News & Views
Charity law and regulation
Like trying to predict settled weather in an English summer, the timing of the implementation of the Charities Act 2006 has become difficult to forecast with any degree of precision.
The enactment of its first provisions in February was the equivalent of last Easter’s heat wave - early promise which was not matched by what followed.
The headline provisions of the Act which are due to come into force over the next six months or so include:
- Mergers: Provisions designed to simplify the legal process of charity mergers, and to help preserve legacies left to ‘old’ charities after a merger, are due to be dealt with in a second commencement order which will bring the provisions into force from mid-November 2007. Charity Commission guidance on mergers (i.e. revised operational guidance) will be issued at the same time (see Andrew Hind’s article on the Merger's Register)
- Fundraising statements: Provisions designed to clarify the amounts passing to charity from commercial ventures and the fees payable to professional fundraisers are not due to come into force until January 2008 in order not to upset arrangements made for Christmas appeals.
- Accounting and reporting changes: Provisions such as those amending the levels at which audits are required are now not expected to become effective until March 2008, since they will need to reflect the Charity Commission's final form of public benefit guidance.
- Public benefit and the new categorization of charitable purposes – these cannot be made effective until theCharity Tribunal is up and running. The Tribunal is still on track to open in February 2008. The guidance on public benefit requirements will be published in January 2008, some three months behind the original schedule.
- Charitable Incorporated Organisations (‘CIOs’) The much vaunted new incorporated charity legal structure should be trailed through a consultation package due to be published before Christmas. However, CIOs are now unlikely to be available until the summer of 2008.
So the timetable has slipped from the original plans, perhaps unsurprisingly given the technical detail involved and (in particular) the huge number of responses last summer to the Commission’s public benefit consultation. The Office of the Third Sector hopes to publish a revised implementation timetable within the next few weeks.