The Charity Commission, the independent regulator of charities, and the Financial Reporting Council are today launching a consultation that marks the first step towards enabling charities to file digital accounts with the commission, and thereby make charity data more accessible.

Currently 70% of companies file digital accounts with Companies House. The commission wants to enable charities to do the same, making it easier and quicker for those charities that have to file with both the commission and Companies House.

In addition anyone using digital accounts will be able to extract the information that they want and analyse it more efficiently. Those charities filing tax returns with HMRC will also benefit from having the option of digital filing when submitting supporting accounting information.

Nigel Davies, Head of Accountancy Services from the Charity Commission said;

This consultation is an early step and one that should be welcomed by the 35,000 charities that file their accounts with us and Companies House. If we can make filing digital accounts possible this will reduce administration for many charities whilst also opening up charity data not just for us but for those with a keen interest in sector trends and data. I hope charity finance professionals will engage with our joint consultation and move us closer to making the option of digital filing a reality.

The charity taxonomy is a type of digital data dictionary which defines the computer-readable tags that identify individual items of financial data in charity accounts for electronic filing and for other analytical purposes. This could also potentially simplify the submission of the annual return in the future by automatically using the computer readable information contained in the digital filing of tagged accounts.

The commission recognises that enabling ‘tagging’ and submission of iXBRL accounts may not be sufficient to help smaller organisations file digitally, and so it plans to develop accounts templates to help smaller charities choosing to file digitally. The option to file accounts by PDF will remain but the commission notes the popularity of digital filing by companies with Companies House and wishes charities to benefit from having this accounts filing option too.

The consultation will close on 8 December 2015 after which the taxonomy will be finalised. Once finalised, the commission will work towards supporting charities to report using the taxonomy, which will be incorporated into software products. The commission will be setting out its proposals for enabling digital filing option for charity accounts later this year.


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