Registration deadline for thousands of excepted charities extended by 10 years

The Charity Commission handles about 8,000 registration applications each year but there could be as many as 40,000 excepted charities that will need to register with the regulator from Anglican churches alone

(Photograph: Dimitris Vetsikas/Pixabay)
(Photograph: Dimitris Vetsikas/Pixabay)

The deadline for thousands of excepted charities to register with the Charity Commission has been extended by 10 years.

An exception for church charities with annual incomes of £100,000 or less was due to come to an end on 31 March this year, meaning those with an income of more than £5,000 a year would be required to register with the regulator.

Denominations that are set to lose excepted status include Baptist, Church of England, Congregational, Methodist, United Reformed and Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

At the commission's annual public meeting in October, the regulator said it expected the government to extend the deadline because the volume of applications was likely to be so much higher than it usually handled in a year.

Nick Baker, chief operating officer at the regulator, estimated there were about 30,000 to 40,000 excepted charities that might need to register from Anglican denominations alone.

But he said the regulator only handled about 8,000 applications for registration in a typical year and was expecting the government to extend the deadline.

The Charities (Exception from Registration)(Amendment) Regulations 2021 were laid before parliament on 19 January.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport said the exception would be extended to 31 March 2031 and the department would monitor and review the progress the regulator was making by March 2026.

DCMS estimates there to be about 35,000 excepted church charities, representing roughly five times the commission’s annual registration capacity.

The department said that because many of these charities had been adversely affected by the pandemic, they lacked the capacity and resources to manage the administrative burden of the registration process.

DCMS hopes the extended period will allow for a phased and orderly programme of voluntary registration and that the charities will begin the process much sooner than the new deadline.

The commission welcomed the extension and said it would work with church representative bodies to design and develop the voluntary registration programme during 2021. It said it would publish guidance on the programme when it was ready to commence.

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: “Significant planning and support will be required to register these organisations with the Charity Commission.

“The government has therefore concluded that it is inappropriate to impose a regulatory burden on these small charities at this time.”

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