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Annual return update – take 2

Photo of Lourens Du Plessis Lourens du Plessis
2 min

We’ve spoken before about changes to the annual return (the set of questions a charity with income of over £10,000 and all CIOs) have to complete for the Charity Commission annually, usually done at the same time as you file your annual accounts. There have been a number of changes, which include additional questions and changes to existing questions.

You can read more information here: Changes to the Charity Commission's Annual Return from 2023 - Stewardship

Some important points to note:

  • The new annual return is effective for all year-ends falling from 1 January 2023. So, it is likely that March 2023 year-ends will be the first ones to be caught by this (you don’t have too many January or February year-ends!).
  • The questions aren’t available online yet (as at the date of publication). Since you have 10 months after your year-end to file your accounts and annual return with the Charity Commission, there is no need to worry. If you have a charity with a March 2023 year-end, you still have until the end of January 2024! You can file your accounts separately, if you wish, and come back to the annual return later - just make sure you do, so that there isn’t a red flag on your account later on.
  • In terms of the amended questions, you will notice a significant change to the question that the Commission asks about which policies you have as a charity. They’re not all mandatory by any means, but this information is displayed on your charity record.

The new policies are:

    • Serious incident reporting
    • Trustee expenses
    • Campaigns and political activity
    • Bullying and harassment
    • Social media
    • Engaging external speakers at charity events

The following policies have been removed from the list:

    • Volunteer management
    • Paying staff
    • Grant-making

As a general rule, no policies are mandatory for any charity, but there some we recommend all charities have, for example:

  • Safeguarding, especially where you work with children or adults at risk (in which case it is mandatory)
  • Financial controls
  • Complaints
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Financial reserves

If you’re wondering why have policies in church life at all, our blog The role of policies in church life discusses how it is not just important as a compliance matter, but that policies are there to provide a framework under which churches can flourish!


We are in the process of developing template policies for the new areas mentioned above and will make them available shortly (both separately and as part of a pack that covers most of the policies in the new annual return). These will be available in our online shop, but if you do buy the current policy pack over the course of the next month or so, we will send you an update with the additional new policies when they are available.


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Written by

Lourens du Plessis

Lourens leads our teams who guide and strengthen churches and Christian charities with their governance and finances. Our professional services include independent examinations of charities’ accounts, an award-winning payroll bureau, consultancy and governance advisory services and helping charities get registered with the Charity Commission. He joined Stewardship in 2020 and brings with him a wealth of experience in both the charity and commercial sectors. He’s a member of the Charity Community Advisory Group of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and regularly interacts with regulators in the sector.

Before joining Stewardship he worked for an international church developing governance and financial stewardship for various ministries. Prior to that Lourens had a senior role at a Big Four firm in the City, advising international investment banks. He is a qualified Chartered Accountant and has a postgraduate degree in Theology.

Lourens grew up in South Africa, but has spent the majority of his working life in London.  He is a member of the International Presbyterian Church in Ealing. He is also a trustee of a number of other churches and charities, including a new pregnancy counselling centre, and he’s involved in initiatives to help Christians better integrate their faith and work.

Lourens supports causes which encourage bringing the gospel to people in his neighbourhood and to the ends of the earth, and particularly supporting persecuted Christians around the world.