The Canal & River Trust, which will replace British Waterways, has received charitable status.
The trust revealed this week that it had registered with the Charity Commission.
It now has a board of trustees, a governing council and a patron - the Prince of Wales - but it is still awaiting parliamentary approval before the assets of British Waterways can be transferred to it. This is expected to happen in June.
Once it does, the trust is likely to become the 13th largest charity in the UK, with an annual income of about £200m.
It has agreed an £800m, 15-year funding package with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and will inherit a property portfolio worth £460m.
Lynne Berry, deputy chair of the trust, said: "Charitable registration means that we are now almost ready to start raising income from charitable sources, to add to the waterways’ solid foundation of government and self-earned income."