Charity Commission for Northern Ireland to start registering charities in late 2013

The commission's chief executive, Frances McCandless, says its work has been hampered by legislative hold-ups

Frances McCandless
Frances McCandless

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland will begin registering charities towards the end of 2013, according to its latest annual report.

The report says the regulator was frustrated that charity registration has not yet begun and that making progress on the registration of Northern Ireland’s 7,000 to 10,000 charities was its key objective for the 2012/13 financial year.

The commission was established in Northern Ireland by the Charities Act 2008, which set out the registration of charities as its a key task.

At present, organisations with charitable status for tax purposes in Northern Ireland only appear on a 'deemed list' of about 6,500 organisations put together by HM Revenue & Customs.

The registration process was delayed after lawyers raised concerns that the wording of the act created public benefit criteria that were a mix of the Scottish law and the definition used in England and Wales, meaning it could be open to legal challenge.

The England and Wales definition has since been adopted in Northern Ireland.

The annual report, published today, says the commission will hold a public consultation on its public benefit guidance in spring 2013 and charity registration should begin later in the year.

In the report’s introduction, the commission’s chief executive Frances McCandless and Tom McGrath, its chief commissioner, said: "The charity commissioners are frustrated that rolling out this aspect of our work has been hampered by a series of legislative hold-ups and problems."

The report also says that the regulator had fielded concerns about charities from the public "on an almost daily basis".

"Significant work goes into assessing whether we can deal with these concerns and, where necessary, progressing investigations," it says.

"A year of regulatory work will also prompt further reflection and analysis on how we deal with concerns about charities. This will involve reviewing policies and procedures to ensure that our work is efficient and effective."

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