The Coronavirus pandemic has forced us all into home working and whilst the working patterns of the team have had to alter (in my case due to a 3 year old and an almost 2 year old running riot around the house!), we do very much remain available to charity clients, contacts and the wider voluntary sector.

Should any charity trustees, employees or other volunteers have any questions concerning their charity during as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic please feel free to contact us at any time for advice and support. Any advice that the sector requires from us during this unprecedented period will be provided without charge.

Over the coming weeks and months, we will provide very regular updates on any legal issues affecting charities as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. We are receiving a large number of questions concerning the duties and responsibilities of charity trustees in very unique circumstances and we intend to share our advice in respect of these questions on a much broader platform so as to hopefully provide charity trustees, employees and volunteers with a flow of useful guidance and information. As noted above, if our updates do not touch upon the particular issues your charity might be experiencing please contact us direct.

To begin with however is the question of charities' annual filing obligations...

As charities ought to be aware, a legal obligation to file annual returns and accounts with the Charity Commission exists (Part 8 of the Charities Act 2011). Charities must file their annual return within 10 months of their financial year end. If your charity's last financial year end was June 2019 (for example), your deadline for filing your annual return and accounts with the Commission would be April 2020.

In addition to filing returns and accounts with the Commission, charities that take the form of companies (in the vast majority of cases companies limited by guarantee, but very occasionally, companies limited by shares) are required to file annual accounts with Companies House within nine months of the their financial year end date (so in the example set out above, the deadline for Companies House would be the end of this month).

The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a number of charities finding themselves in a position where it is not possible (or at least not likely) to file returns and accounts within the relevant deadlines. This could be for any of a number of reasons, such as auditors or independent examiners having been unable to complete their reviews or more practical issues such as simply being unable to print off and post the accounts (although the Commission's filing systems are exclusively online). Charities and their officers may simply have other priorities.

The good news is that both Companies House and the Charity Commission are allowing charities significant leeway in the current circumstances.

Companies House announced yesterday that any company (charitable or otherwise - and so this would apply to a charity's wholly owned trading subsidiary) can apply for a 3-month extension to be granted for filing annual accounts and that those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension. Applications can be made online via the following link.

In the case of the Charity Commission, where a charity feels unable to meet its deadline, a telephone request can be made to the Commission's contact centre (0300 066 9197) for an extension. Written applications using the Commission's online contact form must also be possible although if the filing deadline is imminent, a telephone call may be preferable.

As noted above, the Charities Team at Brabners is very much available to support charities during this very challenging period. Should you wish us to make any of these applications on your behalf please feel free to get in touch.

For more details on the topic, please e-mail me on graeme.hughes@brabners.com or call my mobile on 07834621509.