charitable status

Public Benefit

The Charities Act 2008 states that the purposes outlined in an organisation's governing document must be of benefit to the public for an organisation to be charitable. This is known as the public benefit requirement.

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland states that "Benefit is about the benefit flowing from the charity’s purposes. For a charity’s purposes to satisfy the benefit element of public benefit, that benefit must have three key features, it must:

Organisational Purposes

Organisations are established for all sorts of reasons.  Some are to raise money for a particular cause, some to deliver a service or some to represent the views of people from a particular geographic area etc.  Organisations should be very clear on the purpose for which they exist and these purposes should be clearly outlined in the governing document of the organisation.

Company Limited by Guarantee

A company limited by guarantee is an incorporated organisation.  This means that it has gone through the registration process that converts a new or existing business into a corporate body, making it a legal entity in its own right.  

With a company that is limited by guarantee, the financial liability of members, including the Management Committee is usually limited to a nominal amount, should the company face financial difficulties (although it does not protect against fraud, negligence, etc).

Charitable Status

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland was set up in 2009.  One of its key functions is to maintain a register of charities.

An organisation must apply for registration as a charity in Northern Ireland, regardless of its income, size or whether or not it has received charitable tax status from HMRC, if:

Charitable Purposes

In Northern Ireland, a charity is defined as an institution which is established for charitable purposes only and is for the public benefit.  If an organisation is established for one or more of the 12 descriptions of purposes listed below, and is for the public benefit, then it will be required to register with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland

The 12 descriptions of charitable purposes are: 

FAQs: Legal structures and charitable status

Please note this section is UNDER REVIEW. For the most up to date information on charitable purposes and activities see NICVA's article on Charitable Status.

Following are answers to a number of frequently asked questions regarding legal structures and charitable status.

Q: How do we prove that we are a charity?

A: The letter from Inland Revenue is evidence that you are a charity for tax and most other purposes