The Charity Commission expects the government to extend the deadline for thousands of excepted charities to register because the volume of applications is likely to be several times the number it typically handles in a year.
The exception for church charities with annual incomes of £100,000 or less is due to come to an end on 31 March, meaning those with an income of more than £5,000 a year will be required to register with the regulator.
At the commission’s annual public meeting yesterday, 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.
Denominations that are set to lose excepted status include Baptist, Church of England, Congregational, Methodist, United Reformed and Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).
Baker was responding to a question from Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, who asked for an update on plans for the process.
Parker said: “For us as an umbrella body for the local Quaker charities, this matters because we need to be able to support their trustees through the registration process.”
Baker said: “I think the commission acknowledges this is an immense challenge for excepted faith groups that are impacted.
“However, we’re aware the government is intending to extend this deadline – we don’t when to, or when they are going to make this announcement, but we know they are going to extend it.”
Baker said that the commission was awaiting the analysis of some feedback from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport because it had been engaging with the affected groups.
He said the volume of anticipated applications was so high that the regulator recognised “that we’re not going to be able to do it in a normal way”.
He added: “In the not too distant future, when we understand what that deadline is, we will be reaching out to those that are affected to let you know how we intend to get through it.”
Speaking after the event, Parker said faith charities deserved better.
“The Charity Commission has known about this deadline for 10 years, but there is still no plan for registering excepted charities,” he said.
“The commission’s response was disappointing, because there is still no clarity as to how they will proceed. The commission and the DCMS should have worked together to resolve this issue long before now,” he said.
Parker said that if the commission’s figures were accurate it could be many years before it manages to register every faith organisation.
“Faith charities are an important part of the sector, and deserve better,” he said.
The DCMS did not respond to a request for comment before publication of this story.