How To Register A Charity With HMRC To Claim Charitable Status

There are a wide range of HMRC charitable tax reliefs, but you have to register your charity with HMRC to claim charitable status. This guide gives you practical step-by-step instructions on HMRC charity registration, so you can claim everything you're entitled to. I am neither a lawyer, nor accountant, so this is a layman's guide, not professional advice.

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Who Can Register With HMRC For Tax Charity Reliefs?

  • Charities can register, unless your income is in excess of £5k and you've not yet registered with the Charity Commission.
  • Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) aren't charities, but can claim Gift Aid and other tax reliefs.
  • Social Enterprises, such as CICs, cannot claim charitable tax reliefs, but can claim other company tax reliefs.

Here's a list of the relevant tax reliefs, with links to more guidance.

Government Gateway

However, to claim charitable tax reliefs, you first have to register with HMRC, via the Government Gateway.

Go to Gov.UK and click on the ‘Create sign in details’ link. You need to register as an 'Organisation', not yourself. Make sure you make a note of your Government ID number, password and recovery word. Simply follow the instructions.

Once you're in the HMRC system and it asks you what services you wish to register for, select 'Other' for Gift Aid.

Information Required and Things To Watch Out For

The system times out after 15 minutes, you can close your browser at any time, but your progress will only be saved up to the point where you last clicked ‘Save and continue’ and an unfinished application is only stored for 28 days from the last time it was saved. I've found that the best way to avoid losing any data is to have all the information to hand befiore I begin. Most of this will be in the pdf the Charity Commission sent you on submitting your registration.

o   Bank account details and financial accounts. Here's my guide to opening a free charity bank account. When entering your details, enter the sort code using the format shown on screen (45-67-89, not 456789) and don't put a comma in your estimated annual and actual income to date this year (10000, not 10,000).

o   Officials’ details, including dates of birth, addressess, telephone numbers and National Insurance numbers. If the system refuses to accept a postcode, stating it's not valid. Leave the postcode box blank and enter your country in the country box instead (eg England). I know it's the box to complete for an overseas address, but it works. Yes, I know that's silly, but it's what HMRC told me to do the first time it happened to me. If you're like me and like things done properly, paste your postcode into line 3 of the address section. Your Charity Commission copy of your application contains trustees' details, but not their phone numbers and the HMRC portal won't let you proceed without these, so have them to hand.

o   Registration number if you’ve registered your charity with a regulator.

o   Charitable objectives (sometimes called purposes) and benefits. You are limited to 500 characters for each, so may need to summarise down what's in your governing document.

o   Governing document (sometimes called a rulebook) - this explains how your charity is run.

Once complete, a page will display that shows you everything you've entered. It's a good idea to copy and paste this into a Word document, so you have a record. I also suggest making a record of your HMRC Reference Number, which you'll be given in the final screen.

Supporting Documentation

Once you submit your registration, you'll be given a reference number, which you should add to copies of the documents below, to be sent to HMRC by post, within a set timescale.

  • Registration - notification of registration from your regulator.
  • Evidence of activities - basically, HMRC is looking for you to demonstrate that you actually exist (anti-fraud), so you could send documents, such as a business plan, minutes of trustee meetings, evidence of funding applications/donations, brochures or even a flyer, if that's all you have.
  • Governing document and any proposed changes.

If you’re missing any National Insurance numbers, remember to post a copy of each persons’ passport photograph page, along with proof of their home address.

The final screen no longer asks you for the supporting bank account details, but I suggest that you send these as well - Bank statements (3 months). If your bank account has been open less than 3 months, provide evidence from the bank that the account is open, such as the bank letter notifying you of this.

If in any doubt, I suggest you call the helpline - 0300 123 1073.

Timescale

It takes 6 weeks to process most applications. If more checks are needed or during busy periods, it may take longer.

Alternatives to HMRC CHarity Registration

Sports Clubs

If you're a sports club and eligible, you can register with HMRC as a Community Amateur Sports Club, rather than a charity. You can find everything you need to decide which would be best for you, by going to my Part 1 Registration Guide and scrolling down to CASCs in Section 2.

Charities Based Outside Of The UK

If you're outside the UK, but have UK donors, it is possible to claim Gift Aid without registering a UK charity and with HMRC. Find out more here.

It's also possible to create a UK charity that can benefit from UK and US tax reliefs, but it must be dual qualified. That might potemtially be quite useful, but I suggest you probably need a lawyer - here's more.

Changed Details

Remember to advise HMRC of any subsequent significant changes in your charity details using ChV1. These relate primarily to changes in officials and bank account details - find out more here.

I'm not sure about some aspects of the above..

Contact me on charityexcellence@gmail.com or 07595 371 444 and I’ll be happy to have a chat. And, if you don’t want to do it yourself, to help fund my free Charity Excellence Framework, I offer a registration service that’s much cheaper than using an online provider/lawyer.

Tax Reliefs

For a summary of the various tax reliefs you can claim, with links to the online resources you'll need, click here

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