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The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
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Have you missed your registration deadline?

One of the functions of the Commission, the charity regulator, is to assure the public that charities operating in Northern Ireland can demonstrate their contribution to society and are operating within the law. 

As part of this requirement, the Commission began compulsory registration of all charities in Northern Ireland for the first time on Monday 16 December 2013.  This means an organisation must apply to register as a charity in Northern Ireland if:

  • it has exclusively charitable purposes
  • it is governed by the law of Northern Ireland
  • it is an institution, that is, it is an organisation that is an independent body, the hallmarks of which include having control and direction over its governance and resources.

According to estimates, there are over 7,000 charities currently operating in Northern Ireland, so the Commission is managing the process of registration by calling organisations forward to register in tranches.

To support this process, the Commission is asking all charities to check the Commission’s online registration list today and, if their charity is not listed, complete an online Expression of intent form immediately. 

It may be that the contact details held by the Commission for some of the organisations are out of date. The Commission is therefore urging all charities to check the registration list. If the link indicates no contact details for the organisation, please contact us as soon as possible.

Organisations which have failed to meet their application submission deadline are also identified on the Commission's registration list, which is available to view here. This list is updated by the Commission on a monthly basis.

If you have missed your deadline or are concerned that you will not meet your deadline, you should contact the Commission as soon as possible via the Contact us section of the Commission’s website.

Commission Chief Executive, Frances McCandless, commented: “Charity trustees are legally obliged to apply to register with the Commission and it is essential that trustees take that requirement seriously, taking the steps they need to successfully register. 

“While we would prefer to have organisations apply to register with us when called forward, ultimately, if they do not, the trustees of those organisations could find themselves facing High Court action.

“It is also the responsibility of trustees to take action now to prepare for registration, including ensuring the Commission has their details for registration. 

“They can do this by checking the online registration list and following the next steps outlined. For example, if they aren’t on the list, they should complete an online Expression of intent form immediately.

“It is also vital that charities applying to register use the free registration support available on our website; if an application is so poor that we cannot process it then it will be rejected, requiring it to be improved and resubmitted.”

To find out more about registration – and what your charity should do to prepare for registration now click here.

Failure to apply for registration

An organisation has three months to submit its registration application from the date it is called forward to apply, with all applicants urged to use the Commission’s free registration support to assist them. 

When an organisation fails to meet the registration deadline the Commission will issue a warning letter to the orgnaisation, will publish the organisation’s details on its website as being non-compliant with the law, and will inform HMRC (if applicable) that the organisation has failed to apply. Any decision to remove charitable tax benefits will be assessed by HMRC.  

Under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008, charity trustees have a statutory duty to apply to register their charity with the Commission. If the trustees fail to apply to register or fail to supply the Commission with the required documents and information, they will be in breach of the law and the Commission has power under the Charities Act to direct, by order, the trustees to make a registration application. 

If this order is not complied with, the Commission may then apply to the High Court. The trustees’ failure to apply will then be treated as a breach of an order from the High Court, with the Court deciding if the trustees are guilty of contempt and, if guilty, imposing the appropriate sanction.

Refused registration

If an application for registration is unsuccessful, the Commission will write to the organisation explaining why this decision has been reached. 

This should inform the organisation’s next steps and they may be able to reapply in the future. The Commission will also explain the process the organisation can use if it disagrees with a decision or wishes to challenge the decision by requesting an internal review or by applying to the Charity Tribunal.

If an organisation is unsuccessful in the registration process, the Commission will also notify HMRC. HMRC provide charitable tax benefits under the Finance Act 2010 and any decision to remove charitable benefits (for example Gift Aid) will be reassessed by them.