The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland was established under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008. This Act laid down the general functions of the Commission, which include:
- determining whether institutions are or are not charities
- establishing and maintaining an accurate and up-to-date register of charities
- encouraging and facilitating the better administration of charities
- identifying and investigating apparent misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of charities and taking remedial or protective action.
In June 2012 the Commission referred a technical problem with the wording of the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 to the Department for Social Development (now part of the Department for Communities) for consideration. Following that, Royal Assent was granted on 18 January 2013 to the Bill to amend the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.
The subsequent amendments made by the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2013 meant registration of charities in Northern Ireland could begin later that year, with registration subsequently commencing on Monday 16 December 2013.
The full text of the 2008 and 2013 Acts, and The Charities (Accounts and Reports) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2015, as passed by the Northern Ireland Assembly, are available below:
The Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 available above is the entire Act. However, the entire Act has not yet been brought into operation. This will happen gradually through a series of Commencement Orders. Each Commencement Order gives a date by which each section of the Act becomes "live".
In order to help you understand what is currently live, we have produced a copy of the 2008 Act, which shows only the commenced sections and the amendments made by the 2013 Act. This document is available to read or download below.
As highlighted above, The Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 is being brought into operation in stages. As of September 2021, some of the powers were not yet in operation.
The Commission has produced guidance on many of the powers which are in operation. This guidance is designed to assist charity trustees to comply with their duties under the legislation and to understand Commission processes, including what information they may need to provide to the Commission. An online list of our published guidance is available here.
Due to the limits of our resources we have not yet been able to produce guidance for all the powers of the Charities Act which are in operation, but have instead prioritised publishing guidance which is needed by the greatest number of charity trustees.
Where we do not yet have guidance for powers which are in operation we would encourage you to follow the guidance published by the Charity Commission of England and Wales (CCEW). The Charities Act is very similar to the law under which CCEW works and therefore the information in their guidance will be similar to the guidance we will produce in due course.
We are developing a table which will set out what powers are in operation for which we do not yet have guidance. We anticipate being able to publish this table on this web page in late autumn 2021.