Registered Charity Status
All Parish Church Councils (PCCs) are charities, which means they are subject to UK charity law and have all the benefits of charitable status. Currently, PCCs with income greater than £100,000 per annum are required to register with the Charity Commission. PCCs with income less than £100,000 per annum are excepted from the requirement to register under Section 30 para 2 (c) of the Charities Act 2011. Charities (Exception from Registration and Accounts) Regulations 1996 (SI 1996 No. 180) as amended by The Charities (Exception from Registration) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (SI 2012 No. 1734).
Smaller PCCs with income under £100,000 per annum are currently excepted from registering with the Charity Commission and will not have a Registered Charity Number. Parishes should not quote the Diocesan Board of Finance’s Registered Charity number.
When registering with HMRC for Gift Aid/GASDS claims, parishes which do not legally need to register with the Charity Commission can quote: ‘We are currently excepted from registration by The Charities Act (Exception from Registration) Regulations 2008.’ For some grant applications and other purposes you can provide your HMRC Gift Aid claims reference number as a substitute, but you should be clear that is what you are supplying.
How do I register with the Charity Commission?
PCCs currently with annual gross income greater than £100,000 per annum are required to register with the Charity Commission; PCCs with income less than £100,000 per annum are ‘excepted’ from the requirement to register. These PCCs have no charity registration number which can cause occasional issues. The Registered Charity number of the Bath and Wells Diocesan Board of Finance Ltd should not be quoted in this context.
Dispensation from Registration
If your PCC exceeds £100,000 income for one year due to an exceptional ‘one-off’ receipt (eg a grant), the Charity Commission may grant a dispensation from registration. Further details on how to apply for this are on the Parish Resources website.
Charity Commission Annual Return
If your PCC is a registered Charity you will have to confirm whether you have various written policies. The policies a PCC needs and how detailed the policy is will depend on a PCC’s size and activities. A PCC’s register entry will show the policies it has. The Commission’s guidance states, ‘The commission believes that having written policies which are relevant to a charity’s size and activities ,implemented effectively and reviewed regularly strengthens a charity’s effectiveness and helps to demonstrate that trustees are taking their legal responsibilities and good governance seriously.’
Our national church colleagues are considering providing policy templates which PCCs may choose to adopt and use in due course.
PCC Members as Charity Trustees
As you will know, PCC members are all automatically trustees of the PCC as a charity ( even if your PCC is small and not registered with the Charity Commission). Did you know that there are rules about who cannot be a charity trustee? Is anyone checking that no one is appointed who is disqualified? The rules on who may be disqualified is changing in August but it is possible to apply for a waiver in some circumstances
The guidance from the Charity Commission states
- must not appoint a trustee who is disqualified under the current rules, unless their disqualification has been waived
- should have systems in place for identifying trustees who become disqualified after they have been appointed”