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The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
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Regulator issues warning for charities applying to register

Northern Ireland’s charity regulator has urged organisations applying for charity registration to use the free registration support available – or risk having their application rejected. 

The Commission, which began compulsory registration in Northern Ireland for the first time in December last year, issued the warning as it draws closer to meeting the milestone of 500 charities registered.

Frances McCandless, Commission Chief Executive, explained: “So far we have called forward over 3,000 charities for registration, with charities being added to the public register of charities every week as a result. 

“We have found that charities using our free registration guidance to prepare in advance are submitting better registration applications than those who don’t, making the process quicker and easier for the charity and the Commission. 

“Registration should not be a daunting process for any charity but it’s vital that charities understand the requirements of charity law, particularly around the concepts of public benefit and charitable purposes.

“Our guidance is there to help charities understand what they are required to do to register, how they demonstrate that they are charitable in law and to prepare their applications before they begin.

“Charity trustees are legally obliged to apply to register with the Commission and it is essential trustees take that requirement seriously, taking the steps they need to successfully register as a charity.

“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.”

The Commission’s online support, available on the Registration support section of the Commission's website, includes:

  • registration and public benefit guidance
  • a purposes and public benefit toolkit
  • an online registration tutorial
  • document and information checklists.

In addition, the Commission invites every charity called forward for registration to a workshop where they receive an overview of the registration application and gain a deeper understanding of public benefit and charitable purposes.

“Charity registration is compulsory, regardless of an organisation’s size, activities or whether or not they are already registered with HMRC for charitable tax status,” Ms McCandless continued.

“The Commission’s registration team is working hard to support organisations through registration, but if an application is so poor that we cannot process it then it will be rejected, requiring it to be improved and resubmitted.

“I therefore urge all charities - check the Commission’s website, use the guidance and support available and ensure that your charity understands and prepares for registration now.”

The Commission began registration on 16 December 2013.  It is estimated that there are between 7,000 and 12,000 charities currently operating in Northern Ireland. Given those numbers, registration is a managed process with organisations called forward by the Commission in tranches. 

If a charity is unsuccessful in the registration process, the Commission will notify Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) of the decision.  HMRC provide charitable tax benefits under the Finance Act 2010 and charitable benefits to the organisation will therefore be reassessed by HMRC. 

If an organisation does not apply for registration within three months from the date at which it is called forward, the Commission will notify HMRC and Gift Aid entitlement may be withdrawn or suspended until the application is submitted.


For more information please contact Shirley Kernan, Charity Commission for Northern Ireland Communications Officer, on telephone: 028 3832 0169 or email: 

Notes to editors

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland is the independent regulator of charities in Northern Ireland. It was established under the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008.

The Act states that the Commission must keep a publicly accessible register of all charities in Northern Ireland. The Commission had registered 466 charities as at 17 October 2014.