The local infrastructure umbrella body Navca has said proposals by the Charity Commission to charge for its services would be a "charity tax" and that any consultation about the measure "will prove phoney".
Ideas put forward at the meeting included a fixed fee of £265 for all charities with annual incomes of more than £10,000, and a sliding scale that would involve the largest charities paying £1,500 a year.
The regulator said all the mooted ideas would raise about £23m a year. The commission has had its budget cut by about half in real terms in recent years to £20.8m a year.
Neil Cleeveley, chief executive of Navca, said the umbrella body was totally opposed to the concept of charging and was disappointed that the regulator continued to push the idea as an answer to its funding issues.
"We are totally opposed to an annual charge," he said. "It would be an extra cost that charities could not avoid – in effect, a tax on charities.
"We appreciate the commission’s work and its excellent staff, but charging is not in anyone’s interest, especially the public who give so much time and money to charitable causes."
Cleeveley said the commission was being disingenuous in the way it was approaching the issue.
"I feel for sure the figures of up to £265 for small charities are deliberately unpalatable," he said. "The commission is setting up the consultation in a way that will allow it to say it has listened and then impose a lower charge – probably the charge it had in mind in the first place."
Cleeveley said the commission should abandon charging plans and work with charities to explain to government why it was important to fund a strong, independent regulator.
Asked to comment on Navca’s claims, a spokesman for the commission said the consultation would be open and objective and there was no predetermined position.
"Both the public and charities recognise that the charity sector needs a properly funded regulator in order to protect public trust and confidence in charities," he said. "Recent high-profile issues have proved this.
"We will be launching a consultation soon and want to encourage as many trustees and charities to participate as possible."