Preparing for registration

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland began charity registration on Monday 16 December 2013, with the first tranche of charities in Northern Ireland called forward by the Commission to apply to register.

According to estimates, there are between 7,000 and 12,000 charities currently operating in Northern Ireland so registration will be a managed process. Charities will be called forward to register in tranches, with registration expected to take at least three to four years to complete.

There are a number of steps that charities can take to prepare for registration:

  1. Ensure the Commission has your details
  2. Check the tranche lists on a regular basis
  3. Use the registration guidance available
  4. Prepare your documentation in advance
  5. Watch the online registration tutorial
  6. Attend a registration workshop
  7. Common errors on registration applications - and how to avoid them

1. Ensure the Commission has your details

It is compulsory for all charities operating in Northern Ireland to apply for charity registration.  The Commission will call organisations forward to apply to register in tranches.  However, in order to be invited forward, your details must be on one of three lists the Commission is using to manage registration in a fair and efficient way.

The Commission will use the ‘deemed list’ as an initial database of charities, with organisations from the list called forward by the Commission to apply to register in tranches over coming years. The deemed list covers over 7,000 charities and can be viewed online here.

The other two lists will be made up of organisations which are not registered with HMRC – the non-deemed list – and a special circumstances list, for organisations which have made a case to have their application brought forward or which have been identified as having special circumstances by the Commission. 

You can find out more information on the Commission’s registration lists and any steps you may need to take to ensure the Commission has your correct details to call you forward for registration online here.

2. Check the tranche lists on a regular basis

While there is no way of definitively knowing how many charities are currently operating in Northern Ireland until registration is complete, it is estimated that there is somewhere between 7,000 and 12,000 charities.

In order to ensure registration is managed in a fair and efficient manner, organisations from the Commission’s three registration lists – the deemed, the non-deemed list and the special circumstances lists - will be called forward in tranches to apply to register.

As registration is rolled out, the Commission will publish the tranche we are currently processing online here. Future tranches will also be published in coming months.  This means you will be able to check to see if your organisation is listed in a forthcoming tranche on our website.

3. Use the registration guidance available

The Commission has produced a wide range of guidance to help guide charities to prepare for and go through the online registration process. You will be able to read or download this support by clicking on the text in blue.

If you have been called forward by the Commission to apply for registration, are on one of the tranche lists or are preparing for your application in advance, you can use the Commission’s Purposes and public benefit toolkit (MS Word 824KB) and Creating a pdf guidance (MS Word 47KB) for practical help. Our Document and information checklist (MS Word 38KB) will also help to ensure you have all you need in order to complete the online registration application.

In applying to register as a charity, trustees must have regard to the Commission’s guidance on:

Additionally, the Commission strongly recommends that anyone who has been called forward to apply for registration read following guidance: 

Supporting documents related to each charitable purpose:

4. Prepare your documentation in advance

If you have been invited by the Commission to apply for registration, the Commission recommends you prepare the required documentation in advance.  In addition to reading the above guidance, we would also encourage you to have the following to hand, for example:

  • up to date governing document
  • bank details
  • your most recent annual report
  • financial accounts
  • details of each of your trustees including current and previous names, contact details and date of birth
  • trustee declaration (MS Word 54KB)
  • list of any policies to identify those relevant for registration, for example, working with children or vulnerable people
  • completed registration information form: trustees and key contact (MS Word 681KB). This form, which is available to read or download by clicking on the text in blue, is aimed at helping the person making the application to gather the required contact information from the organisation. The completed form is for support only and does not need to be returned to the Commission.

A useful tool to ensure you have the required documentation in advance of completing your application is our document and information checklist (MS Word 38KB) which you can print and tick off as you gather documents or information. 

5. Watch the online registration tutorial

The Commission's online registration tutorial is available to view as a video on YouTube by clicking here.

6. Attend a registration workshop

The Commission is currently finalising a wide range of online and face to face support aimed at helping organisations to prepare for registration.  This includes developing a number of in-house registration workshops for charities which have been called forward to apply for registration.

The workshops are currently invitation only and are for organisations which have been called forward to register within each tranche. Each workshop will be approximately three hours long and is intended to provide an overview of the online registration process, and the public benefit and purposes toolkit to support applicants to complete their own application.

The Commission is a small organisation and has limited capacity to meet with the thousands of Northern Ireland charities face-to-face. However, we will continue to consider invitations to attend and participate in events on a case by case basis.

You may also wish to consider approaching one of the number of groups and umbrella organisations that have volunteered to be helper groups, providing practical support to individual organisations going through the registration process.  This support will vary depending on the ability and remit of each helper group and can range from providing access to a scanner or the internet to providing guidance where training, resources and time permit.  

If you would like to request the Commission attend or participate in an event, please contact Shirley Kernan, Communications Officer on email: or telephone: 028 3832 0220.

7. Common errors on registration applications - and how to avoid them 

The Commission has produced a range of guidance to support organisations through the registration process.  However, a number of common errors continue to be made in applications.  The document below provides a checklist of those common errors and how they can be avoided. 

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