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Faith based charities should consider whether they wish to apply for religious designation. If they do it is the charity’s responsibility to provide evidence to the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland that they meet the conditions set out in the Charities Act 2008. Religious designation was included in the Charities Act (Northern Ireland) 2008 to take account of the unique structures within some faith-based charities in Northern Ireland, which often have supervisory or regulatory arrangements in place to deal with issues that may arise.

The conditions are that:

1. the advancement of religion is the principal purpose of the charity;
2. the regular holding of public worship is the principal activity of the charity;
3. the charity has been established in Northern Ireland for at least five years;
4. the charity has an internal organisation to ensure that there are authorities in place to deal with supervisory and disciplinary matters affecting it and all of its component elements (such as individual congregations); and
5. the charity has procedures to ensure that all of its component elements are subject to requirements to keep accounting records and to audit accounts that correspond with the requirements in the Charities Act 2008.

Religious designation is distinct from compulsory charity registration and is applied for separately. Application is voluntary and being refused designation does not have an impact on charitable status. Charities with religious designation are still subject to charity law requirements and, in common with all registered charities, have to submit their accounts and reports to the Commission on an annual basis.

Once a charity has been granted religious designation, its entry on the register of charities will be updated to show that it has been ‘registered with religious designation’. If you require further information or advice please contact Sarah Burrows at sarah.burrows@edwardsandcompany.co.uk or Jenny Ebbage at jenny.ebbage@edwardsandcompany.co.uk

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