The new joint registration process for charities with the Charity Commission and HM Revenue & Customs will be in place by April 2016, according to HMRC's head of charities.
Andrew Edwards was speaking yesterday in a session of the joint committee on the draft Protection of Charities Bill. The legislation includes measures that would allow the commission to disqualify from being trustees people cautioned for or convicted of offences including money laundering, and the power to shut down any charity whose continued operation posed a risk to public confidence in charities.
The plan for a joint registration process was first announced in September 2013, at which point it was said it could be launched in 2015. Although both agencies have since suggested this deadline was unlikely to be met, no firm launch date has been given.
Edwards told the committee that the new online portal "will help to weed out inappropriate charities and help us to work better together", and would also be made available to the charity regulators in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
He was asked by committee member Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, the Conservative peer who oversaw the review of the Charities Act 2006, whether it would be useful for HMRC if charities with incomes of less than £5,000 a year – which are currently exempted from registration with the commission even though they might be registered with HMRC – were made to register with the commission.
Edwards replied: "Our view is that that would certainly be helpful." He said the exemption level was not a question for HMRC, but for the commission. "You'd have to ask it why it doesn't think that £5,000 should be removed or lowered," he said.
Edwards told the committee that the powers proposed in the bill were useful. "I definitely think they need the new powers," he said. He told the committee that HMRC had an "excellent working relationship with the commission", with the two bodies sharing advice and, in recent years, increasing amounts of data.
Also giving evidence was David Kirk, chair of the charity the Fraud Advisory Panel, who said he agreed that the powers seemed reasonable and sensible. But he said that his previous experience working at another regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority, had taught him that when a regulator became more proactive, as the commission itself had promised to do, it needed more resources. "The problem with having more powers is that inevitably you need more resources to exercise those powers," he said.