• Managing the impact of COVID-19 on your charity’s reporting

Managing the impact of COVID-19 on your charity’s reporting

13 January 2021

To help you navigate and manage the impact of COVID-19 on your charity’s reporting, we summarise below some key areas for Trustees and Management to consider. While we will be updating this guidance periodically, in such a fast-changing situation, the relevant Government announcement will need to be checked for the fullest and latest position. For further information or to discuss any of the issues below in relation to your charity’s reporting, please get in touch or contact your usual BDO Charity adviser.


Area of risk

1. Voluntary Income

ISSUE Future income is unsure, and events may be cancelled.

Accounts and annual reports may need to include more consideration of the going concern basis. Costs incurred for future events may need writing off. Gift Aid may not be recoverable.


Forecasts, underpinning the going concern assessment, will need to consider the impact of a poorer donor base and the loss of corporate sponsors, future events and retail income.

Charities are eligible for some Government support but, at the time of writing, only a limited sector specific package of support has been announced.

Currently, Gift Aid on cancelled (not postponed) events or under the conservation concession will continue to be recoverable by charities, subject to the usual rules. By concession, HMRC accepts that, provided the donor agrees to donate the refund, the cash does not have to be repaid and then donated, as would ordinarily be the case. 

This concession also applies to registration fees for fundraising events, subject to the correct process being followed.

HMRC accept that GASDS can still be operated where cash donations are grouped because a donor is catching up, as long as there is proper evidence that this is the case.

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2. Legacies

ISSUE Values of estates are likely to be less predictable, and there will be delays in realisation. Legacy income dependent on house sales may see fluctuations, due to the end of the stamp duty holiday on properties below £500,000 on 31 March 2021.
Valuation of legacies receivable and the pipeline will be less certain.

With a potentially long recession, forecast legacies are uncertain, and lower estate values also make the 10% tax break less attractive. However, In December 2020, Legacy Foresight predicted that the numbers of legacies are likely to rise as a result of the pandemic, offset by delays in probate and uncertainty over property valuations.¹ 

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3. Grant incomes

ISSUE Just as companies have cancelled dividends, there needs to be confidence that promised grants will materialise.

Grants receivable may need re-confirmation and longer term commitments may be less forthcoming.

Government support, such as the Job Retention Scheme, will be reported as grant income.


Charities Aid Foundation now list over 20 organisations who have launched specific COVID-19 related support programmes, either on a national or regional basis. As some programmes are now closing, or have closed, trustees should investigate these opportunities promptly.

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4. Contract and trading income

ISSUE Performance conditions may not be met, and/or customers may not be able to pay.
Consider penalties for non-performance, and provision for slow or non-payment.

In addition to previous national and local support schemes, businesses that have been required to close due to national restrictions imposed by the Government as of 5 January 2021 may be eligible for a one-off grant of up to £9,000.

For charities that are companies or CIOs new insolvency law (Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020)extends the ‘utilities supply’ rules, so suppliers may have to continue providing services even if not being paid during a moratorium.

Contracting authorities have been encouraged by the Government to support suppliers, including charities. This should assist cash flow but may be more complex in payment by result arrangements and will require greater transparency by the contractor charity.

Where charities charge for admission to a charity garden or property, any attempts to limit this to members-only under staggered opening plans could invalidate any Gift Aid claims on membership subscriptions. This is due to the need for properties to be accessible by all members of the public to be eligible to claim.

The reduced (5%) rate of VAT applies until 13 March 2021, to certain supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises across the UK, as well as for accommodation and attractions. This applies to charities, although where an admission fee is exempt, this will continue to take precedence.

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5. Charity Retail

ISSUE Where discontinued, the activity may not restart.

Consider implications for impairment, dilapidations, onerous contracts and discontinued business disclosures.


Retail, Hospitality and Leisure (RHL) Grants were paid in March in respect of eligible properties (inter alia, those with a rateable value of less than £51,000). The RHL grant forms part of a charity’s taxable income, subject to the exemptions. Charities and their subsidiaries may also be able to access other business interruption grant schemes.

Charities operating the Retail Gift Aid Standard Method can use HMRC agreed concessions relating to returned mail and oral declarations.

Charities were also eligible under the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme. 

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6. Investment Income


Income and capital return is likely to have fallen. Dividends may have been cancelled.

Ensure dividends are only recognised where they are not cancelled.

Potential negative interest rates may mean trustees should rethink investment and treasury policies.

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7. Fundraising costs

ISSUE Various investments of cost, such as websites or events, may need writing off.

Review any costs and consider accounting for insurance recoveries. Onerous contracts may require recognition.


The Fundraising Regulator (E & W) has issued specific guidance on activities during the current pandemic. Charities are required to assess and manage the risks of COVID-19, and in particular fundraising organisations should consider the risks to their workers and supporters. The regulator has also issued guidance that requests charities to take account of tiered and different restrictions in different jurisdictions in their risk assessments and practices.

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8. Staff Costs


Staff and volunteers are working differently to previous work patterns, including working from home. Redundancies and furloughing may have occurred.


The basis of staff cost allocation will need reconsidering in view of any change in activity. 

Redundancy costs may need recognising when announced – these should be included in the salary disclosures.

Foregone remuneration will need consideration depending on contractual arrangements.


The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended until 30 April 2021 and the Government will review the scheme in January 2021. Claims for furlough days in December 2020 must have been  submitted by 14 January 2021. Organisations can no longer submit claims for claim periods ending on or before 31 October 2020. It is still expected that when the CJRS expires, a further Job Support Scheme aimed at minimising unemployment will replace it.

See our website for more detailed information and the latest FAQs relating to this scheme

As a temporary measure for 2020/21, employers can reimburse employees for the purchase of home office equipment required as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak without tax consequences, provided that it would have been exempt if provided by the employer directly.

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9. Pension schemes

ISSUE Defined benefit (DB) schemes are likely to be severally impacted and underlying assumptions difficult to pin down.

Consider the reliability of asset valuations and the other estimates and judgements. 

BDO COMMENT AND GOVERNMENT RESPONSE The Pensions Regulator has issued guidance for DB scheme Trustees, whose sponsoring employers are in corporate distress. It includes short comments on the deferral of deficit repair contribution (DRC) payments and detailed guidance on calculating pension contributions in relation to staff working under the furlough scheme.

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10. Trading subsidiaries

ISSUE Companies may not be solvent in their own right and may not be able to pay up Gift Aid.

Consider the implications for inter-entity finance. Consider tax implications of payments not made within nine months of the year end.


This is an area where the charity will need to take special care of managing conflicts of interest in accordance with regulatory guidance.

This will especially apply if the charity considers investing further in the subsidiary.

Where a subsidiary expects to mitigate corporation tax through donations, it will need to consider whether it has distributable reserves and cash at the date the donation is paid. In a period of downturn, this may affect the ability to mitigate tax for both the current and prior period, if donations are generally paid after the year end.  

While there is an interaction with the loss relief and potentially group relief rules, the position is complex and we suggest that groups should model the likely implications to consider both the availability and timing of payments, along with the option of other relief, where these are available.

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11. Functional fixed assets

ISSUE The use of properties may have changed, and values will be affected, possibly leading to impairment.
Third party valuations for fixed assets (held at valuation rather than cost) may be caveated.

Consider carrying values, depreciation rates, and the availability and reliability of valuations.

Consider implications of rate relief.

FRS 102 has been revised (20 October 2020) to allow COVID-19 rent concessions to be recognised more quickly – read more here


For retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with rateable properties, a grant of £25,000 may have been available under the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund.

In addition, most organisations in the hospitality, leisure and retail sectors – irrespective of their rateable value - should be eligible for full business rate exemption for the year to 31 March 2021. Use the Government website to check eligibility.

The Local Authority Discretionary Fund was aimed at small businesses with ongoing fixed property-related costs, for up to £25,000 each. The programme is closed and all grants should have been received by 30 September 2020.

Charities with social housing assets may also find our Social Housing Barometer and related articles useful.

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12. Social investments

ISSUE Both charitable and commercial aspects may mean that these are no longer viable investments.

Investment values should be reviewed.
Reclassification as a commercial investment may be required.

BDO COMMENT AND GOVERNMENT RESPONSE The charity regulatory guidance on social investments should be consulted.

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13. Debtors

ISSUE Recoverability of existing debts may be problematic, and some may be renegotiated into long-term.

Consider provisions and discounting, where appropriate.


Customers may be experiencing financial difficulty, impacting on their ability to pay, and, thus, the charity’s cash flow. Corporate customers may in future make use of the new arrangements under the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020. This has introduced the concept of a moratorium, a ban on termination provisions (or so called ipso facto clauses) and the introduction of a new pre-insolvency rescue and reorganisation. 

Read our article for more information.

In addition, Crown Preference, where HMRC have preferential status in insolvencies has been restored from 1 December 2020. This includes all amounts collected on behalf of HMRC but unpaid before that date. Where charities are owed money, trustees should be aware that this will erode further their chances of recovery, adding an extra layer of risk for all suppliers.

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14. Liabilities    

ISSUE Commitments may be re-negotiated into long-term or even cancelled.  New or increased liabilities may arise where property use is reduced.

Consider the effect of asset values on any loan covenants. There is potential for more leases to become onerous, requiring recognition of the related liability.
Provision may be needed for enhanced dilapidation costs (and impairment) when reducing property occupation.


Charities that are concerned about their ability to meet their liabilities should also refer to the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020.

On 24 September 2020, the Corporate Insolvency and Governance (Extension of the Relevant Period) Regulations 2000 came into force, extending the application of some, but not all, of the temporary COVID-19 related measures set out in CIGA. There are now various different expiry dates:

  • The suspension of provisions relating to wrongful trading ended on 30 September 2020;
  • The restrictions on statutory demands and winding up petitions and the temporary provisions relaxing the requirements for company meetings ended on 30 December 2020;
  • The exemption of small businesses from the provisions preventing suppliers from terminating contracts due to customer insolvency ends on  31 March 2021;
  • The temporary relaxation of the eligibility requirements for the new moratorium procedure has been extended to 31 March 2021, subject to revised regulations.

For more information on how CIGA can help charities in financial distress, view our latest article.

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15. Financial instruments

ISSUE The basis of valuation remains unchanged.

Consider implications of movements in foreign exchange and bond rates.

BDO COMMENT AND GOVERNMENT RESPONSE Traditional valuation models may need revisiting in the presence of negative interest rates.

16. Funds

ISSUE Free reserve calculation may indicate going concern issues.

The implications of any negative reserves will require explanation in the notes or annual report.

BDO COMMENT AND GOVERNMENT RESPONSE The Charity Commission has reiterated that COVID-19 does not mean any change to the legal status of restricted funds.

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17. Accounting policies and Going Concern


The going concern basis of preparation may no longer be appropriate and in more uncertain. Some policies may need altering in view of changes e.g. to asset lives..


Assess the going concern basis and policies. This assessment will also need to take into account the new requirements being introduced by ISA 570. 

Robust cash flow projections will be required, involving scenarios and focussing on unrestricted cash. 

The FRC expect such scenarios to be more than simply “best case” and “realistic worst case”.


The FRC expect organisations to focus on issues like resilience, liquidity and cash. They expect risk statements to reflect the impact of COVID-19, especially on the workforce (or volunteers). They also expect you to factor the implications of Government support into your forecasts.

The regulators continue to expect this to be reported as a matter of material significance by auditors if it results in a modified audit report.

Transparency in disclosures is key. Include detail of the impact on the charity’s financial position and clearly articulate why the Trustees are comfortable with the going concern assumption. Material uncertainty should be considered. Users of the accounts are anticipating modifications or qualifications to audit opinions. Read the five key questions trustees and supporters might ask.

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18. Judgement and estimates

ISSUE In many cases these will need substantial expansion.

It is accepted by many regulators that it is likely charities will be disclosing more uncertainty, impacting on going concern.

BDO COMMENT AND GOVERNMENT RESPONSE The FRC say these reports should consider the:
▶ availability and extent of support through Government measures that have been announced
▶ availability, extent and timing of sources of cash, including compliance with banking covenants or reliance on those covenants being waived
▶ duration of social distancing measures and their potential impacts.

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19.  Taxation


Changes in activity will impact on tax thresholds and partial exemption calculations.

PAYE and NI could be affected by new working arrangements.

With more people using e-publications as remote working is the new norm, the overall VAT bill may be increased.

The increased purchase of PPE for those using it to protect their people while continuing to provide support may increase the overall VAT bill.


Gift Aid recoverable may require review, if the donor base has been substantially impacted. 

It is also conceivable that too much tax may have already been recovered.



Business and individual taxpayers can seek time to pay from HMRC if they cannot afford to pay their tax debts in full and on time. However with effect from 30 June 2020, HMRC has reverted back to its ‘pre-lockdown’ position of expecting financial information to support a TTPA request.

Small Business Grant Fund
The Government states this forms part of taxable income.

VAT deferral 
The VAT payments deferral scheme ended on 30 June.

VAT relief on e-publications
Supplies of some e-publications are zero-rated with effect from May 2020. HMRC have also issued an updated, more generous, policy on the charity VAT relief for digital advertising.

Theatre, Orchestra and Museums & Galleries Tax Relief is still available if a production is abandoned because of COVID-19.

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20. Annual report


Charities should disclose and communicate in the annual report how COVID-19 has impacted the organisation. 

Approval of financial accounts and report will likely be done by virtual meeting.


Consider the impact of COVID-19 in your annual report, in terms of both past performance, and future events, risk, reserves and going concern, and the impact on your workforce.

Trustees should check their constitution allows the approval by virtual meeting.


The FRC has commented that risk reporting should go further than simply state COVID-19 as a risk, but should relate the impact to specific risks.

The Charities SORP committee has issued advisory guidance, principally aimed at the Annual Report. Read more here

Companies House has issued formal guidance on when filing may be delayed. The charity Regulators request that, wherever possible, annual reports are submitted on time. Where the situation impacts on the completion of annual returns and accounts, charities with an imminent filing date can email them across.


1. Legacy Foresight.co.uk

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