How to Register a UK Charity

Have you recently set up a charity in the UK? The next step is to get it officially registered. In this guide, we’ll talk you through all the steps that you need to take to get your charity officially registered in the UK.  From the application stage to what happens after you apply, here’s what you need to know:

You need your charity to be fully set up before you register it

In order to register your charity, you should already have done the following:

  • Settled on a purpose for your charity
  • Decided on the structure for your charity
  • Drafted the charity’s governing document
  • Decided upon a suitable name for your charity
  • Selected your board of trustees
  • Decided upon a suitable funding plan for your charity

Usually, you are required to register with the Charity Commission once your charity is bringing in over £5,000 a year. However, if your charity is structured as a charitable incorporated organisation (also known as CIO) then you are required to register it no matter what the income.

Where do you apply to register your charity?

You can apply to register your charity using the Charity Commission’s application form. If you’re based in Wales, you can also choose to apply using their Welsh application form instead.

Once you commence your application, you’ll be given a reference number. This is ideal for those of you who may not have time to complete it in one sitting. It enables you to save your form and return to it at any point within 3 months of beginning it.

There are certain types of charities that don’t require registration

Not all charities require registration in the UK. If you have any of the following types, you don’t need to worry about registration:

  • Smaller unincorporated charities

If you have a charity based in England and Wales that isn’t a charitable incorporated organisation and has a yearly income of under £5,000, then you don’t need to register it. However, we’d still recommend applying to HM Revenue and Customs for charity recognition. This will allow you to claim gift aid on donation and benefit from charity tax breaks.

If you have a small unincorporated charity with an income of less than £5,000 per year and would still like to register it, you can still submit an application voluntarily. However, it is unlikely to be considered by the Charity Commission unless there are exceptional circumstances involved. For instance, if your charity is being offered a large donation but the donor requires it to be registered, then the Charity Commission may consider granting you a registered charity number.

  • ‘Excepted’ charities

If your charity has a yearly income of less than £100,000 and falls under one of the following categories, then you may not be required to register it. These include churches, charitable funds for the military, and guide or scout related charities. You may also not need to register if you are the local division of a wider charitable organisation, but double check with the parent company just in case.

How do I properly fill out the charity registration form?

In order to ensure your application gets approved, you need to prove to the commission that your organisation is a proper charity and that your trustees are aware of their roles and responsibilities. Take the following steps to successfully complete the form:

  • This one’s a bit obvious but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do it: make sure you read through the application questions as well as any instructions carefully so you can provide the necessary information required. This is crucial as due to the high number of applications that the commission receives, not submitting the adequate or correct information could delay your application significantly.
  • Try and submit your application as much in advance of the deadline as possible, especially if you need your charity registered by a certain date.
  • Inform the commission if there are any exceptional circumstances affecting your application. For instance, if there is an urgent requirement for your charity to be registered for disaster relief donations, then the commission may consider it even if the governing document hasn’t been set up.
  • The information you need to provide includes your charity’s account details, contact details, signed governing document, proof of income, and a copy of the certificate of incorporation if you have one.
  • All the charity trustees need to complete and sign the trustee declaration form with all the necessary details.

What to expect once the application has been submitted

After you’ve submitted your application, you’ll receive an email confirmation. All the information will be assessed within 48 hours to ensure that it is complete, factual, and eligible. If there isn’t enough information, your application will be returned and you will be asked to resubmit it.

If your application is successful, it will be entered onto the register of charities and you will receive your charity number along with some guidance for the trustees. If it isn’t successful, the commission will inform you of the reasons why. You can then either address those reasons and reapply, or appeal to the Charity Tribunal.