The Charity Commission has registered 56 charitable incorporated organisations since registration began in early January.
The new legal form, which was included in the Charities Act 2006 and was initially intended to become available from 2008, allows charities to enter into contracts as corporate entities with limited liability for trustees and members.
Charities taking up CIO status do not need to register with Companies House or be subject to company law, but are registered with and regulated by the Charity Commission.
The commission said yesterday that 55 of the newly registered CIOs were new organisations, which have been able to apply to register since December. The first CIOs were registered in early January.
The remaining CIO was Challenge to Change, a Kent-based NGO that supports people in Vietnam in dealing with the effects of climate change. It became the first existing charity to convert to the new form after registration for charities with annual incomes of more than £250,000 opened on 1 March.
Applications will be accepted from charities with lower annual incomes on a staggered basis from 1 May, when those with incomes of between £100,000 and £250,000 will be allowed to apply. From early 2014 any charity will be able to apply.
Responding to questions on CIOs as part of a question-and-answer session on Twitter organised by the commission, Neil Robertson, head of the commission’s operations in Taunton, Somerset, said that small to medium-sized charities had accounted for a large number of CIO applications.
He said that a cross-section of different types of charities had registered under the form so far, but it was too early to say whether CIOs were appealing to any type of charity in particular.
Robertson said the commission would be happy to consider a variation on the CIO model for particular charity groups, such as faith groups, and said it had already registered CIOs with a simplified version of the model outlined in the commission’s published documents.
One tweeter, a trustee of a small charity, said the commission’s existing information on CIOs was "lengthy and unfriendly". Robertson replied: "Since you have raised this, we will look and see if we can make this more accessible."