Chapter 2: Applications for recognition as a charity for tax purposes

Updated 27 March 2024

Charities based in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway can no longer apply to get tax relief. If you got tax relief on or before 14 March 2023, you will continue to get it until April 2024.

Chapter 2.1: Definition of a charity for tax purposes

2.1.1 The Taxes Acts set out 4 conditions for ‘a body of persons or trust’ to be a charity for tax purposes. These are that the organisation:

  • is established for charitable purposes only
  • meets the jurisdiction condition
  • meets the registration condition
  • meets the management condition

A ‘body of persons’ includes companies, unincorporated associations and other groups.

2.1.2 A ‘body of persons or trust’ is established for ‘charitable purposes only’ if it was set up by a governing, or founding, document that restricts its purposes to those detailed in Chapter 1 of the Charities Act 2011. The organisation must be established in the UK.

2.1.3 For an organisation to be ‘established for charitable purposes only’ it must be restricted by its governing document to using all its income and assets for its stated charitable purposes.

2.1.4 To satisfy the jurisdiction condition the organisation must be subject to the control of a court in the exercise of that court’s jurisdiction with respect to charities. In the UK this is the High Court, the Court of Session in Scotland or the High Court in Northern Ireland. In a relevant territory outside the UK this means a court with a corresponding jurisdiction.

2.1.5 In order to meet the registration condition, an organisation that’s required to register with a charity regulator under the law of the territory in which it’s established must be so registered. So, for example, an organisation in England that’s required to register with the Charity Commission must be so registered to meet the registration condition.

2.1.6 The management condition is concerned with the propriety of the persons who have control and management of the organisation (the managers). There’s more guidance available on the fit and proper persons test.

2.1.7 Further details on the charitable tax exemptions can be found in Annex i of these guidance notes.

2.1.8 A charity must apply to HMRC to be recognised as a charity for tax purposes before they do any of the following:

  • operate the Gift Aid scheme, or any other giving scheme
  • claim charitable tax exemptions
  • submit a claim for a repayment of tax

HMRC can then decide whether the charity satisfies the relevant conditions and set up the appropriate records.

Chapter 2.2: Organisations required to register with a charity regulator

2.2.1 If a body is required to register with a charity regulator it must do so before applying to HMRC for recognition as a charity for tax purposes.

2.2.2 The Charity Commission has responsibility for the regulation of charities in England and Wales that are required to be registered under the Charities Act 1993 (as amended by the Charities Act 2006). The Charity Commission can advise an organisation whether it’s required to register with them. More information about the Charity Commission is available on the Charity Commission website.

2.2.3 The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) has responsibility for the regulation of charities in Scotland. All bodies wishing to act as charities in Scotland must register with OSCR. More information about OSCR is available on the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator website.

2.2.4 The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland (CCNI) is responsible for the regulation of charities in Northern Ireland and began registering charities in December 2013. Charities in Northern Ireland must first register with the CCNI before applying to HMRC. More information about CCNI is available on the CCNI website.

2.2.5 Other relevant countries (EU member states and those listed in regulations) may have their own charity regulators and it’s the responsibility of the organisation to ascertain whether registration is required.

2.2.6 Once an organisation has registered with an appropriate regulator it can make an application to HMRC for recognition as a charity for tax purposes.

Chapter 2.3: Organisations not required to register with a charity regulator

2.3.1 You may apply directly to HMRC for recognition as a charity for tax purposes if your organisation is:

  • excepted or exempt from registration with a charity regulator
  • established in a country where there’s no charity regulator

Chapter 2.4: Organisations refused registration by a charity regulator

2.4.1 For tax purposes, the definition of ‘charitable purposes’ is taken from the Charities Act (England and Wales) 2011. This means that an organisation refused registration as a charity outside England and Wales may still be able to satisfy the conditions in the Taxes Acts and be recognised by HMRC as a charity for tax purposes.

2.4.2 If you want HMRC to consider whether your organisation is a charity for UK tax purposes, please apply directly to HMRC for recognition as a charity for tax purposes.

Chapter 2.5: When HMRC has considered your application

2.5.1 If HMRC Charities is satisfied that the organisation is established for wholly charitable purposes and satisfies the other conditions they will:

  • allocate a charity tax reference number for use on all correspondence and claims
  • write and advise you of their decision and your charity tax reference
  • explain how to find and use the Gift Aid claim forms

2.5.2 If HMRC Charities is not satisfied that your organisation meets the requirements to be recognised as a charity for tax purposes, they will:

  • write to you to explain their decision
  • arrange, if necessary, for a tax record to be created at the appropriate office

Chapter 2.6: Other information

2.6.1 If the charity changes its name, the trustees must notify HMRC Charities as soon as possible using form ChV1 HMRC Charities change of details form. If the charity is a company it should include a copy of the Certificate of Incorporation of Change of Name. If the charity is not a company it should include the minutes of the meeting of the trustees at which the name change was adopted.

2.6.2 If the charity trustees or managers change or if the bank account details change, HMRC should be notified as soon as possible using form ChV1.

2.6.3 You must tell HMRC about any relevant changes, using form ChV1, at least one month before you use the new details to make a claim. HMRC will then update your charity’s records and make any future repayments using the new details.

2.6.4 If you have any further questions about charitable status you should telephone the HMRC Charities Helpline.

Chapter 2.7: Authorisation of agents for charities

2.7.1 Charities and Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) can appoint tax advisers to deal with HMRC regarding their tax affairs. Complete and submit Form 64-8 ‘Authorising your agent’ to give HMRC authority to communicate with your agent about the tax affairs of your organisation. Post your completed form to:

Charities, Savings and International 2
HM Revenue and Customs