Attorney General to ask charity tribunal to rule on occupational benefit funds

Dominic Grieve seeks clarification on how the public benefit test affects charities that benefit a restricted group of people

Attorney General Dominic Grieve
Attorney General Dominic Grieve

Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, will ask the charity tribunal to rule on whether charitable trusts such as employees’ benevolent funds whose beneficiaries are defined by a relationship to an individual or company, meet the public benefit requirement.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office said Grieve would submit the reference to the tribunal early next year. The Charity Commission had asked Grieve to do so, said the spokesman.

Under the Charities Act 2006, charities must show that they operate for the public benefit. After the act was passed the commission said it would publish guidance on what this meant for single employer and occupational benevolent funds, whose benefit is restricted to a small and narrowly-defined group of people. The regulator has not yet published the guidance.

In a statement Kenneth Dibble, the director of legal services at the commission, said the regulator welcomed the reference. "The Charity Commission recognises that the act may have changed the law so far as these charities are concerned," he said. "The reference by the Attorney General, to which the commission is a party, will seek to clarify the law in this area."

A separate reference from the Attorney General, asking the tribunal to consider the commission’s public benefit guidance for independent schools, will be heard by the courts in May.

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