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Solicitor Jenny Ebbage explains why it’s vital that your charity must register with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland

You cannot have escaped the news recently that all charities in Northern Ireland must register with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (CCNI).

We have been advising a number of charities on their registration requirements. All charities should check that they are on one of the CCNI lists and make sure that they know what action to take.

There is a deadline of December 31, 2014, to notify the CCNI of the charity’s existence if the charity is not already on one of the lists. We often receive enquiries about how to start a new charity.

The CCNI’s guidance for organisations or individuals thinking of setting up a charity is a good place to start. This covers the different types of legal entities that can be used to establish the charity and it explains the difference between an unincorporated association, a charitable trust and a charitable company.

It even covers the process for a scheme of incorporation for trustees, which is often misunderstood. It is important to consider whether it is really necessary to form a new charity or not.

There are already thousands of charities in Northern Ireland and elsewhere and it might be best to put your support and effort behind an existing organisation.

It is really important to understand what a new charity is going to be set up to achieve: such as the advancement of education or relief of poverty, urban renewal or advancement of health.

Getting the governance right is essential. It is important to have people on the board of the charity who really understand what it means to be a charity trustee. In the current climate there is a high dependency on charities as funding mechanisms have fallen away due to the various cuts.

The public are always generous donors but be under no illusion that the charity sector can be a difficult sector to operate in at the current time and there is a host of regulation that needs to be clearly understood and complied with.

It is worthwhile reading the guidance from the CCNI, not only on this topic but also its other publications such as Running your Charity and The Registration and Annual Reporting Requirements.

Where necessary it is always important to take proper legal advice from a properly qualified person.

At Edwards & Co. we specialise in charities and were recently recognised as the top firm in Northern Ireland for charity law.

• Please contact Jenny Ebbage if you wish to discuss any matter further at ­

• Solicitor Jenny Ebbage joined Edwards & Co. as a partner in November 2011 and leads its Charities and Enterprise team.


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