The Charities Regulatory Authority (the "CRA") will be established by ministerial order on 16 October 2014. Provision for the establishment of the CRA was made in the Charities Act 2009 (the "Act"). Many of the provisions of the Act, which was enacted in 2009, have not yet been commenced. The upcoming ministerial order will commence the provisions relating to the establishment of the CRA and the creation of the charities register (the "Charities Register") however, it is unclear as yet whether any of the other provisions in the Act will be commenced. For further information on the key features of the Act, please see our previous update.
Role of the CRA
The purpose of the CRA is to regulate the charity sector in the public interest. In fulfilling this function, the role of the CRA will be as follows:
- to register all charities operating in Ireland
- to monitor the compliance of registered charities with their obligations under the Act
- to ensure accountability of charities to donors, beneficiaries and the public
- to carry out investigations of charities
- to promote good practice in charity management and administration
- to provide public information about the charity sector
- to increase public trust and confidence
The Charities Register
The first priority of the CRA will be to establish the Charities Register. It is intended that the Charities Register will be published as soon as possible after the establishment of the CRA. Registration is vitally important as it is an offence for unregistered charities to carry on charitable activities in Ireland.
All charities which are already registered with the Irish Revenue Commissioners and have a CHY number ("CHY Charities") will be automatically transferred to the Charities Register. The Charities Register will initially only contain the names and address of the charities deemed to be registered. Over the coming weeks and months, CHY Charities will receive a letter from the CRA inviting them to provide further information to be included on the Charities Register. There is no deadline but charities will be encouraged to act promptly following receipt of the letter.
The same process should apply to non-resident charities who carry out charitable activity in the State and who have been issued with a DCHY number.
All charities currently operating in Ireland without a CHY number and new charities will be required to make an application to the CRA for entry onto the Charities Register on or before 15 April 2015.
The CRA will assess each application by reference to the criteria in the Act to include; charitable purpose; constitutional requirement to apply all property to that charitable purpose; and public benefit. If the application is approved, the charity will be entered on the Charities Register. If the application is rejected, the CRA will provide reasons for the decision which can be appealed.
Charities Register Information
The information likely to be sought by the CRA for inclusion on the Charities Register is as follows:
- charitable purpose and objects
- beneficiary groups
- no of employees / volunteers
- relevant codes or principles to which the charity subscribe
- bank account information
As it is envisaged that the Charities Register will be the first port of call for potential donors in terms of donation due diligence, it is advisable for charities to commence preparing material now to be included on the Charities Register. We are currently working with a number of existing clients on such governance issues.
All registered charities will be required to make an annual report to the CRA not later than ten months after the end of the financial year to which the report relates. The annual return date will be issued by the CRA based on the financial year end date advised by the charity. It is expected charity reporting and accounting regulations will be published shortly, together with reporting guidelines and templates.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.