A regime for the registration of charities became operative in 2008. The Charities Service of the Department of Internal Affairs is now responsible for vetting the charitable status of organisations and registering them as such. The Charities Registration Board deliberates on any applications which are considered to be contentious. Charitable tax exemption depends on registration.
Much of Charities Services' application and reporting procedures can be dealt with without professional advice or assistance but defining the purposes of an organisation in a way that qualifies for charitable status often requires professional help. The DIA and the Board apply a much more stringent approach than the Inland Revenue used to and is required under the Charities Act 2005 to have regard to what an organisation actually does as well as to what it says it does when considering charitable status. It is clear also that the Courts have begun to interpret and apply charity law less expansively than many commentators anticipated.
The DIA is charged with monitoring the performance of charitable organisations and may enforce the law by suspending or ultimately deregistering them. Adverse decisions of the Charities Registration Board may be appealed to the High Court.
Geoff Clews has advised many organisations on the steps required to obtain charitable registration, including the drafting and refinement of charitable objects, and he has acted for organisations in dispute with the former Charities Commission and DIA Charities Services.
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