The Charity Commission will start considering online applications for registration as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) from next Monday. The independent regulator has confirmed that applications for the new structure will be accepted from 12 noon on Monday 10 December 2012.
The CIO is a new legal form designed specifically for charities. The structure provides charities with some of the benefits of being a company, without all of the associated burdens. CIOs will be incorporated charities able to enter into contracts in their own right, whose trustees will have limited or no liability. CIOs will therefore only need to register with the Commission, not with Companies House.
No CIOs will be able to join the Register of Charities until 3rd January 2013, as the relevant Regulations do not come into force until 28 days after they are made. However, the Commission has confirmed that it will begin accepting and considering certain types of online CIO applications in advance of that date.
A timetable, setting out which types of applications will be given priority, is published on the Commission's website. This staggered approach, which was agreed by ministers, is designed to help the regulator manage demand for the new structure, despite its limited resources.
Applications for brand new charities with incomes of over £5,000 will be able to apply for registration from 10 December 2012. The subsequent stages are set out below:
From late March 2013 - window opens for existing unincorporated charities (to set up a CIO and transfer assets into it) with incomes of over £250,000
From May 2013 - window opens for existing unincorporated charities with incomes between £100,000 and £250,000
From July 2013 - window opens for existing unincorporated charities with incomes between £25,000 and £100,000
From October 2013 - window opens for existing unincorporated charities with incomes between £5,000 and £25,000
From January 2014 - window opens for existing unincorporated charities with incomes less than £5,000 and for brand new charities with anticipated annual incomes of less than £5,000
The regulator is also reminding those considering setting up a new charity that the CIO structure will not be suitable for all. The Commission says CIOs will be most beneficial for small to medium sized charities which employ staff or enter into contracts. While running a CIO should be simpler than establishing a charitable company, it will not be as straightforward as running an unincorporated association or trust.
The Commission is urging those thinking about applying to register a CIO to consider carefully information available on the Commission's website before starting their online application.