The Charities Bill was published in 2007, enacted in 2009 and is being commenced in stages. The Charities Regulatory Authority, which was a key innovation under the act, was established on 16th October 2014 by Ministerial Order in the wake of certain revelations in the charity sector. With the increased transparency the Regulator will bring to the sector the hope is that public trust and confidence will be restored.
One of the key tasks of the Authority is the creation of a statutory register of Charities. The website is now live and contains a register of all charities in Ireland already having a CHY number issued by Revenue. They are deemed to be registered charities and as such will be issued with an Irish Registered Charity number.
The regulator has indicated that it will contact every charity the register over the next few months and request them to register additional information online. Secure PINs will be provided to the charities in question to allow them to provide this data.
Any organisation which falls under the act but does not have a CHY number and therefore is not included on the register automatically must apply to be included within 6 months of the Register being established. The Regulator has indicated that the following organisations should apply:
- A charitable trust
- A body corporate that promotes a charitable purpose only and must, according to its own constitution or rules, use all of its property to advance that purpose
- An unincorporated body of persons that promotes a charitable purpose and must, according to its own constitution or rules, use all of its property to advance that purpose
- Intends to operate or carry on charitable activities in the state
It is worth noting that the Regulator is not yet accepting applications from charities which are considered to be educational bodies under the Act.
All registered charities will be issued with an annual return date. They will be required to file an annual activity report with the Regulator by this date, which can be no more than 10 months after the financial year end. The format and content of this report has not yet been set out by the Minister for Justice and Equality. Until such time as this is made clear the Regulator has put in place a short online return form to be completed and submitted along with a copy of any annual report which the organisation already prepares and a copy of the annual statement of accounts (unless exempt). If the annual gross income of the organisation is in excess of €100,000 the regulator requires that they must be audited and a copy of the auditor’s report be uploaded also. The Regulator has chosen this figure, which is in line with the audit threshold currently applied by Revenue, pending the threshold which will be set down by the Minister.
While the section of the Act which gives investigatory power to the Charities Regulatory Authority has not yet been commenced the Regulator has confirmed that, where appropriate and feasible, there will be follow up on complaints received about charities.