Becoming a Charity

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How to set up a charity in Scotland.

There are many advantages to becoming a charity, but you will need to consider whether this is the best option for your organisation.  Basic information about the benefits of charitable status is available from our Becoming a Charity in Scotland leaflet.

An organisation can only become a charity if it meets the charity test, meaning it must have only charitable purposes as defined in charity law and it must provide public benefit.

Our Meeting the Charity Test full guidance and The Charity Test -  a brief guide will provide further information on the charity test.

Once registered, charities must meet a number of legal responsibilities set out in charity law, including reporting to us on an annual basis.  Charities also have to comply with other relevant legislation, for example charitable companies must also comply with company law.

You can view a list of newly registered charities by month, from December 2013, here.

Preparing to become a charity

If you would like your organisation to become a charity, there are a number of things to consider before applying.  These include:

  • Deciding what kind of organisation you would like to be, for example a company, trust, Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) or an association.
  • Deciding who will run your charity.  Read our Charity Trustee Duties page and our guidance for charity trustees for further information.
  • Preparing a governing document, for example a constitution, setting out your organisation's purposes and how your charity will run.
  • Deciding what your charity's name will be.  We cannot register a charity whose name is the same or too similar to an existing one, or is misleading or offensive.  Please check the Scottish Charity Register before deciding on your charity's name.  More information on names and charity law is available in our Changing Your Charity's Name guidance.

Managing your charity

Before applying for charitable status, it is important for you to understand the operating and reporting requirements for registered charities.  The Managing your Charity section of the website provides guidance on this.

Help in setting up your charity

While we can advise you on the application process and meeting our requirements, we are unable to help you with setting up your charity.

Information and guidance about setting up a charity is available from:

  • The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO).
  • Your local Third Sector Interface, organisations which offer support to voluntary organisations.
  • Organisations considering applying for charitable status may also wish to consult a professional adviser.  The Law Society of Scotland and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Scotland may be able to help you identify a  professional firm with expertise in charity law and accounting.
  • HMRC will be able to help you with any questions you may have about tax.
  • The Scottish Government's website has an Enterprising Third Sector Zone which gives details of help and practical support available.

Applying for charitable status

Our How to Apply page provides advice on the charitable status application process.