Regulator updates guidance

20 Aug 2015

Scotland’s charity regulator has today [Thursday 20 August 2015] published guidance to make it easier to understand what it takes to become a charity and to stay within the rules on public benefit.

While the basic principles remain unchanged, Meeting the Charity Test has been extensively rewritten and reformatted for ease of use.  The new-look guidance is web-based and organised into separate sections for easy reference according to individual needs. The guidance has been informed by the Regulator’s experience in assessing and granting status to over 5,000 charities since the last update, along with widespread consultation of charities and third sector advisors. 

Read the updated guidance here.

Written in clear, non-technical language, each section features real-life case study examples to illustrate the legal concepts that OSCR must consider and issues that could arise.  In addition to those seeking charity status, the guidance is also relevant to existing charities, as trustees should regularly review their operations to confirm that they still meet the charity test set out in law.

Links to the new guidance will be issued to over 6,000 charities and advisors subscribing to the Regulator’s newssletter. Local Third Sector Interface groups around the country, umbrella and parent organisations, and professional bodies will also be alerted to the updated guidance and, says OSCR’s Head of Registration, Martin Tyson, should find it a useful reference both as new applicants and as existing charities.

‘Our updated guidance features a range of case studies based on the type of scenarios we’ve encountered, to help applicants and existing charities to understand what’s required of them, how we look at the charity test, and the issues that can arise.  It should also help organisations decide whether becoming a charity is the right thing for them in the first place,’ he said.

‘We consulted on the guidance earlier this year, and we’re grateful for the many responses that have helped us improve the document for publication, as well as very positive feedback about how easy the online guidance is to use,’ he added.  ‘We gathered a number of suggestions and comments on various aspects of the guidance, and we’ve incorporated many of these into the finished item.’  

The updated guidance is available in HTML and PDF format at www.oscr.org.uk, along with further information on the charity test and applying for charity status.  The Regulator is to publish a summary guidance document at a later date. The Consultation Report on the guidance is also published today.

Issued by The Scottish Charity Regulator, Quadrant House, 9 Riverside Drive, Dundee DD1 4NY.  For further information, contact Mark Simpson or Judith Pogorzelec on 01382 220446 or 07724 150833, or email mark.simpson@oscr.org.uk

Background

1. The Scottish Charity Regulator is the independent registrar and regulator of Scotland's 23,800 charities and publishes the Scottish Charity Register at www.oscr.org.uk

2. The Regulator's vision is for charities you can trust and which provide public benefit.

3. Sections 7 and 8 of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 set out the charity test that must be met in Scotland.  In particular (and in contrast to the position in England and Wales) the 2005 Act sets out specific factors which the Regulator must look at in assessing whether organisations meet the test.  In summary, a charity must have exclusively charitable purposes and provide public benefit; and, in doing so, where conditions exist on gaining access to the benefit (such as fees), these must not be unduly restrictive.  In addition, the Regulator must have regard to issues such as private benefit and any disbenefit to the public.

4. In November 2008, OSCR published Meeting the Charity Test, setting out the requirements of the 2005 Act and the issues that the Regulator must consider in assessing applicants and existing charities against the test.  The updated guidance builds on the principles set out in the earlier version, informed by OSCR’s experience in assessing and granting charity status since then to over 5,000 new charities and also informed by reviews of existing charities such as fee-charging schools and local authorities’ Arms Length External Organisations (ALEOs).