Charity registration: FAQs
We would strongly encourage anyone who would like information on charity registration to refer to one of our guidance documents, which include:
- Registering as a charity in Northern Ireland guidance.
- The public benefit requirement statutory guidance (charity trustees must have regard to this guidance when starting, registering, running and reporting on their charity).
- Supporting documents on the 12 charitable purposes.
These documents are available to read or download here. Below you will find answers to our frequently asked questions on charity registration.
If you click on a question in the list below, you will be brought to the answer for that question. Alternatively, you can scroll down to read all of the questions and answers.
- Why do we need charity registration?
- When did charity registration begin?
- Will registration with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland mean automatic charitable tax status with HMRC?
- I have already registered with HMRC, why do I have to register again?
- I would like to start a new charity – do I need to register with the Commission before I apply to HMRC regarding Gift Aid?
- While I am waiting to register, can I still claim Gift Aid?
- If I am not registered, will I lose my HMRC status?
- Will I receive a certificate of registration if my application is successful?
- I have submitted an Expression of Intent form, when will you call me forward to apply?
- How much does it cost to apply?
- Are there penalties for not applying?
- Will I have to apply every year?
- What if my application isn’t successful - what should I do next?
- I have issued myself with a password using the 'Issue a new password' button on the system but when I try to log in using the password received I keep getting an error message?
- I am searching on the register of charities for a charity with a fada in their name– should I include the fada?
Prior to the establishment of the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland, there was no form of local (Northern Ireland) charity registration and only limited provision for enforcement of charity law.
This changed with the creation of an independent regulator of Northern Ireland charities, the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland. The creation of a commission was advocated for by Northern Ireland charities and brings charity regulation into line with Scotland, England and Wales.
Applying for registration as a charity in Northern Ireland should not be viewed as a daunting process, as the information required is information that charities should be keeping anyway. In fact, registration should bring a number of benefits both to charities and the wider general public.
Charities, for example, can wear their registration as a badge of honour, demonstrating that they have been legally confirmed as a charity and are open, accountable and transparent.
Members of the public, donors, beneficiaries and organisations such as grant making bodies and other support groups, will be able to use the online register of charities as a publicly accessible database of all Northern Ireland charities.
The Commission began registration on Monday 16 December 2013.
It is estimated there are between 7,000 and 12,000 charities currently operating in Northern Ireland, ranging from churches, clubs and drop-in groups to societies and umbrella bodies. Therefore, registration is a managed process. Organisations are being called forward by the Commission in tranches to apply for registration over coming months and years. You can find out more information on how the Commission will manage registration here.
No, you will have to first apply to register with the Commission as a charity before applying separately to HMRC for charitable tax status.
If you already have charitable tax status with HMRC prior to registering with the Commission, you will not need to reapply to HMRC and your HMRC reference number will remain the same.
HMRC do not regulate charities. This role falls specifically to the Commission and as a consequence makes charities much more accountable to the public.
Holding an HMRC number means your organisation has been granted charitable tax exemptions by HMRC, which makes its assessment under the Finance Act 2010. It does not mean your organisation is a registered charity.
Only organisations which have successfully registered with the Commission will be classed as charities. Each registered charity will receive a unique NIC (Northern Ireland Charity) number.
Yes, as registration has now commenced, you will need to successfully register as a charity with the Commission first in order to apply to HMRC for charitable tax exemptions. Registration with the Commission is not a guarantee of receiving charitable tax status with HMRC, which makes an independent assessment under the Finance Act.
If you have started a new charity, please complete the online Expression of intent form to provide your details to the Commission, enabling you to be called forward to apply for charity registration.
Yes, while you are awaiting registration as a charity with the Commission, it will still be possible to claim Gift Aid if you have already been granted charitable tax status by HMRC.
If you are successfully registered as a charity by the Commission, you will not need to reapply to HMRC for charitable tax status and your HMRC number will remain the same
If you are unsuccessful in the registration process, the Commission will notify HMRC. HMRC provide charitable tax benefits under the Finance Act 2010 and any decision to remove charitable benefits will be reassessed by them.
If you do not make your application for registration within three months from the date at which your organisation is called forward, the Commission will notify HMRC that your application has not been submitted and your Gift Aid entitlement may be withdrawn/suspended until your application is submitted.
The Commission does not issue registration certificates. Once registered, the charity will be issued with a unique Northern Ireland charity number (NIC) which acts as verification of registration.
As you may be aware, the Commission is managing the process of calling the thousands of charitable organisations forward in tranches to apply for registration. This allows the Commission to process the high volume of registration applications it has, and will continue to, receive in a fair and efficient manner.
We understand that having contacted the Commission you may be keen to begin your registration application as soon as possible. However, the submission of an Expression of Intent form does not mean your organisation will be called forward earlier. You do not need to do anything further at this stage as the Commission wil contact you at the email address you have provided when we are in a position to call your organisatiosn forward.
While the register of charities is growing, supporting bodies, such as funders, are normally content that you are on the Commission’s registration list and therefore the Commission knows about your organisation for registration purposes.
However, if you believe that there are valid reasons for your organisation to be called forward quickly, then please contact the Commission in writing, outlining your reasons and providing supporting evidence, if appropriate. The Commission will assess your request based on the information you provide and respond to you as soon as possible.
There are no exceptions or exemptions to applying for charity registration, which is compulsory for all charities.
Failure to apply to register when called forward, or failing to supply us with the required documents and information, is a breach of the Charities Act and the Commission may pursue the issue through the courts. It will also result in the loss of your recognition as a charity, including for tax purposes, which could mean HMRC will no longer pay Gift Aid to your organisation.
Q. Will I have to apply every year?
No, registration is a one off process. However, you will be required to notify us of any change, for example if your charity closes, and keep us updated on your activities via the annual reporting regime for registered charities.
Annual reporting by charities plays an important role in the Commission’s regulation and monitoring work as well as helping to ensure the register of charities is accurate and up to date.
If your application for registration is unsuccessful, we will write to you explaining why we have reached this decision. This should inform your next steps as an organisation, and you may be able to reapply in the future.
We will also explain the process you can use if you disagree with our decision or feel we have misunderstood your application and wish to challenge the decision.
The 'Issue a new password' button will only work for organisations which have been called forward for registration by the Commission and have an account set up for the online registration system.
If you have not yet been called forward for registration, please do not use the 'Issue a new password' button as you will be unable to access the online system using this password.
If you have been called forward for registration and have forgotten or lost your password, you may use the 'Issue a new password' button to send a new password to the email address linked to your account.
If you have been called forward for registration and have attempted to issue yourself with a new password but received an error message, please contact the Commission.
At present, if a charity has a fada in their name and you are searching for that charity on the public register of charities then you must include the fada in the search term.
For example, if you are searching for the charity Trócaire, you must include the fada when submitting the name in the charity search box. If you search for the term “Trocaire”, excluding the fada, the search will return no results.