Charitable Status

14 Apr 2014 Denise Copeland    Last updated: 8 Jan 2024

This article will answer the key question - how do I get charitable status for my organisation?

How to get charitable status

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland will determine if an organisation is charitable or not - it established the register of charities in December 2013 and is now calling on all charitable organisations to come forward and register. Previous to the establishment of the register of charities, HMRC granted ‘charitable recognition for tax purposes’ for charitable organisations in Northern Ireland.   The Commission has issued new guidance on 'Starting up a new charity' for people who are thinking of setting up a charity for the first time.

How to register as a charity with the Charity Commission

All charitable organisations, including those recognised as charities by HMRC who do not appear on the 'deemed list', need to complete an expression of intent for charity registration so that the Commission can put them on its 'combined list'. The Commission will then call organisations forward from the combined list when it is ready to register them.  If your charity already appears on the combined list then you do not need to complete the expression of intent form. 
It is not known how long this process will take, however, it could take from 3 mths or several years before an organisation is called. Please note that it may take a further 3 months for the Commission to assess an application once submitted. If you are in urgent need of charitable status then let the Commission know this in the special circumstances box on the expression of intent form.

The Charity Commission has issued guidance on registering as a charity which gives detailed information about the online process and preparing for charity registration. It has also devised a very helpful online tutorial which demonstrates on how to complete the online application. When your organisation successfully registers as a charity with the Commission you can then apply for charitable tax exemptions with HMRC, see below. 
In order to submit an application you will need to have a governing document – constitution, trust deed, memorandum and articles of association - written in charitable form.  NICVA’s governance and charity advice service can assist you with drafting a suitable governing document in charitable form for a small fee.

How to register your charity for tax purposes

Up until 2018, HMRC would only accept applications for charitable tax exemptions from registered charities however those waiting to be registered with CCNI may now apply as well as registered charities.  This means that all charitable organisations in NI can apply to HMRC to get recognised for tax purposes so that they can claim gift aid.

The charity will first need to register for a HMRC online account (government gateway account).  The main contact will need to provide their date of birth, national insurance number and email address along with their full name.  Once you get a User ID, keep it safe as you’ll need it for the next step.

Once you have registered for the HMRC online account, close the website down and open up this link to the charity recognition online application.   Answer the initial questions and you can then log in with your user ID and password to start the online application.

How to apply for rates relief

The Charity Commission has outlined, in its expression of intent (to register as a charity) form that charitable organisations can go ahead and apply for rates relief with Land & Property Services while they are waiting to be registered with the Commission.  The link to the application and guidance on charitable rates exemption is available here

Sources of further information

NICVA Governance and Charity Advice Service
t: 028 9087 7777
e: [email protected]

All of NICVA’s advice notes, as well as the most up to date information about the implementation of charity law, can be downloaded from the specialist Governance and Charity Advice section.

Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
t: 028 3832 0220
e: [email protected]
w: Full list of CCNI guidance

Companies House


Detailed guidance notes for charities on payroll giving, gift aid, and charity trading, charity tax exemptions

Detailed guidance notes on how the tax system operates for charities - GOV.UK (

Developing Governance Group
Online resource of governance materials mapped to the Code of Good Governance -


Every effort is made to ensure that the contents of this document are accurate, but the advice given should not be relied on as a definitive legal statement.'s picture
by Denise Copeland

Governance and Charity Advice Manager

[email protected]

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