Across the not-for-profit sector: latest responses to COVID-19

We’ve rounded up the latest news, guidance and notices relevant to the charity and not-for-profit sector.

Services
Charity
Sectors
Not For Profit
Key themes
Coronavirus
Type
Update

Sector news

DCMS is working closely with the civil society sector – including National Emergencies Trust, the National Council of Voluntary Organisations and the British Red Cross – on how to galvanise volunteers and coordinate help to those who need it most. 

Funding

NCVO has gathered here useful resources on funding available to charities.

Charity Tax Group is maintaining this really good Coronavirus information hub for charity tax and finance professionals.  It includes useful analysis of how charities may be eligible for the various streams of government funding announced so far.  For example, organisations in the hospitality, leisure and retail (including charity shops) sectors with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be able to apply for a cash grant of £25,000 per business.

NPC has published “How philanthropists should respond to coronavirus” which has a useful section on funding sources. 

Organisations supporting women and girls can now apply for a share of £15 million from the Tampon Tax Fund.

Three things we’re doing in response to Coronavirus. Big Society Capital describes some of the actions it’s taking to try to support the financial sustainability of charities and social enterprises during the pandemic.

Social enterprises and COVID-19: Grants, loans and other funding. Pioneers Post has collated a list of funding that can help social enterprises and other social sector organisations throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business rates

All organisations in the leisure, retail and hospitality industry are now eligible for 100% rates discount. Click here for more. This would include for example charity shops, cafes at theatres, museums and historic homes. 

Regulatory update

Charity Commission

The Charity Commission now has a guidance page on Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidance for the charity sector.  This includes:

  • The Commission’s statement, which we’ve seen before, reassuring charities that its approach to regulation during this period will be “as flexible and pragmatic as possible in the public interest, whilst helping trustees to be aware of and think about the wider or longer impact of their decisions on their charity”.
    • The Charity Commission coronavirus statement, which also now includes new questions and answers about charity finances. It also contains a link about getting government support for paying charity employees, and also whether charity reserves and restricted funds can be used to help charities through the crisis.”
    • New guidance on charity meetings:
      • Recognising that some charities may have no choice but to postpone or cancel AGMs and other critical meetings.  Trustees should record this decision to demonstrate good governance of their charities.
      • Where charities carry out meetings over the phone or using digital solutions, even where their governing document doesn’t allow this, the Commission will understand, but trustees should “record this decision and that [they] have done this to demonstrate good governance of [their] charity”.
      • SIRs: trustees should continue to use their judgement in deciding whether to report.

Charity Commission for Northern Ireland

CCNI has followed the other regulators in issuing a statement about coronavirus and its services, which covers issues such as filings, meetings and serious incident reporting: https://www.charitycommissionni.org.uk/news/covid-19-coronavirus-information/

Companies House

Companies House offices in London and Cardiff are now closed.  Any physical documents must now be delivered to Companies House Cardiff.

Filings – we have checked if there is flexibility to use online filing for filings which would usually have to be done as paper filings.  Unfortunately the answer is no – all paper filings are still required to be posted to their Cardiff office.  And for some paper filings where a fee is payable, it is also not possible to make an electronic payment – payment must still be by cheque – which may be difficult if it is not currently possible to raise a cheque in your organisation’s name.  Companies House did say on the phone that they will allow the filing past the 14 day deadline in these circumstances as this is acceptable anyway in good faith.

Accounts – Just a reminder Companies House has published guidance Coronavirus: if your company cannot file accounts with Companies House on time. If immediately before the filing deadline it becomes apparent that the accounts of a company cannot be filed on time because of the Coronavirus, an application can be made to extend the period allowed for filing. For information on how to apply for more time, see here. If an application for an extension is not made and accounts are filed late, an automatic penalty will be imposed. Appeals based upon the Coronavirus will be considered under the late filing penalties guidance  but the Registrar of Companies has limited discretion to waive penalties. 

Fundraising

The IoF and Fundraising Regulator have advised all charities to “reflect seriously on whether to continue public fundraising due to the increased health risk”.  They mean in particular street, house to house and private site fundraising. 

The Charity Commission and the Fundraising Regulator have issued a joint statement about ensuring you give safely to charities at this time: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/regulators-urge-safe-giving-to-charities-as-communities-respond-to-coronavirus-pandemic  The advice include the following points:

  • check the charity’s name and registration number at gov.uk/checkcharity most charities with an annual income of £5,000 or more must be registered
  • make sure the charity is genuine before giving any financial information
  • be careful when responding to emails or clicking on links within them
  • contact or find out more online about the charity that you’re seeking to donate to or work with to find out more about their spending

Tax

The Chairman of the Charity Tax Group, has written to the Chancellor requesting immediate support for charities through the tax system during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The letter presents six practical proposals to simplify charities’ interaction with the tax system and to unlock important tax reliefs for charities at a time when cashflow is under serious strain. The Chancellor is asked to:

  1. Allow Gift Aid on donations arising from allowing charities to keep payments originally made for cancelled events/loans etc
  2. Provide urgent confirmation that Gift Aid can be claimed on donations received by charities through Facebook (and similar operators) to release millions of pounds
  3. Confirm simplified audit processes for Gift Aid on text/SMS donations at a time when their use may increase
  4. Confirm that no HMRC action will be taken to collect VAT on digital advertising by charities during the crisis
  5. Extend the Expanded Retail Discount to all charity properties to ensure 100% business rates relief for the year 2020/21
  6. Confirm flexibility over tax deadlines and tax administration

Delayed: IR35 (reforms to off-payroll working rules)

Reforms to off-payroll working rules have been delayed by 12 months as part of the government’s Covid-19 economic response package.  The rules will now come into effect on 6 April 2021 instead of 6 April this year.

Early years

The government has confirmed funding for early years entitlements will continue during any periods of nursery, preschool or childminder closures, or where children cannot attend due to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Coronavirus legislation

NCVO has published this summary of the government’s Coronavirus Bill.  The government is intending for the Bill to take effect from the end of March 2020, with the provisions relating to Statutory Sick Pay having retrospective effect to 13 March 2020.

Data protection

The Information Commissioner’s Office has published an announcement confirming public authorities will not be penalised for extended Freedom of Information Act response times.  The ICO cannot extend the statutory timescales, but will take into account the compelling public interest during the health emergency when assessing any complaint of non-compliance.

Housing/homelessness

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Public Health England have published guidance on the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) aimed at hostel or day centre providers for people rough sleeping.

Public procurement

The Cabinet Office has published Procurement Policy Note 01/20: Responding to COVID-19 (PPN 01/20). Click here for our overview.

Finance and audit

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales has set up a hub with useful information on a range of topics including business interruption, audit and financial reporting.  https://www.icaew.com/insights/coronavirus

The Financial Reporting Council has published guidance on audit issues arising from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The FRC states that audits should continue to comply with required standards, and additional time may be required to complete audits, even at the risk of delaying company reporting.  It further states that auditors will need to consider the impact of COVID-19 on, among other matters:

  • The auditor’s risk assessment, and whether it needs to be revised.
  • How the auditor gathers sufficient, appropriate audit evidence, recognising that the planned approach may need to change, particularly in group audit engagements. The auditor must be able to gather the necessary evidence to be able to report or consider modifying their audit opinion.
  • How the group auditor proposes to review the work of component auditors to meet the standards, including considering whether alternative procedures can be used.
  • The auditor’s assessment of going concern and prospects of an audited company.
  • The adequacy of disclosures made by management about the impact of COVID-19, so that users of financial statements are properly informed, and the company’s prospects and how they might be affected are described, recognising the high degree of uncertainty.
  • The need for the auditor to reassess key aspects of their audit as a result of a fast-changing situation, recognising that this will take place right up to the signing of the auditor’s report, and may need further evidence and information from management.

It also states that auditors will need to engage with entities to ensure that:

  • The auditor sets clear expectations as to the level of disclosure they expect to see in annual reports to communicate the impact and risk of COVID-19 on the company.
  • Companies, in particular audit committees, understand it is vital that auditors have sufficient time and support to carry out their work to an appropriate standard, including reassessing work done to reflect changed circumstances – in some cases, companies may need to reconsider reporting deadlines. Where auditors are unable to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to support their audit, they will need to consider necessary modifications to their audit opinion.

All content on this page is correct as of March 24, 2020.