Wednesday, 29 May 2024
Wednesday, 29 May 2024

Getting more out of your charity’s accountant

Michelle Ferris writes

Most charities have accountants – it is, unfortunately, a necessity to need someone to sign off a set of charity accounts if income is over £25k and whilst this doesn’t need to be a qualified accountant initially, it often is. Go that bit further and if you’re fortunate to run a charity with income over £1m, you’ll need an auditor. What continues to surprise me is how many charities pay someone as little as possible for this service, really missing out on a chance to make the most of a great opportunity.

All charities are, quite rightly, looking to get more from all their suppliers, and this only looks likely to increase over the coming years as the sector continues to operate under the shadow of the pandemic.  Accountancy should be no different, and it would be remiss of charities to assume that they can’t get more than numbers from their accountant.

Accountants that specialise in the charity sector have far more to offer, both in times of crisis and not. We (I use this term to cover a large number of charity accountants, not just Albert Goodman) have developed years of specialist knowledge working with a huge number of different charity clients. This means that we are often the best-placed people to be a sounding board for you and your board on a variety of matters, such as internal controls, systems and processes, governance, maximising gift aid and minimising other taxes to mention just a few. Many charities that we work with comment that whilst they’d never considered those matters in the past, having an accountant who is willing to talk them through provides efficiencies that they’d never realised were available, on top of the security of knowing that you’re operating within the rules and regulations of the sector. That’s before you get to larger projects – restructures, set up and managing relationships with trading subsidiaries and other entities as an example.

Of course, all those things would be standard for me in a ‘normal’ year. Over the course of the last 12 months, my work with my clients has gone even further, encompassing assistance with income maximisation, employment taxes (including the masses of red tape around the furlough scheme for the sector), even setting up charities and CIC’s at short notice to allow funding to be received to assist the most vulnerable early on in the pandemic. Agility is a term that’s come up a lot, and that’s probably the thing that I’m most proud of over this difficult time – the charity sector has been proved to be incredibly agile and able to mobilise quickly to help those most in need, and to play a small part in helping my clients achieve that has been inspiring.

Charities often pay to outsource their accountancy to take away the burden – so why not ask your accountant what else they can help you with? You might (hopefully!) be surprised by their answer.

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