The Charities Regulator was established in 2014. Legally, all charities operating in Ireland must now be registered with the regulator.
The vision of the Charities Regulator is “a vibrant trusted charity sector that is valued for the public benefit it provides.” In order to support this vision the Regulator has a number elements to its work, including:
- The establishment of a publically accessible Register of Charities
- The introduction and regulation of the new Charities Governance Code
- The production of guidance for charity trustees
- The publication of data about the charity sector in Ireland
- And, the monitoring of compliance amongst charities in Ireland.
Does Our Organisation Need to Register?
The governing body, or board, of an organisation must consider whether the organisation meets the legal definition of a charity and if it does then they should register the organisation as a charity with the Regulator. The Charities Regulator has produced this useful guide, What is a Charity?, which outlines the key questions that the board must consider. The questions focus on the organisation's purpose and whether it provides "public benefit". The definition does not depend on the size or type of organisation, nor does it matter whether or not the organisation fundraises from the public.
Registering Your Organisation with the Charities Regulator
Once your organisation has completed the registration process you will be issued with a Registered Charity Number (RCN). This number is separate from the CHY number that you may apply to Revenue for, the CHY number indicates your charitable tax exemption status.
Compliance with the Charities Regulator
In order to remain in compliance with the Regulator there are a number of actions that charities and their trustees must take.
The Regulator has produced a very user-friendly guide for charity trustees outlining their specific legal duties. You can download Guidance for Charity Trustees here. It sets out in very clear language the legal and regulatory requirements and is essential reading for all trustees. In 2018 the Regulator launched the Charities Governance Code - this mandatory Code sets out the governance standard that Irish charities need to adhere to. Charities must be ready to implement this Code in 2020.
As a registered charity you must submit an annual activity report and annual financial returns to the Regulator. You must keep your records up-to-date with the Regulator and publicise your Registered Charity Number (RCN). Charities must seek consent for certain changes, including changing the charity’s name or constitution. If your organisation is winding up, you must notify the Regulator.
The Regulator has produced a number of guides that outline charities' legal obligations in a number of specific areas.
The Regulator will soon be publishing a new financial reporting standard for charities. Trustees and senior staff should ensure they keep up-to-date with these and other developments from the Regulator.