The Charity Commission will start accepting online registrations for Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIO) from midday on 10 December 2012.
The CIO is a new legal form designed specifically for charities, and has been anticipated for some time. It provides charities with some of the benefits of being a company, without all of the associated burdens. They will need to register only with the Charity Commission, not with Companies House. Currently many charities which have established themselves with limited liability have had to register with both and to provide the necessary annual reporting to each.
One benefit of the CIO is that they will be able to enter into contracts in their own right, with their trustees enjoying limited or no liability.
The first CIOs will be able to join the register from 3 January 2013 when the relevant regulations come into force.
The Commission is staggering the application process to enable it to manage demand. The 10 December stage is open to brand new charities with incomes of over £5,000. Others can register at various stages, published on the Commission's website, ranging from late March 2013 to January 2014.
Is CIO registration appropriate for all charities?
The Charity Commission points out that the CIO structure is not suitable for all new charities. It advises that "CIOs will be most beneficial for small to medium sized charities which employ staff or enter into contracts". It should not be considered as straightforward as, for example, running an unincorporated association or trust.
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