It's not uncommon to find that some church trustees are unclear on their legal obligations to register their church as a charity. This is not surprising given that, until fairly recent times, Charity Commission officers seemed to share the same confusion.
Which register? Registered with whom?
Stewardship have recently published a new Briefing Paper which sets out four different forms of ‘registration’ that a church may have to consider:
Does my church need to register?
Stewardship dispel the myth that where a church is a registered place of worship, it does not need to be registered with the Charity Commission. Registration as a place of worship entails registration under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855. This registration is of the building (only) and enables solemnization of marriages to take place in that building.
Where a building is registered as a place of worship, the trusts over the building do not need to be registered with the Charity Commission as they fall within an exception. However, the funds of the congregation that meet in the building will be subject to the normal charity registration rules in Charities Act 2011 and must register with the Charity Commission if the 2011 Act applies.
The Paper also considers the current but temporary exception from registration with the Commission that churches that are associated with certain defined denominations and church groups can enjoy, where gross income is less than £100,000.
Finally, they explain why registration with the relevant charity regulator (which may be the Charity Commission in England and Wales, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator or the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland) is so important if the church wishes to benefit from the various tax reliefs available to charities. The main available reliefs are listed under each type of tax.
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