October Finance Network Meeting – Places still available!

Book your place at the October Finance Network Meeting on Wednesday 20th October! Find out all about the meeting and the guest speakers here.


It’s now less than a week until the next Finance Network Meeting on October 20th from 11:00 – 12:30! The primary topic will be “Business Cases”. Helen Blundell and Jim Clifford, both from MHA McIntyre Hudson, will discuss the ‘What, Why, When, How, and for Whom’ of this simple but very important document. To book your place, and / or to subsequently receive a copy of the recording of the event and the slides, please email John.Fox@ageuk.org.uk or david.chenery@ageuk.org.uk with: your name and role title; the name of the Brand Partner you are representing; and the email address to which the follow-up material should be sent. You can also find out more about the meeting and both presenters below.

We tend to associate Business Cases with the purchase of a significant capital item, or the development of a substantial new initiative, but the need to produce a reasoned explanation to support the commitment of resources (people, time and money) to any proposed activity is nothing more than best practice and good governance. So when you plan to tender for a new service delivery contract, or to launch a new charged-for service, how do you justify sign-off if that is within your level of authority, or support a recommendation to the trustee board for approval, if it’s outside of your delegated authority?

Helen Blundell Biography

Helen leads the not for profit team in the Birmingham and Leicester offices of MHA MacIntyre Hudson, a Top 12 firm of chartered accountants and business advisors.  She has more than 20 years’ experience specialising in the sector advising a range of clients from small local bodies to large national and regional organisations. 

Her experience includes audit, independent examination, governance training as well advising on corporate structures and charity tax reliefs. Helen’s approach is a practical one of delivering solutions. Helen has first hand experience as a trustee, having served for 6 years as a trustee of Birmingham Cathedral.  She is passionate about making a difference through advising charities and not for profits.

Jim Clifford Biography

Jim leads Sonnet, a social enterprise, registered as a firm of chartered accountants, that brings together experts in finance, governance, corporate finance, economics and research.

Jim is a Chartered Accountant, social researcher and strategic consultant, specialising in helping organisations – charities and social enterprises, private and public sector – research and select the impact they want to deliver, develop the model for doing it, resource it, and measure and improve upon it.

He supports these at all stages of their lives, from inception through growth, through times of change and even insolvency.  He was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to Social Investment. Experienced as a trustee and in charity management, he also teaches on the Bayes (formerly Cass) Charities and NGO Masters programmes, and has authored academic work, and the recent Demystifying Social Finance, as well as over 150 impact evaluation studies. 

Book your place

To book your place, and / or to subsequently receive a copy of the recording of the event and the slides, please email John.Fox@ageuk.org.uk with: your name and role title; the name of the Brand Partner you are representing; and the email address to which the follow-up material should be sent.

October Finance Network Meeting – Book your place

Book your place at the October Finance Network Meeting on Wednesday 20th October! Find out all about the meeting and the guest speakers here.


The next Finance Network Meeting will take place on October 20th from 11:00 – 12:30 and the primary topic will be “Business Cases”. Helen Blundell and Jim Clifford, both from MHA McIntyre Hudson, will discuss the ‘What, Why, When, How, and for Whom’ of this simple but very important document. To book your place, and / or to subsequently receive a copy of the recording of the event and the slides, please email John.Fox@ageuk.org.uk with: your name and role title; the name of the Brand Partner you are representing; and the email address to which the follow-up material should be sent. You can also find out more about the meeting and both presenters below.

We tend to associate Business Cases with the purchase of a significant capital item, or the development of a substantial new initiative, but the need to produce a reasoned explanation to support the commitment of resources (people, time and money) to any proposed activity is nothing more than best practice and good governance. So when you plan to tender for a new service delivery contract, or to launch a new charged-for service, how do you justify sign-off if that is within your level of authority, or support a recommendation to the trustee board for approval, if it’s outside of your delegated authority?

Helen Blundell Biography

Helen leads the not for profit team in the Birmingham and Leicester offices of MHA MacIntyre Hudson, a Top 12 firm of chartered accountants and business advisors.  She has more than 20 years’ experience specialising in the sector advising a range of clients from small local bodies to large national and regional organisations. 

Her experience includes audit, independent examination, governance training as well advising on corporate structures and charity tax reliefs. Helen’s approach is a practical one of delivering solutions. Helen has first hand experience as a trustee, having served for 6 years as a trustee of Birmingham Cathedral.  She is passionate about making a difference through advising charities and not for profits.

Jim Clifford Biography

Jim leads Sonnet, a social enterprise, registered as a firm of chartered accountants, that brings together experts in finance, governance, corporate finance, economics and research.

Jim is a Chartered Accountant, social researcher and strategic consultant, specialising in helping organisations – charities and social enterprises, private and public sector – research and select the impact they want to deliver, develop the model for doing it, resource it, and measure and improve upon it.

He supports these at all stages of their lives, from inception through growth, through times of change and even insolvency.  He was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to Social Investment. Experienced as a trustee and in charity management, he also teaches on the Bayes (formerly Cass) Charities and NGO Masters programmes, and has authored academic work, and the recent Demystifying Social Finance, as well as over 150 impact evaluation studies. 

Book your place

To book your place, and / or to subsequently receive a copy of the recording of the event and the slides, please email John.Fox@ageuk.org.uk with: your name and role title; the name of the Brand Partner you are representing; and the email address to which the follow-up material should be sent.

Finance Network Meetings – Programme into the Winter 2021-22

David Chenery from Age UK’s Financial Governance Team has published their planned schedule for the next four Financial Network Meetings, so that you can save the dates in advance.

Since January 2021, the Financial Governance team has been arranging virtual monthly Finance Network meetings for key people within Brand Partners – CEOs and members of their Senior Management Teams; Chairs, Treasurers and other interested trustees. Attendance has exceeded our initial expectations – we’ve consistently had over 100 attendees register for these meetings – and feedback has been extremely positive. It would appear that these meetings are addressing a need for information, help and guidance, from across the entire network. Read on to view the schedule for the upcoming Finance Network Meetings across the next few months.

So far, we have covered Cashflow Forecasting and budgeting, Reserves management, Full Cost Recovery, revised Audit requirements (Going Concern assessments) and VAT, along with some more generalised discussions about Building Back Better from the ravages of the pandemic.

When it came to planning for the coming months (October through to January), we wanted to really hone in on the issues which are likely to be of help to the majority of Partners who, we anticipate, will be developing plans for 2022-23 and beyond, and also thinking about changes to their business models – perhaps introducing new services, or scaling up existing ones to meet increasing demand. I’m confident that what we’ve put together will be of interest to all.

October 20th – “Business Cases”

The subject will be ‘Business Cases’, when Helen Blundell and Jim Clifford, both from MHA McIntyre Hudson, will discuss the ‘What, Why, When, How, and for Whom’ of this simple but important document.

We tend to associate Business Cases with the purchase of a significant capital item, or the development of a substantial new initiative. However, the need to produce a reasoned explanation to support the commitment of resources (people, time and money) to any proposed activity is nothing more than best practice and good governance. So, when you plan to tender for a new service delivery contract, or to launch a new charged-for service, how do you justify sign-off if that is within your level of authority, or support a recommendation to the trustee board for approval, if it’s outside of your delegated authority? Helen and Jim will look at trustees’ responsibilities here, as well as the decision-making which needs to happen, and the information which should be considered and presented.

November 24th – “Making Difficult Decisions”

David Brown, a volunteer consultant with Cranfield Trust, will present on ‘Making Difficult Decisions’ and I’m really excited by this one! He’ll be exploring the options for SMTs and trustees to consider when faced with a significant deficit budget forecast which, if forecasts for 2022-23 already provided to us by Partners are correct, is likely to be the case for most of the network. As an aside, we’re forecasting a network-wide surplus of around £14m for 2020-21, but the current year (2021-22) could see an adverse swing of £24m to a network deficit of £10m, with 2022-23 not likely to fare any better at the moment.

Many people see just three possible options for a deficit budget: 1) add more income to the forecast – usually a Fundraising line; 2) cut costs – usually staff costs, given that they are the major proportion of the outgoings for a Partner; or 3), do nothing, in the hope that something will turn up – the Micawber approach. David will suggest that there are other ways of addressing this issue and I think we’ll be in for a very interesting session.

December 15th – “Charity Legal Structures”

Nick Vaughan, another Cranfield consultant, will talk about Charity Legal Structures which sounds a bit dry, but it’s important to have a clear understanding of legal and good governance issues surrounding the use of subsidiary trading companies to deliver services / activities.  Issues like non-primary purpose trading, and consideration of a subsidiary’s use for primary purpose trading as well; Risk considerations – the avoidance of risk to charity assets; Independent governance (not all the charity trustees are directors of the subsidiary, and vice versa); Financing aspects – start-up funding; working capital; investment / loans (from the parent charity); Shared premises / staff / facilities – cross-charging / management charges.

If Partners are thinking about a changed business model, this could be a very timely session.

January 19th 2022 – “Guidance for CEOs”

In January, we’ll be giving the focus of attention to CEOs rather than to Finance personnel. Nick Wilkie, our presenter, has an impressive CV.  He has been chief executive of the National Childbirth Trust and London Youth, and UK director at Save the Children. He has also served on the boards of a number of charitable and public institutions and as a policy advisor to the Cabinet Office, HM Treasury and Number 10.

He will be talking around the following points to which every CEO ought to be alive:

  • Making sure everyone in the organisation (or at least in the SMT) knows where true north is, for the organisation
  • Knowing who the beneficiaries really are
  • Reserves – understanding what they are there for
  • In cutting out cost, do you want to salami-slice or cut off a limb?
  • Really understanding the Balance Sheet.

Again, I anticipate a well-subscribed meeting for January!

So I hope that there will be something here for everyone – CEOs, FDs, Chairs and Treasurers, and other trustees. Please note the dates in your diaries and watch out for further details and registration details for each meeting as we progress into the winter.

David Chenery – david.chenery@ageuk.org.uk
National Manager – Financial Governance, Age UK

September Finance Network Meeting – Places still available

There are places still available at the next September Finance Network Meeting September 22nd from 11:00-12:30.


Places are still available for the next Finance Network Meeting on September 22nd from 11:00 – 12:30. The primary topic will be “SORP – what are the current requirements which all charities should be meeting?“. Unfortunately we are unable to use Eventbrite for this meeting, so to book your place, and / or to subsequently receive a copy of the recording of the event and the slides, please email David.Chenery@ageuk.org.uk or John.Fox@ageuk.org.uk with: your name and role title; the name of the Brand Partner you are representing; and the email address to which the follow-up material should be sent. You can also find out more about the meeting below.

This latest Finance Network Meeting will include a reminder of the recent changes to the Going Concern assessment (ISA 570) and also a short explanation of the main differences between Charity accounting and ‘For Profit’ accounting as practised in the commercial world.

Some of you may remember that Richard Bowen, from Crowe, presented on this subject at a Finance Network meeting back in July 2019, when he covered Accounts preparation and Trustees’ annual reports preparation (That was when we were meeting in London, in a face-to-face setting which seems a lifetime ago now!). We received very positive feedback following Richard’s presentation and given the much-changed environment in which we must now report, felt that an update, to take in a reminder about changes to the Going Concern assessment, would be helpful. We also recognise that there have been quite a few new CEOs, Finance Directors and Managers, and Trustees, joining local Age UKs in the intervening period.

Presentation from Naziar Hashemi

This meeting, which will again be open to all relevant management and staff in Local Age UKs, and trustees, will be presented by Naziar Hashemi, Partner, National Head of Social Purpose & Non Profit Organisations, Crowe LLP.

Naziar joined Crowe in September 2008 from a Big Four Firm as a specialist non profits partner. In addition to providing assurance services Naziar also provides advisory services to a range of charities. These include assignments from risk and finance function reviews, systems, benchmarking and performance measurements and governance reviews.

Naziar leads Crowe’s work on Donor Audits and has knowledge of institutional funding requirements having produced reports for a variety of institutional and governmental donors. She also carries out training for charities and lectures and writes on a range of topics relevant to Trustees and management.

Book your place

To book your place, and / or to subsequently receive a copy of the recording of the event and the slides, please email David.Chenery@ageuk.org.uk or John.Fox@ageuk.org.uk with your name and role title, the name of the Brand Partner you are representing and the email address to which the follow-up material should be sent.

September Finance Network Meeting – Book your place

The September Finance Network Meeting will take place on September 22nd from 11:00-12:30. Read on to find out more and please save the date in your diaries!


The next Finance Network Meeting will take place on September 22nd from 11:00 – 12:30 and the primary topic will be “SORP – what are the current requirements which all charities should be meeting?“. Unfortunately we are unable to use Eventbrite for this meeting, so to book your place, and / or to subsequently receive a copy of the recording of the event and the slides, please email David.Chenery@ageuk.org.uk or John.Fox@ageuk.org.uk with: your name and role title; the name of the Brand Partner you are representing; and the email address to which the follow-up material should be sent. You can also find out more about the meeting below.

This latest Finance Network Meeting will include a reminder of the recent changes to the Going Concern assessment (ISA 570) and also a short explanation of the main differences between Charity accounting and ‘For Profit’ accounting as practised in the commercial world.

Some of you may remember that Richard Bowen, from Crowe, presented on this subject at a Finance Network meeting back in July 2019, when he covered Accounts preparation and Trustees’ annual reports preparation (That was when we were meeting in London, in a face-to-face setting which seems a lifetime ago now!). We received very positive feedback following Richard’s presentation and given the much-changed environment in which we must now report, felt that an update, to take in a reminder about changes to the Going Concern assessment, would be helpful. We also recognise that there have been quite a few new CEOs, Finance Directors and Managers, and Trustees, joining local Age UKs in the intervening period.

Presentation from Naziar Hashemi

This meeting, which will again be open to all relevant management and staff in Local Age UKs, and trustees, will be presented by Naziar Hashemi, Partner, National Head of Social Purpose & Non Profit Organisations, Crowe LLP.

Naziar joined Crowe in September 2008 from a Big Four Firm as a specialist non profits partner. In addition to providing assurance services Naziar also provides advisory services to a range of charities. These include assignments from risk and finance function reviews, systems, benchmarking and performance measurements and governance reviews.

Naziar leads Crowe’s work on Donor Audits and has knowledge of institutional funding requirements having produced reports for a variety of institutional and governmental donors. She also carries out training for charities and lectures and writes on a range of topics relevant to Trustees and management.

Book your place

To book your place, and / or to subsequently receive a copy of the recording of the event and the slides, please email David.Chenery@ageuk.org.uk or John.Fox@ageuk.org.uk with your name and role title, the name of the Brand Partner you are representing and the email address to which the follow-up material should be sent.

September Finance Network Meeting – Save the date

The September Finance Network Meeting will take place on September 22nd from 11:00-12:30. Read on to find out more and please save the date in your diaries!


The next Finance Network Meeting will take place on September 22nd from 11:00 – 12:30 and the primary topic will be “SORP – what are the current requirements which all charities should be meeting?“. The meeting will also include a reminder of the recent changes to the Going Concern assessment (ISA 570) and also a short explanation of the main differences between Charity accounting and ‘For Profit’ accounting as practised in the commercial world. Read on to find out more and please save the date in your diaries – registration details will be published nearer the time.

Some of you may remember that Richard Bowen, from Crowe, presented on this subject at a Finance Network meeting back in July 2019, when he covered Accounts preparation and Trustees’ annual reports preparation (That was when we were meeting in London, in a face-to-face setting which seems a lifetime ago now!). We received very positive feedback following Richard’s presentation and given the much-changed environment in which we must now report, felt that an update, to take in a reminder about changes to the Going Concern assessment, would be helpful. We also recognise that there have been quite a few new CEOs, Finance Directors and Managers, and Trustees, joining local Age UKs in the intervening period.

The session, which will again be open to all relevant management and staff in Local Age UKs, and trustees, will be presented by Naziar Hashemi, Partner, National Head of Social Purpose & Non Profit Organisations, Crowe LLP.

Please reserve the date and time in your diaries – 11:00 until 12:30 on Wednesday, 22nd September. Registration details will be published nearer the time.

Finance Focus: Important VAT Updates and Support for Partners

Age UK’s Financial Governance Team have created a summary of the support available to Partners to help you to review your VAT position.

Through the wide-ranging enquiries received by the VAT helpline and directly by the Financial Governance team, we recognise that this continues to be a key area of challenge for many partners. It has no doubt been further exacerbated by Covid- 19. Below is a handy summary of the support available to Partners from our VAT Helpline provider Crowe UK LLP to help review your VAT position.

We would encourage all partners to regularly review your VAT position through their professional advisors, even if you may not be currently VAT registered. A VAT health check can highlight any potential issues with your VAT accounting, identify any weaknesses in your accounting systems and look for any opportunities to improve your position.

As you currently work through your year-end accounts for 2020-21 this may be an opportune time to do so. Remember, getting it right can save you money; getting it wrong can be very costly.

Our VAT Helpline provider Crowe UK LLP have produced a wide range of bitesize webinars and publish regular updates and insights on key topics of interest for the charity sector. The webinars, such as Covid-19 and VAT recovery and others can be accessed (available on demand) here.

Partners seeking basic VAT advice and support can access this through our VAT Helpline. Crowe UK LLP offer a free 15-minute consultation, available to all partners in England and Wales (Cymru). Support can be accessed via their helpline and on email, as and when needed, between 9.30am and 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Email: ageukVAT@crowe.co.uk  or Call: 0207 842 7499

If the team is busy, the call will go to a dedicated voicemail. They will endeavour to respond within one working day. The same applies to any enquiries sent in by email.

Please note: Crowe will discuss VAT specific matters only for a period of up to 15 minutes with no charge. They will then draft an email confirming their advice and where appropriate include a reference to HMRC guidance and public notices.

For queries which are likely to exceed 15 minutes, or where additional work is necessary to bring the query to a resolution, Crowe will discuss with the local partner and where appropriate, give an indication of fees to continue with the query. Where such additional and in-depth bespoke support is required, any agreed fees are payable directly by the local partner to Crowe. To be clear, local Age UKs are under no obligation to use the professional services of Crowe UK LLP.

Remember the Helpline service is not intended to be a comprehensive technical reference, but rather a user-friendly support for our local partners to improve knowledge of, and compliance with, VAT requirements and to ensure opportunities to mitigate VAT are fully considered. Above all, to encourage the network to seek professional advice be it through Crowe or other accredited VAT specialist providers as and where appropriate to do so.

Finance Update: How trustees can tackle fraud & cyber crime

Some resources for trustees to use to help with identifying and tackling fraud and cyber crime – including an upcoming webinar.

Back in October 2020, the Charity Commission said that charities had reported crimes worth £3.6m during a six-month period, to Action Fraud, the UK’s national centre for tackling fraud. The true scale of fraud against charities is believed to be much higher, as fraud is known to be underreported. Off the back of this, it warned trustees to strengthen their defences as it fears the pandemic has created environments – remote working and virtual activities and sign-off processes as examples – that are enabling charity fraud. Full guidance on how trustees can set about identifying and tackling fraud can be found below along with details of an upcoming webinar.

Guidance from Crowe LLP

Crowe UK LLP recently published comprehensive guidance on this – ‘Social Purpose and Non-Profit Organisations Fraud Risk Assessment’.

It sets out key questions for Boards to ask as a starting point in considering Fraud risk and then presents a more detailed Organisational Counter Fraud Checklist. It also includes a checklist of potential fraud risks by function and activity and is intended to help Board members to identify the types of operational fraud risks which may be relevant to the organisation.

Finally, it highlights a set of questions from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) publication “10 Steps to Cyber Security” to assist Boards with their existing strategic-level risk discussions on cyber security and specifically how to ensure the right safeguards and cultures are in place.

Additional Resources

There are a wide range of guidance, polices and procedure templates, checklists, manuals, and videos to help you from a variety of sources. Age UK’s Finance Team have collated this guidance in the document below:

Upcoming Webinar on Fraud

Following the release of this guidance, Crowe are also running a webinar titled Prevention and cure: good governance and legal redress for charities dealing with fraud. This will take place on Wednesday 12 May 2021 at 9.30AM. For further information and to register to attend please use this link.

Finance Update: VAT Guidance

Our VAT Helpline provider Crowe has published some guidance on VAT which may be useful.

At the end of March, our VAT Helpline provider Crowe UK LLP published insights on common trading activity VAT issues for charities in 2021. The following are a couple of the key topics flagged that we thought would be of particular interest to colleagues in the network, whether you are VAT registered or involved in VAT-exempt/non-business activities that also undertake trading activities such as sales from charity shops, cafes and other social enterprise activities.

VAT Issues:
  1. Donated Goods Retail Gift Aid Scheme and VAT

    The Retail Gift Aid scheme is used by many charities in order to treat what would have been the sale of donated goods as donations of cash by acting as agent for the owners in selling their goods. This enables the charity to be able to claim Gift Aid.  

    It is important to note, that from a VAT perspective, this changes the nature of the transaction entirely. If donated goods are sold, the shop is making a zero-rated taxable business activity which enables VAT recovery on associated costs. Whereas, if a charity is selling goods on behalf of someone in return for a donation, this is a ‘non-business activity’ and so while there is no VAT due on the donation, VAT cannot be recovered on the associated costs.  

    This can result in the shop being required to apply an apportionment to arrive at the correct amount of VAT recoverable in relation to the shop costs so VAT administration increases and VAT recovery is reduced.

    Solution: To properly operate the scheme, the charity should charge a VAT bearing commission to the donor of the goods. This does mean a small amount of VAT being paid to HMRC but VAT on associated costs incurred on the shops can be recovered in full.

    Further note on donated goods: Please note that the zero-rating can only apply to donated goods sold in their current state and some repair works/painting would be allowed. Where items are ‘upcycled’ e.g., donated pallets turned into garden storage units, the standard rate of VAT must be applied to sales.

  2. Effect of COVID-19 on VAT recovery rates

    The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many charity shops, cafes and social enterprise activities to close temporarily. This could have an impact on the amount of VAT recoverable on overhead costs, particularly where the charity uses an income-based apportionment as the proxy for recovery (e.g., the standard method of partial exemption). This is because taxable income has been reduced while exempt income may have remained constant. For example, care services in general will have continued during lockdown, while shops/cafes and conference venues have remained closed.

    Solution: Apply to HMRC to agree an alternative recovery method for the year. HMRC has released an information sheet which states it will look at these requests sympathetically and has set up a purpose-built inbox to review these applications. We would suggest that charities review their recovery rates to see if there has been, or will be (using a forecast), a heavy reduction input tax recovery so this can be addressed. HMRC’s release can be accessed here.

Should there be sufficient interest from across the sector, Crowe have indicated they will look to record a 10-minute webinar providing more detailed information on this subject. Please register your interest here

Further information

Please contact the Age UK VAT Helpdesk on 0207 842 7499 or AgeukVAT@crowe.co.uk or your usual professional contact if you wish to discuss any of the above issues further.

Shared with thanks to Crowe UK LLP.

Are you ready for Phase Two of Making Tax Digital on 1 April 2021?

Phase Two of Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT goes live from 1 April 2021, Crowe LLP have a two-level offer of support which may be of interest to Partners.

Phase Two of Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT goes live from 1 April 2021. Feedback from Crowe UK LLP, our VAT Helpline Support Provider, indicates that many organisations are unclear about how the rules impact on them, and whether they will be compliant. They are seeing an increased appetite to review current VAT return processes and to provide recommendations on how organisations can be compliant with the new rules. To this end, they have pulled together the following two level offer (fees will be payable) which may be of interest to partners in the network who feel they need some additional help and support with this.

  1. A standard MTD review to check if there are any risks of non-compliance to the MTD rules, detailing specific rules which would apply to your circumstance and comments on simple solutions for digital links; and
  2. An enhanced MTD review, which will include a full remote review of the latest VAT return workings to identify specific areas where there is exposure to non-compliance of the MTD rules and consideration of alternative methods of preparing MTD compliant VAT returns.

Further details can be found in the document below:

Should you wish to discuss this proposal or if you have a general query about Making Tax Digital, please contact the Age UK VAT Helpdesk on 0207 842 7499 or AgeukVAT@crowe.co.uk.

Please note: you are under no obligation to use Crowe UK LLP to undertake an MTD review. Our aim is to encourage the network to seek accredited professional advice as and where required to support them in this and other VAT matters.