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Use this page to understand what charity status is and if you need to register as a charity.
Charity is a specific status for an organisation. Charity status is not a legal structure, although being a charity will likely inform your legal structure.
According to the Charities Act 2011, to have charity status, an organisation must meet the following criteria.
The Charity Commission regulates registered charities in England and Wales. Even if you have charity status, not all charities are required to register with the Charity Commission.
Charities have to register with the Charity Commission if:
Find information about how to register a charity on the Charity Commission website.
Charities that have an annual income of less than £5,000 are not required to register with the Charity Commission and cannot voluntarily do so unless they have the legal structure of a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), meaning they're automatically registered. They must still follow charity law. The Charity Commission can investigate even though these organisations are not required to register.
If your organisation has charity status, this means:
Trustees are responsible in law for making sure that charities are run to deliver their charitable purposes for the public benefit. A trustee is a voluntary role as part of a charity. You will need at least 3 unrelated trustees to register with the Charity Commission. This is set out in the charity’s governing document or constitution.
All charities (registered or unregistered) must follow Charity Commission rules and guidance. If a charity is also a registered company with Companies House, it will need to follow the Companies Act (2006). Rules and guidance may differ depending on the size of your charity.
Charities may be restricted in the work that can be carried out or funded. Certain political activities and types of trading are subject to restrictions. For example, charities cannot engage in trading that simply aims to generate funds for the charity and is not related to its charitable objectives.
As a charity you are required to do the following.
Find further information on:
Whatever their size, charities can register with HMRC for tax purposes. Charities don’t pay tax on most of their income and gains if they use it for charitable purposes.
GOV.UK has information about tax reliefs and when charities do pay tax.
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This is a complex area and can be hard to understand. This information is not a substitute for legal advice.
Last reviewed: 03 June 2021Help us improve this content
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