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Charities must ensure they are complying with the law, warns regulator

‘It is a legal requirement for charities in Northern Ireland to apply to register with us so don’t delay, take action today’ - is the latest message from the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland.

And to help charities meet their statutory duty, the charity regulator has this week published some simple steps all charities should follow now:

  1. Check the Commission has your details - Check the registration list online here to ensure the Commission knows your charity exists and has your contact details for registration. If your charity isn’t listed, you must submit an Expression of Intent form before the end of December 2014. 
  2. Use it or lose it - Called forward to register? Use the Commission’s free registration support tools to prepare your application - or risk having it rejected. 
  3. Spread the word - Know a Northern Ireland charity? Ask if they know about charity registration, have checked the Commission’s online lists and are ready to apply when called forward.

Frances McCandless, Chief Executive of the Commission, explained: “Under the law, charities in Northern Ireland must apply to register with the Commission and it is the responsibility of trustees to ensure they meet that statutory duty.

“As the first step in that process we are urging charities to take action now to check they are included on our registration list and, if not, complete and submit an Expression of Intent form before the end of December, providing us with their details.

“We understand that registering is a new process and may therefore appear daunting to some charities but it is a legal requirement and also brings with it a number of important benefits,” continued Ms McCandless.

“Each charity successfully registered will be listed on our public register of charities where everyone, including volunteers, donors and funders, will be able to check they are an open, accountable and bona fide charity.

“In the future, grant making bodies and funders may look to ensure a charity is registered as part of the grant application process, and it’s already mandatory to be registered before you can apply to HMRC for charitable tax status.” 

Under charity law, an organisation must apply to register if:

  • it has exclusively charitable purposes
  • it is governed by the law of Northern Ireland
  • it has control and direction over its governance and resources. 

This means all charities in Northern Ireland must apply for registration, irrespective of their size, income or whether the organisation is registered with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for charitable tax status.

The Commission has begun the process of registering the thousands of charities in Northern Ireland by calling organisations forward to apply in tranches, with the tranche list available to view online here.

However, all charities, whether or not they have heard from the Commission, are being warned that they must take action now to prepare for registration by following the simple steps outlined above.

“It is vital that all charities understand and comply with the requirements of charity law as there is no alternative to registration,” said Ms McCandless.

“While we would prefer to have charities register with us, ultimately the trustees of charities which do not apply for registration could find themselves facing High Court action,” she concluded.

To date, over 600 charities have successfully registered with the Commission with more charities added to the new register of charities every week. 

The Commission’s website includes a wide range of registration information and guidance, with the Commission also inviting each organisation called forward to apply to attend a registration workshop. For more information visit the Register your charity section of the Commission's website.

ENDS 

For more information please contact Shirley Kernan, Charity Commission for Northern Ireland Communications Officer, on telephone: 028 3832 0169, mobile: 07827338978 or email: shirley.kernan@charitycommissionni.org.uk