Keep it legal: Charities Act 2006

There have been some significant developments since the update published in March about the Charities Act.

The Charity Commission published its draft guidance on public benefit for consultation: the results and the finalised guidance are due next month. The commission will be carrying out further sub-sector consultations on the public benefit issue, focusing initially on charities for the relief of poverty, the advancement of education and the promotion of religion, and on fee-charging charities.

A consultation is in progress on the rules of practice and procedure for the Charity Tribunal. The Judicial Appointments Committee will shortly be interviewing for the positions of president and legally qualified members of the tribunal, which is expected to be operational from January 2008. The JAC is also expected to begin the selection process for lay members. Anyone who is interested in sitting as a lay member should check the JAC's website: www.judicialappointments.gov.uk.

The joint consultation on the changes to audit, accounting and reporting rules for charities closed on 14 September. It is proposed that the changes to the current regulations should take effect for financial years beginning on or after 1 January 2008.

A consultation on the charitable incorporated organisation will begin shortly, with another one reviewing all the financial thresholds in the Charities Acts due later this year.

The second commencement order will be made next month and will bring into force the provisions to facilitate mergers between charities. This will also bring into effect the provisions that require professional fundraisers and commercial participators to make much clearer statements about their charitable fundraising activities. A consultation is also due to be launched about what such statements should include in order to ensure the public knows what happens to their money.

The bulk of the remaining provisions of the act will be brought into effect by a third commencement order in January 2008. But the changes to the rules governing excepted and exempt charities will not be in force before late 2008. Moreover, the new licensing regime for public charitable collections will be implemented only in 2009, at the earliest.

- Claris D'cruz is a consultant in the charities department at Wilsons LLP

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