Regulation of Charities

Charities in Ireland work in a complex legal and regulatory environment that may involve organisations interacting with:

  • The Charities Regulatory Authority

  • The Revenue Commissioners

  • The Companies Registration Office

  • The Register of Lobbying

  • An Garda Siochana

  • Local Authorities.

The Charities Act 2009 represented a very significant milestone for community & voluntary activity in Ireland.  The Act established the Charities Regulatory Authority which commenced work in October 2014.

The purpose of the Act was to reform the law relating to charities in order to ensure greater accountability and to protect against abuse of charitable status and fraud and to enhance public trust and confidence in charities and increase transparency in the sector.

Although certain parts of the Act have not yet taken effect, it is considered best practice for charities to abide by all the provisions of the Act.   

Key aspects of the Act provide for:

  • A definition of charitable purposes for the first time in primary legislation.

  • The creation of the Charities Regulatory Authority to secure compliance by charities with their legal obligations and also to encourage better administration of charities.

  • A Register of Charities in which all charities operating in the State must be registered.

  • The submission of annual activity reports by charities to the Regulator.

  • Updating the law relating to fund-raising, particularly in relation to collections by way of direct debits and similar non-cash methods.

  • The creation of a Charity Appeals Tribunal.

  • The provision of consultative panels to assist the Authority in its work and to ensure effective consultation with stakeholders.

Definition of Charities

Organisations that have exclusively charitable purposes (see below), operate in the Republic of Ireland and provide public benefit, regardless of their size, their income or their legal

structure, MUST apply for inclusion in the Register of Charities.

The charitable purposes defined in the Act are:

  1. The prevention or relief of poverty or economic hardship

  2. The advancement of education

  3. The advancement of religion; or

  4. Any other purpose that is of benefit to the community, which is specifically broken down in the Act to include:

    • The advancement of community welfare including the relief of those in need by reason of youth, age, ill-health or disability

    • The advancement of community development, including urban or rural regeneration

    • The promotion of civic responsibility or voluntary work

    • The promotion of health including the prevention or relief of sickness, disease or human suffering

    • The advancement of conflict resolution or reconciliation

    • The promotion of religious or racial harmony and harmonious community relations

    • The protection of the natural environment

    • The advancement of environmental sustainability

    • The advancement of the efficient and effective use of the property of charitable organisations

    • The prevention or relief of suffering of animals

    • The advancement of the arts, culture, heritage or sciences; and

    • The integration of those who are disadvantaged, and the promotion of their full participation in society.

Charities will be permitted to promote a political cause if it relates directly to their charitable purpose.

 Further Reading