Final Notice Letters Issued by the Charities Regulator – Urgent Attention Required
By Sarah Slevin & Eoin Tobin
4 August, 2017
The Charities Regulator (the “Regulator”) has announced that it has sent out “final notice” letters to over 1,400 organisations currently listed on the Register of Charities (the “Register”). If you received one of these letters, you will need to take immediate action to ensure that your charity is not removed from the Register of Charities and does not suffer the adverse consequences which would follow such a removal.
Upon the establishment of the Regulator in 2014 under the Charities Act 2009 (the “2009 Act”), almost 8,500 charities which held CHY status as at 16 October 2014 with the Revenue Commissioners were automatically added to the Register without having to make a new application.
However, in order to maintain their status on the Register, these charities were required to: 1) complete/verify certain information held by the Regulator in relation to them for inclusion on the public register; and 2) submit an annual report in respect of its activities. These are legal requirements under the 2009 Act.
Contents of Letter
“Final notice” letters have now been issued to charities which have not complied with the above requirements. According to the Regulator, the letter sets out a three-step process that the organisation must follow in order to meet the requirements set out under 1) and 2) above.
The letter sets down a deadline of 7 August 2017 for completion and verification of the information to be included on the public register and for submission of an annual report to the Regulator. From 14 August 2017, the Regulator will begin taking steps which may lead to organisations which continue to be in default of their obligations after this date to be removed from the Register.
Consequences of Inaction
Removal from the Register is extremely damaging for both the charity itself and for those working on its behalf. Both the organisation and any person who, on its behalf, advertises for, invites the public to give money or property to it or accepts gifts of money or other property to the charity if it is not registered or deemed to be registered shall be guilty of an offence under the 2009 Act. As well as this, any body that holds itself out as registered when it is not, or any person who holds a body out in such a manner, shall be guilty of an offence.
A person guilty of an offence under this Act shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to €5,000 or to imprisonment for up to twelve months or both, or on conviction on indictment to a fine of up to €300,000 or to imprisonment for a term of up to ten years or to both. If the offence is committed by a body corporate, both it and any person being, or purporting to be, a director, manager, secretary or other officer of the body corporate shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence.
Furthermore, a body that has been removed from the Register in accordance with the provisions of the 2009 Act shall not be eligible to reapply to be registered before the expiration of one year from the date of its removal.
Clearly, removal from the Register could have dire consequences for the charity and its personnel, and so unnecessary removal should be avoided.
What Should You Do?
If you or your organisation receives one of these “final notice” letters, it is imperative that immediate steps are taken to ensure that the Regulator receives the information it requires prior to 7 August 2017. The three-step process set out in the letter should be used in order to achieve compliance. RDJ can provide any assistance necessary to charities in gathering and submitting the necessary information.