Benefits other than means-tested bursaries can be a vital factor in enabling charities that charge high fees to meet the charity test, according to the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.
In order to significantly mitigate high fees, such benefits must be regular, timetabled, related to the charity's core activity and targeted at new beneficiaries.
The guidance comes in a progress report on the OSCR's rolling review of Scottish charities. In October 2008, the regulator concluded that four fee-charging schools did not offer enough means-tested bursaries to fulfil the public benefit requirements of the Scottish charity test.
The report says plans submitted last October by the schools, setting out how they will redress their failings, all promise both to increase means-tested bursaries and offer significantly more free benefits.
These include opening sports facilities to other local schools and tutoring pupils from those schools in subjects to which they would not otherwise have access. The plans must be implemented by October 2011.
The report concludes that free benefits can mitigate high fees provided they have significant impact, which is not necessarily related to the cost of providing them.
It says some benefits can be quantified by the number of beneficiaries and the extent to which they benefit, such as by having an unmet need addressed. But there is no single indicator that can quantify all free benefits, it concludes.