Charity registration financial thresholds

The Law Commission published its report on Technical Issues in Charity Law in September 2017 following a public consultation which revealed that many charities struggle with a range of technical issues in the law leading to unnecessary expense and preventing charities from dedicating their full resources to the public good. On 22 March 2021, the Government published its long-awaited response to the Law Commission’s recommendations and accepted most of the recommendations.

The Law Commission’s report made recommendations about reviewing the financial thresholds at which charities are required to register with the Charity Commission and the Government has accepted the Law Commission’s recommendations in their entirety. Let’s have a look at the detail.

The status quo: Charities in England and Wales with an annual income of £5,000 (excluding exempt charities or charitable incorporated organisations which, in the latter case, must all register regardless of income) are required to register with the Charity Commission.

Some charities are also ‘excepted’ from charity registration unless they have an annual income of at least £100,000, for example, churches in certain denominations such as the Church of England, the Baptist Union, Methodist etc. This exception was due to expire on 31 March 2021, however, the Charity Commission and the DCMS have recently extended this deadline by 10 years to 2031.

The changes: The Government agreed with the Law Commission’s recommendation that it would be appropriate to regularly review and, if so decided, increase the annual income threshold of £5,000 in line with inflation. The Government recognised that small charities with low incomes which are being made to register are having to sustain the regular filings they must make to the Charity Commission to be deemed compliant whilst also, in the current climate, experiencing other administrative and financial burdens. The Government stated that a review of the relevant thresholds would take place at least every 10 years and that it would aim to carry out the first review in 2022. The review would consider the appropriate index of inflation used by the Government and/or the Office for National Statistics. The Government did, however, explain that the review taking place in 2022 was dependent on resources being available.

The outcome: It is hoped that the changes, once implemented, will be a relief to smaller charities that may be concerned about an impending need to register with the Charity Commission and the associated costs and administration involved. It will also prevent smaller charities from acquiring powers that are not appropriate to their size.

For more information

If you have any questions or would like assistance in relation to charity registration do contact your usual contact in our charities team or Katie Crosbie.

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