The Government has approved a bill aimed at updating existing charity law, and strengthening the powers of the Charities Regulator.
It says that the amendments being proposed will introduce greater transparency in the way charities report.
The Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys published the General Scheme of the Charities (Amendment) Bill 2022 today (29 April).
Key elements of the bill include:
- New financial thresholds to ensure more appropriate reporting requirements that reflect the size of a charity,
- Clarification on the general duties of trustees,
- Strengthening the regulator’s powers in relation to the protection of charitable organisations, and
- Establishment of “the advancement of human rights” as a recognised charitable purpose.
Under the proposals, the threshold for preparing an annual statement of accounts would rise from the current €100,000 to €250,000. The threshold relates to a charity’s level of income and expenditure, and allows smaller charities to submit simplified statements.
Books of account
Another feature of the bill is a move to bring bodies that raise funds for higher-education institutions, such as university foundations, within the remit of charities legislation.
Now, such bodies are exempt from key provisions of the Charities Act 2009, and are not subject to statutory audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General.
Another amendment would require charities that are companies to keep proper books of account.
The current wording of the legislation does not allow the regulator to remove a charity from the register, or impose sanctions, if it is a company.
Although such charities are required to keep proper books of account under company law, the relevant provision is not enforceable by the Charities Regulator.
Minister Humphreys praised the work done by charities, but pointed to some “high-profile controversies” in the sector in recent years.
“People want to know, when they donate to charity, that their money is going where it is supposed to, and that it is being managed properly and responsibly,” she said.
The bill will now go to the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development, and the Islands for scrutiny.