A question we often get asked is "why do charities have to complete an annual return and a Performance Report? Isn't this doubling up?". It can feel like a duplication of effort, but there are reasons why both must be completed.
Your charity’s Performance Report is a detailed document about your organisation that contains non-financial information about your activities during the year. It also shows financial information, including notes and policies, and anything else your charity considers useful for the reader.
The annual return form on the other hand, only includes a snippet of the information contained in your Performance Report. It captures the information that is relevant at a high level, and that is useful for gathering information about the sector and informing policy.
The process of filling out an annual return form and attaching financial information is not new in terms of reporting to Charities Services. There has always been a requirement to do both. However, you now attach your Performance Report instead of your financial statements. For financial years ending 31 March 2016 and onwards, we have also updated the annual return form so that the financial information fields in the form mirror the minimum reporting categories found in the Tier 3 and Tier 4
standards. This makes it simpler as there is no need to translate your financial information into two different formats.
The preparation of a Performance Report is not an additional document you have to produce. A Performance Report is instead of any previous form of financial reporting that you used to prepare. Therefore, we only expect you to upload a completed Performance Report, and there is no need to file any other form of financial statements. We would hope that for your organisation, a Performance Report is the only end of year reporting you now have to do.
If your organisation chooses or is required to have a review or audit, that review or audit should be of the Performance Report prepared in accordance with the new reporting standards, not of your old format of preparing accounts.
While you may be familiar and comfortable with how you used to prepare your financial statements, the reporting standards are now the legal requirement for registered charities. The standards form best practice for the not-for-profit sector, and are the correct way of preparing your financial information under the Charities Act 2005.
There is a wealth of information on our website to guide you through preparing your Performance Report and completing the annual return. You can also contact us if you have any specific reporting questions relating to your charity.