to further information added.
    13 Feb 2023 (12: 00 AM GMT)
    Updated to remove reference to free charity community insurance.