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When to register your charity

Charities can be registered or unregistered. To become a registered charity in England you have to apply to the Charity Commission. But you can do charitable work without registering. Find out what the differences are and when to register.

Unregistered charities

You can call your organisation an unregistered charity if:

  • its yearly income is less than £5,000
  • all the work it does is charitable
  • all the money it makes or receives is used to help it do charitable work

You can apply to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ask that it be recognised as a charity for tax purposes. This lets you claim the same tax advantages as a registered charity.

Your charity can stay unregistered as long as its annual income is less than £5,000. Unregistered charities don’t have to send information to the Charity Commission every year.

When you must register your charity

You must register your charity with the Charity Commission if its yearly income is more than £5,000 and it’s based in England or Wales. This means its governing document says it’s subject to English and Welsh law, and one or more of the following applies:

  • your head office is located there
  • most of your trustees live there
  • most of your property, money or other assets are there

If your charity is based in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you should register with the relevant authority there (see links ‘Registering a charity in Scotland/Northern Ireland’).

If your charity is part of a larger organisation, body or movement, it may not have to register. Check with your parent body if your charity’s yearly income is less than £100,000 and it is:

  • a Christian church or chapel
  • an armed forces service fund
  • a scout or guide group

Some charities don’t ever have to register with the Charity Commission because the law accepts that they are already regulated by another body. Your charity won’t have to register if it is:

  • a higher education corporation
  • a registered Industrial and Provident Society
  • a registered Friendly Society
  • Source Direct Gov
  • Last Updated: 06 Jan 2012