The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland has published its statutory guidance on the public benefit requirement after holding a consultation earlier this year.
From late 2013 it will become compulsory for all charities in Northern Ireland to register with the commission. To register, charities must show that they have exclusively charitable purposes that benefit the public.
The new guidance sets out what public benefit is and what charities need to know to ensure they are meeting the requirements.
"The public benefit requirement is defined in the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 and states that purposes must be for the public benefit to be charitable," it says. "Charity trustees must know and be able to identify the purposes of their charity."
The commission ran a public consultation earlier this year on a draft version of the guidance. A summary report on the consultation said the draft guidance would be amended before final publication to reflect concerns raised during the consultation.
The report said some concerns were raised about the registration of charities that were for the advancement of religion.
The commission’s response says: "We would like to reassure all organisations applying for charitable status that the commission will be evaluating applications on the basis of legislation and case law, and not by judging cultural or religious views. It is not the role of the commission to adjudicate over beliefs."
Other changes include a clearer explanation of what a "section of the public" means in regard to the provision of benefit.
In addition to this statutory guidance, the commission will produce supporting documents that provide further information on the 12 charitable purposes outlined in the Charities Act.
In an online statement, the commission said it was in the process of finalising these documents and they would be available to read or download soon.