In Ireland when an organisation has "charitable status" it simply means that it is recognised as charitable by the Revenue Commissioners for tax purposes. There is currently no official "Register of Charities" in Ireland. However, you should note that the Charities Act 2009, when fully implemented, will introduce such a register for the first time.
In order to recognised as charitable an organisation must have:
Legal status by means of a specific legal structure with its associated ‘governing instrument’ (see next section). This means that it has a written constitution or a Memorandum and Articles of Association or a Trust Deed;
The 'governing instrument'/document must include a clause stating that the organisation will use its money for charitable purposes only;
The aims of the organisation as set out in the constitution must be exclusively charitable and must come under one of the following headings or definitions of charity:
The relief of poverty;
The advancement of education;
The advancement of religion; or
Other purposes beneficial to the community.
When applying to be recognised as a charity for tax purposes the organisation must send in:
A completed application form (download form CHY1 from the Revenue Commissioners website)
Its governing instrument [e.g. a constitution, deed of trust or Memorandum and Articles of Association]
A statement of activities
The latest financial accounts
The names and addresses of its officers.
Applying to be recognised as a charity by the Revenue Commissioners involves groups applying for exemption from certain taxes and separately to the Valuation Office for exemption from rates on buildings. This can be important to a group for both fundraising purposes and also for exemption from certain taxes. Charitable status does not give legal status to an organisation, nor confer incorporation. A group can have charitable status without being incorporated and vice versa.
How do I register as a charity?
There is no legal framework for the registration of charities in Ireland. The Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Charities Section maintains a database of organisations to which they have granted charitable tax exemption. In granting tax exemption Charities Section give the body a CHY reference number. The full list of bodies granted exemption is published on the Revenue Commissioners website.
All charitable organisations, if applying for tax exemption require a legal structure and a governing instrument. The form of governing instrument best suited to the function of any charity depends very much on the charitable purposes, the planned activities of the charity and how it is proposed to fund these activities.
Charitable organisations mainly take one of three legal forms:
- An unincorporated association with a Constitution or Rules;
- A charitable trust established by Trust Deed;
- A company governed by a Memorandum and Articles of Association.
It is recommended that intending charities take their own advice on this issue.
An organisation must be constituted and operated exclusively for charitable purposes. In addition, it is a basic principle of charity law that an organisation’s objects must be expressed in precise rather than broad or vague terms. This identifies as clearly as possible a recognised charitable purpose.
Exemption to tax will not be granted to organisations that have a mix of charitable and non-charitable purposes or where the objects of the body are considered to be either too vague or too broad.
While there is no legislation defining what is legally charitable it is generally determined by considering whether a particular purpose comes within one of the four broad categories:
- Trusts for the Relief of Poverty
- Trusts for the Advancement of Education
- Trusts for the Advancement of Religion
- Trusts for Other Purposes Beneficial to the Community
It is not unusual for a charitable body to come within more than one of the headings. It should be noted that not all purposes of benefit to the community would be considered a charitable purpose. In examining an application for tax exemption the Charities Section will examine the case with regard to the objects, the actual activity of the applicant body and with regard to established charity case law.
Where a charitable organisation wishes to apply for exemption, it must submit a completed application form, CHY1 - Applying for Relief from Tax on the Income and Property of Charities (PDF, 109KB) to Charities Section, Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary. The following documents should be submitted in support of the application: -
- Copy of the governing instrument - in draft format for a charity being newly formed.
- Statement of activities to date and plans for next 12 months, including any trading activities being undertaken/proposed.
- Annual reports and other documentation, if applicable.
- Latest financial statements/projected income and expenditure.
- List of names, addresses, occupations and PPS numbers of the Officers/Trustees/Directors.
No, it is only necessary for a charity to apply to the Revenue Commissioners for charitable tax exemption if it may incur a liability to tax.
Yes, provided that a completed CHY1 and supporting documentation are submitted with the draft document. In order that organisations can alleviate costs in time and money, Charities Section is prepared to consider draft governing instruments. In considering whether a body might qualify for exemption to tax, all other documents and information required on the application form must also be provided. If all is in order Charities Section will advise the applicant to finalise the governing documentation in order to proceed with the granting of the claim to tax exemption.
The tax code provides exemptions for charities as follows:
- Income Tax - Sections 207 and 208, Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997.
- Corporation Tax (in the case of companies) - Sections 76 and 78 Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997.
- Capital Gains Tax - Section 609, Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997.
- Deposit Interest Retention Tax (DIRT) - Section 266 Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997.
- Capital Acquisitions Tax - Sections 17, 22 and 76 of the Capital Acquisitions Taxes Consolidation Act 2003.
- Stamp Duty - Section 82, Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999.
- Dividend Withholding Tax - Chapter 8A, Part 6, Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997.
We are a not for profit organisation; does that mean we are a charity and entitled to charitable tax exemption?
No, the absence of profit motivation does not automatically make a charity entitled to charitable tax exemption. In examining an application for charitable tax exemption the Charities Section will examine the case with regard to the objects, the actual activity of the applicant and case law.
We are an unincorporated body and have been advised to change the legal structure of the organisation to an incorporated body governed by Memorandum and Articles of Association; will this affect charitable tax exemption?
No, if the ethos of the organisation does not change then a body that wishes to change its legal structure should write to Charities Section prior to the change, notifying us of the reason for the proposed change and enclosing a copy of the new draft governing instrument.
Non-resident charities based in an EEA / EFTA country can apply for a determination under Sections 208A and 208B of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997.
Eligible non-resident charities will qualify for a determination rather than an exemption on the basis that they will not have a tax liability in Ireland.
A determination will issue following evaluation of the application from the non-resident charity on the basis that, should the body have a liability to tax in Ireland it would be exempt on the grounds that it is established for charitable purposes only.
Where a non-resident charitable organisation wishes to apply for a determination, it must submit a completed application form to Charities Section, Office of the Revenue Commissioners , Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Download the information leaflet DCHY 1 and application form (PDF, 219KB) .
In general, no payments should be paid to Officers/Directors/Trustees other then out of pocket expenses. Specifically, Officers/Directors/Trustees are not to be paid for holding such an office.
Yes, a charity can have paid employees. A charity that has employees should note that charitable tax exemption does not relieve it of its obligations as an employer to operate the P.A.Y.E. system for its employees. Officers/Directors/Trustees of the charity are prohibited from being employed by or in receipt of any remuneration from the charity.
No. There is no general VAT exemption for charities. However, there are a number of specific reliefs from VAT which may relate to charitable activities and are outlined in information leaflet: CHY10 - Explanatory leaflet on Value-Added Tax in the case of Charities (PDF,48KB) available on our website.
Bodies granted charitable tax exemption by the Revenue Commissioners are issued with a Charity (CHY) Number. In certain instances it may be sufficient for a body just to quote their CHY number and a tax clearance certificate would not be a requirement.
An applicant with charitable tax exemption who has secured a Public Sector Contract or requires tax clearance in connection with an application for the renewal of an Excise Licence or certain other licences (including authorisation required under the Consumer Credit Act 1995 and the Criminal Justice Legal Aid (Tax Clearance Regulations 1999) should apply on form TC1 Application for Tax Clearance Certificate form (PDF, 258KB) for a general tax clearance certificate.
No. However, a charity must adhere to the conditions attaching to that exemption and is subject to review by Charities Section.
Yes, tax exemption may be withdrawn (retrospectively if necessary) if the body does not comply with its charitable objects or to the conditions associated with the charitable tax exemption. In such circumstances a charge to tax as determined by the Revenue Commissioners may be raised.
Annual Accounts must be kept and made available to the Revenue Commissioners on request. In the case of a body with income in excess of €100,000 per annum audited accounts must be submitted.
Our charity is dissolving; what information/documentation do we have to provide to the Revenue Commissioners?
- The date the organisation ceases to exist officially
- Final set of accounts of the organisation
- Confirmation of how any residual funds, at the time of dissolution, were distributed.
All the information that you need is contained in our publication CHY 2 available on our website at: CHY2 - Scheme of Tax Relief for Donations of Money or Designated Securities to 'Eligible Charities'and other 'Approved Bodies' Under Section 848a Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 (PDF, 283KB)
Office of the Revenue Commissioners
Telephone No. 067 63400 ext. 63377
Fax: 067 32916
Lo call: 1890 66 63 33