Charity 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