Charities Regulatory Authority
What is the Charities Regulator?
The Charities Regulatory Authority (Charities Regulator) is the statutory body responsible for regulating charitable organisations in Ireland. It maintains a public register of charities and monitors their compliance with the Charities Act 2009, which sets out a charity's legal obligations for operating in Ireland.
The Charities Regulator’s other functions include:
- Increasing public trust in how charities are run
- Encouraging trustees to comply with their duties
- Holding charities accountable to their donors, beneficiaries and the public
- Investigating charities in accordance with the Charities Act 2009
- Encouraging better management of charities by providing information and advice, including guidelines, codes of conduct and template constitutional documents
You can read more about charities in our document 'What is a charity?’.
Register of charitable organisations
The Charities Regulator maintains a register of charities that are active in Ireland. It is an offence for a charitable organisation to carry out activities if it is not registered with the Charities Regulator.
Being registered with the Charities Regulator is separate from being granted a charitable tax exemption. A charity must be registered with the Charities Regulator before they can apply for a charitable tax exemption. The Revenue Commissioners decide if an organisation is a charity for tax purposes and whether it qualifies for a tax exemption. There is a list of charitable bodies on the Charities Regulator website.
What the Regulator needs to register a charity
Organisations that want to carry out charitable activities must register with the Regulator. They must provide information about their organisation including where it operates, what it does and who the trustees are. They must also provide information about the organisation’s income and fundraising activities, including:
- Bank account details
- How they fundraise
- Details of any property they are using
- A business plan, including:
- A short history of the organisation
- A description of who will donate and who will benefit
- A summary of the operational plan
- Detailed financial projections
- A summary of the risks they have identified
Each organisation must provide a copy of its constitution or governing documents. Organisations who work with vulnerable people and children must also give details of the risk assessment procedures, safety checks and safeguards they have in place.
If the Regulator approves an organisation’s application, it awards them charitable status, assigns them a Registered Charity Number and lists them as a charity on the public register. The public register lists the charity’s:
- Trustees’ names
- Objectives (why the charity has been set up and what it hopes to achieve)
- Registration number
- Financial records, including gross income and total expenditure
If the Charities Regulator refuses an organisation’s application to be registered as a charity, it must tell the organisation why its application was refused and that it can appeal the decision, see ‘Appeals’ below.
The Regulator can refuse to register an organisation for a number of reasons, including for its choice of name. For example, they may refuse an organisation if its name is:
- The same as, or similar to, another charity
- Designed to mislead the public about its purposes or activities
- Likely to make the public believe it is connected with the Government, a local authority or anyone it is not connected with
Once a charity is registered, its name can only be changed with the consent of the Regulator.
Removing a charity from the register
The Charities Regulator must remove organisations from the register in certain circumstances, for example, if a charity changes its name without the Regulator’s consent, or if the Regulator thinks a charity is promoting unlawful or immoral activities. There will be a statement in the register explaining why they have been removed.
If a charity is removed from the register they must wait at least a year before applying to be registered again.
If the Regulator refuses an organisation’s application to be registered as a charity, the organisation can appeal to the Charity Appeals Tribunal. The appeal application must be made within 21 days of receiving written notice of the refusal from the Regulator. The Regulator must accept the decision of the Tribunal.
The Regulator can appoint an inspector to investigate a charity. The charity and its trustees must fully co-operate with an investigation and give the inspector all the relevant accounts and documents.
The inspector has the power to make people co-operate with an investigation, including people not directly connected with the charity. The inspector can also apply to the District Court for a warrant to enter and search a charity’s premises.
Investigators report their findings to the Charities Regulator. The Regulator may forward the report to other authorities such as the Director of Public Prosecutions or the Revenue Commissioners, for further investigation. The High Court will decide whether the charity has violated the Charities Act.
Raising a concern about a charity
If you are concerned about a charity or its activities, you can raise a concern with the Charities Regulator. They will deal with concerns relating to:
- Risk of significant loss or damage to a charity
- Charity trustees who have breached their duties
- Misconduct by those in control of a charity
- If a charity does not meet the legal requirements to be a charity
Concerns about a charity that should not be raised with the Charities Regulator include:
- Matters that do not relate to charity law – such as employment issues
- Criminal activity – this should be reported to An Garda Síochána
- Complaints related to services provided by the charity – these should be raised with the charity
- Disputes between charity trustees – these should be resolved internally