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Registering a Charity
Charitable organisations play an important role in society, which is why it is important to ensure that the process of setting up and registering a charity can be completed efficiently. JMW Solicitors provides legal advice and support to help charities get up and running as smoothly as possible.
The legal experts at JMW can offer guidance on the timescale, cost and processes involved in getting a charity off the ground, as well as helping your organisation get registered. We have a keen understanding of the often complex laws and regulations governing charities, and are well-placed to help you navigate this area.
How JMW Can Help
Our wills, trust and estate planning team has offered legal advice and regulatory support to numerous charities at various stages of their life spans, and will be able to answer any questions you might have.
The legal experts at JMW will walk you through the entire process of setting up and registering a charity, helping you find the right organisational structure, tailoring your constitution and identifying any governance issues you may face as you get up to speed. We will also help you get registered with the Charity Commission and HM Revenue & Customs, and provide advice on your regulatory responsibilities.
JMW Solicitors’ wills, trusts and estate planning team has been recognised as one of the best in the business by the Chambers and Legal 500 guides, with Chambers 2019 noting that our clients can rely on the fact that “there is always an expert on hand to guide clients, whatever the issue”.
How do I set up a charity?
To set up a charity in the UK, it is necessary to be able to name a certain number of trustees - usually at least three - and to designate a charitable purpose for the organisation, which needs to be for the public benefit.
After choosing a name for the charity, you will need to pick an organisational structure. You may choose to set up a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), a charitable company limited by guarantee, an unincorporated association or a charitable trust, each of which have different approaches to legal liability and managing their finances - as such, it is advisable to seek legal advice on the best structure for your intended goals.
Once these decisions have been made, the new charity will need to set out a legally-binding constitution or governing document that outlines how it will be run. It will also need to be registered with the Charity Commission as soon as it reaches a certain size.
Does a charity need to be registered?
Charities must be registered with the Charity Commission if their annual income is more than £5,000, or if they are a CIO of any size.
If it does not fall within these definitions, it will not need to be registered, but it may still be advisable to apply to HM Revenue & Customs to recognise the organisation as charitable, allowing tax to be claimed back on certain income sources, such as Gift Aid donations.
Certain types of charity do not have to register with the Charity Commission, or are regulated by other bodies; for example, community benefit societies are accountable to the Financial Conduct Authority. If you are unsure about whether or not your organisation needs to be registered, get in touch with a solicitor.
Does it cost to register a charity?
There is no charge from the Charity Commission for registering a new organisation, while registering an incorporated charity with Companies House requires only a small nominal fee.
However, the various complexities of the registration and setup processes mean that many new charities prefer to seek legal advice to help them get it right. As such, it is best to get an estimate of the fees involved from a solicitor before making an estimate of your overall startup costs.
How long does it take to register a charity?
Setting up a new charity and gaining registration approval can be a time-consuming process, with the waiting times involved depending on the scope of the proposed charity and the amount of additional information and clarification requested by the Charity Commission.
Registration with the Charity Commission takes around 40 days on average, though this can change during busy periods for the CommissionIf the organisation also needs to be registered with Companies House, the process will be longer still, so organisations can expect a waiting time of a few months in many cases.