One of the less-noticed effects of the financial crisis that began in 2008 was that it delayed the formation of the Charities Regulatory Authority in the Republic of Ireland, which was legislated for by the Charities Act 2009. It finally came into being in October last year, which means that all jurisdictions in the British Isles now have a modern regulatory regime for charities, and that charities that are based in UK countries but also operate in Ireland might need to register there.
The Charity Commission for England and Wales exempts from registration those charities with incomes of less than £5,000, and certain charities whose incomes are less than £100,000 – such as churches and scout and guide groups – do not have to register.
But Una Ní Dhubhghaill, chief executive of the CRA, says registration in the Republic of Ireland is both mandatory and comprehensive. "My advice to UK-based charities would be to have a look at our website to register or, if they're not sure, to make contact with us," she says.
The CRA is developing policies on compliance and reporting requirements for different sizes and types of charity. To help it do so, it has been given a place on the committee, led by the Charity Commission and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator, that sets the Statement of Recommended Practice accounting requirements.
It is also looking into whether it might adopt the same or similar standards and requirements as the three UK regulators. "A huge number of charities operate in both the UK and Ireland – what we don't want is to duplicate the administrative burdens on them," Ní Dhubhghaill says.
She was appointed in March 2014, having been head of the charities regulation policy unit at the Department of Justice and Equality since 2012. She says scrutiny of poor governance and fundraising practice in late 2013 helped to bring forward the new authority's start date.
The 8,500 organisations recognised as charities by the Office of the Revenue Commissioners for tax purposes have been automatically registered with the CRA. Ni Dhubhghaill says it is unclear how many other charities will register – estimates range from 2,000 to more than 10,000.
So far, only 300 applications have been received, which prompted the extension of the initial April 2015 registration deadline by a year.
"That deadline was hugely ambitious," she says. "I think the drafters of the legislation were aware of that, in that they allowed for this extension."