How to Apply for Charitable Status

Applying for charitable status

To help us make a decision on whether your organisation should be granted charitable status in Scotland, you must send us the following information.

1. A fully completed application form.  These contain guidance notes.  You have two options.

  • For all forms of charities except Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisations (SCIOs) you should complete a Charitable Status application form
  • For SCIOs, please complete a SCIO application form. You can read further guidance on the SCIO legal form here.

2. A fully completed Charity Trustee Declaration form.  Please print as many of these as you need.  (Note that a SCIO must have a minimum of three charity trustees.) These forms allow the people running the charity - the charity trustees - to assure us that they are aware of their responsibilities and are not disqualified.

3. A copy of your organisation's constitution or governing document.  This sets out the purposes for which your organisation was set up, the form it will take, and what it can do. If possible, please give us a draft version so that any changes can be made easily.

4. A description of your organisation's existing or proposed activities.  For example, a business plan or a funding application.  This helps us to decide if your organisation will provide public benefit.

5. A recent statement of accounts, if you have one.

All completed applications should be sent to us at:

The Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR)
2nd Floor
Quadrant House
9 Riverside Drive
Dundee
DD1 4NY

We will acknowledge your application within 10 days of receipt. We aim to assess applications within 90 days. Some applications take longer if they are complex, or if we need to come back to you for more information.

We will use your completed forms and supporting documents to assess your application against the charity test which forms part of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 (the 2005 Act). Our Meeting the Charity Test full guidance and the Charity Test - a brief guide provide further information on the charity test.

In summary, to pass the charity test your organisation must meet the following requirements.

1. It must have only charitable purposes. The purposes are found in your constitution or governing document and state what your organisation has been set up to achieve. When assessing your application, we will look to see that your purposes can be linked to those set out in the 2005 Act.

2. Its activities must provide, or be intended to provide, public benefit in Scotland or elsewhere. We will look at what your organisation does or plans to do to achieve your purposes. You must be able to show that in carrying out your activities you will make a positive difference to the public in the ways suggested by your purposes. Charities can provide public benefit in many different ways and in differing amounts. It is important that your application clearly tells us what you intend to do to achieve your purposes. Without this we can't assess whether your organisation will provide public benefit.

3. Your constitution or governing document must meet the requirements of the 2005 Act. We will check to make sure that:

  • Your organisation's property cannot be used for non-charitable purposes.
  • Ministers are not in control of, or are able to direct, your activities.
  • Your organisation is not a political party or that its purpose is not the advancement of a political party.

If you are applying to become a SCIO there are further requirements you must meet in addition to the charity test. More information on these requirements is available from our publication SCIOs: A Guide.

If you meet all of the registration conditions, we will enter your organisation on the Scottish Charity Register and issue you with a Scottish charity number. Read the Publicising your Charitable Status page for more information on what you need to do to promote your charity registration.

Once you are registered, you have legal responsibilities to provide us, and the public, with certain information and to contact us to get our permission before making changes to your charity. Read the Managing your Charity section for more information on your responsibilities.

If your organisation fails the charity test, we will write to you, explaining our reasons. If you disagree with our decision, you can ask us to review it and we will explain how to do this when we give you our decision.

If you are a charity based in England and Wales and you would like to register or need to register with us please read our English and Welsh charities page.