A number a years have passed since the enactment of the Charities Act 2009 (the "Act"). Most of the provisions of the Act have not yet been commenced. Following a Government consultation with relevant stakeholders in the first half of 2013, the Government confirmed its intention in July 2013 to proceed with the commencement of the provisions of the Act relevant to the Charities Regulatory Authority (the "Authority") shortly on an 'interim' basis with a board expected to be in place by Easter.
It is expected that preparatory work leading to the formal establishment of the Authority is to be carried out during the early part of this year, with the Authority expected to be formally commenced in the second half of the year. This has become the focus of public attention in light of controversy in late 2013 concerning the remuneration of senior executives in the largely State funded health sector bodies, following revelations that executive remuneration in some cases exceeded State guidelines.
In addition, certain changes have been introduced to the tax regime affecting charities since 2009 which will, it is anticipated, simplify procedures.
Key features of the Act
Definition of charitable purpose introduced
The Act establishes the first statutory definition of charitable purpose in Ireland. The categories of charitable purpose are the prevention or relief of poverty or economic hardship, the advancement of education, the advancement of religion or any other purpose of benefit to the community. The Act then details in a non-exhaustive list those purposes of benefit to the community. The definition attempts to mirror those purposes which the Revenue Commissioners currently deem to be charitable when determining charitable tax status.
Additionally, charities will be able to promote a political cause in furtherance of and ancillary to their charitable objects, without risking a loss of their charitable status.
While many lobbied for its inclusion, and it was proposed in both Houses, the promotion of human rights is not included in the list of purposes of benefit to the community.
Register of Charities created
All charities carrying out activities in the State (including those with centres of business outside of Ireland) will require to be included on the Register of Charities. The list of materials which must be presented to the Authority on applying is set out in the legislation. Importantly, charities currently holding CHY numbers from the Revenue Commissioners will be automatically included on the Register and do not have to apply for registration. New charities seeking registration after the implementation of the...