New Irish Charities Regulatory Authority formally established

The new Charities Regulatory Authority was formally established by the Minister for Justice and Equality in October 2014 by SI No. 456 of 2014. The establishment of a Charities Regulatory Authority (CRA), to register and regulate charities operating in Ireland, was a key provision of the Charities Act 2009 (the Act).

The CRA has a range of statutory functions under the 2009 Charities Act. It is intended that these will be introduced on a phased basis, beginning with the compilation and registration of all charities operating in Ireland.

The Charities Act Commencement Order, S.I. 457 of 2014, brought Part 1 (General provisions), Part 2 (The CRA), Part 3 (Regulation of Charitable Organisations), Part 5 (Charity Appeals Tribunal) and Part 6 (Dissolution of Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests) of the Charities Act of 2009 into force on 16 October 2014. Parts 4 and 7 will be commenced at a later date. 

Functions of the CRA

The functions of the CRA are as follows:

  1. to increase public trust and confidence in the management and administration of charitable trusts and charitable organisations;
  2. to promote compliance by charity trustees with their duties in the control and management of charitable trusts and charitable organisations;
  3. to promote the effective use of the property of charitable trusts or charitable organisations;
  4. to ensure the accountability of charitable organisations to donors and beneficiaries of charitable gifts, and the public;
  5. to promote understanding of the requirement that charitable purposes confer a public benefit;
  6. to establish and maintain a register of charitable organisations;
  7. to ensure and monitor compliance by charitable organisations with the Act;
  8. to carry out investigations in accordance with the Act;
  9. to encourage and facilitate the better administration and management of charitable organisations by the provision of information or advice, including in particular by way of issuing (or, as it considers appropriate, approving) guidelines, codes of conduct, and model constitutional documents;
  10. to carry on such activities or publish such information (including statistical information) concerning charitable organisations and trusts as it considers appropriate; and
  11. to provide information (including statistical information) or advice, or make proposals, to the Minister on matters relating to the functions of the Authority.

The CRA, which has an independent Board of sixteen members, will also assume the functions of the Commissioners of Charitable Donations and Bequests for Ireland.

Register of Charities

The CRA has a statutory obligation to establish and maintain a public register of all charities operating in Ireland. The Department of Justice and Equality estimate that the initial Register of Charities will be published on the website of the CRA shortly. According to the Department, approximately 8,400 charities, namely those who held a current charitable tax exemption from the Revenue Commissioners at the time of the establishment of the CRA, will be registered. These charities are automatically deemed to be registered with the CRA.

Charities that did not have a tax exemption from Revenue at the time of the establishment of the CRA are not automatically registered and will need to apply directly to the CRA to register. All charities in existence at the time of the establishment of the CRA must apply for registration on or before 15 April 2015.