Appointing An Independent Examiner

AccountingHaving opted for an Independent Examination of their charity’s accounts, the  trustees may find it helpful to draw up a set of questions to ask their proposed examiner to help them check that the person has the skills and experience needed. You should ask:

  • all examiners  to confirm that they have read and understood the Charity Commission’s Directions and guidance
  • professional examiners to provide proof of membership of one of the professional bodies listed here and that they meet that body’s requirements for acting as an independent examiner.  In particular, the examiner is likely to need a practising certificate or licence, although if he or she is not charging a fee to carry out the independent examination this may not be necessary.  This check can be done using each body’s on-line member search tool, or directly if the body does not have this facility
  • non-professional examiners to explain their skills and experience and why this makes them competent to carry out the work.  For example, the examiner may work in a role that involves financial management, such as setting and managing budgets and reviewing financial reports, or that requires knowledge of accounting systems, such as maintaining financial records and internal controls

The trustees’ decision to appoint a person to act as the charity’s examiner should be in writing and recorded in the charity’s minutes.  The examiner should confirm their appointment and this can be done by an exchange of emails.  Professional examiners may issue a letter of engagement, setting out the terms of their appointment including their fee.

The process of finding and appointing an examiner can take time and so should not be left until the trustees’ annual report and accounts are due for filing.

Independent Examiner – Eligibility and Skills

Independent Examination of Accounts CC32Charity law requires those charities with a gross income threshold of more than £25,000 to have some form of external scrutiny of their accounts. The trustees may opt for an independent examination if their charity’s income is not more than £1m, or where gross income exceeds £250,000

The appointment of an independent examiner is made by the trustees who must reasonably believe that the person selected has the requisite ability and practical experience to carry out a competent examination of the accounts.

The skills required of an examiner will depend on whether accounts are prepared on a receipts and payments basis or an accruals basis, and the size and nature of the charity’s transactions.

All examiners need some familiarity with certain basic principles of fund accounting, the responsibilities of trustees, and the charity’s governing document.

A person with financial awareness and numeracy skills should have the requisite ability to act as an independent examiner for receipts and payments accounts.

For accruals accounts the examiner should have a good understanding of accountancy principles, accounting standards and knowledge of the applicable SORP.

Depending on the complexity of the charity to be examined, prospective examiners may also need to have practical experience relevant to the charity in question which might include:

  • an involvement in the financial administration of a charity of a similar nature
  • having acted successfully as an independent examiner on previous occasions for similar charities
  • relevant practical experience in accountancy or commerce
  • a working knowledge of charity accounting

Independent examination of accruals accounts

Having the requisite ability is important to ensure that the examiner undertakes a competent examination. A competent examination is one conducted with reasonable skill and care in accordance with the Directions for independent examination. Trustees who have had the charity’s accounts prepared on an accruals basis should select a person who is a member of one of the accountancy bodies listed in the 2011 Act as amended by the 2015 Order.

The examiner should be satisfied that they have the requisite ability with the necessary skills before undertaking the examination of accounts prepared on the accruals basis. When examining accounts prepared on an accruals basis the examiner should be a member of one of the accountancy bodies listed and the examiner must be a member of a listed body if the charity’s gross income exceeds £250,000.

The listed bodies are:

  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland
  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants
  • Association of Authorised Public Accountants
  • Association of Accounting Technicians
  • Association of International Accountants
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants
  • Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators
  • Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy
  • Fellow of the Association of Charity Independent Examiners
  • Institute of Financial Accountants
  • Certified Public Accountants Association