Independent examination

To maintain public confidence in the work of charities, charity law requires most charities to have an external scrutiny of their accounts. Provided a charity is not required by law or its governing document to have an audit then trustees may choose a simpler and less expensive form of external scrutiny called an independent examination.

For financial years ending on or after 31 March 2015, trustees may opt for an independent examination instead of an audit provided their charity’s gross income is not more than £1m, or where gross income exceeds £250,000, its gross assets are not more than £3.26 million.

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An independent examination is a simpler form of scrutiny than an audit but it still provides trustees, funders, beneficiaries, stakeholders and the public with an assurance that the accounts of the charity have been reviewed by an independent person. All charities with an income of more than £25,000 that opt not to have an audit must have to have an examination.

Whether acting as a volunteer or being paid a fee for their work, the role of the independent examiner is important and they must follow certain steps in carrying out the examination and make a report to the trustees setting out particular matters once they have finished their examination. There is a process to be followed and separate guidance is available which takes the examiner through the Directions which set the procedures that the examiner must follow, explains their reporting duties and provides the examiner with practical advice at every stage.

Whilst in most cases the examiner will be reviewing receipts and payments accounts and so will not need to be a qualified accountant to carry out a proper independent examination, the examiner still needs a certain level of ability and knowledge to undertake a competent examination and to set out their report in the way that is required by the 2008 Regulations. Where gross income is more than £250,000 charity law requires the examiner to be a member of a body listed in the Charities Act.

Where accruals accounts are prepared the examiner needs to have an up-to-date understanding of accruals accounting and to be familiar with the applicable SORP. The law requires that the examiner has the requisite ability and experience to carry out a competent examination and greater accountancy skills and knowledge will be needed if the charity is preparing accruals accounts.

Contact Fisher & Co. Accountants in Wigan 01942 513729