Share

Public benefit definition not necessary say charity lawyers

Public benefit definition not necessary say charity lawyers
News

Public benefit definition not necessary say charity lawyers

Governance | Niki May Young | 11 May 2012

There is no need to change the public benefit test used during charity registration, according to charity lawyers Bates Wells & Braithwaite (BWB) in its submission to Lord Hodgson's Charities Act review.

The flexibility of the definition and interpretation of "public benefit" in the current test "is the means by which charity law has developed progressively", the lawyers said in what is believed to be the only submission to Lord Hodgson's review by a legal firm, shared exclusively with civilsociety.co.uk.

"This area is not straightforward," they said, "and while it might seem laudable to have a clear statutory definition of public benefit - nobody has yet been able to come up with a suitable one. The formulation we currently have in the Act which is based on case law is therefore best left as is."

However the amendments to the Charities Act had not been without merit, the lawyers advised: "The Charities Act 2006 certainly refocused attention on public benefit as an issue central to the duties of a charity trustee."

Commenting on the effects of changes to the Charities Act imposed in 2006 that were designed to remove the presumption of public benefit for education, religion or anti-poverty charities, BWB said that it was "difficult to tell" if this had been effective. The lawyers highlighted the disparity between the recent charity tribunal case with the Independent Schools Council where parts of the Commission's guidance relating to fee charging were struck out, and the lack of subsequent revisions to guidance by the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission confirmed that amendments on this matter have not yet been put out for consultation.

Additional charitable areas

Similarly the lawyers believe it is too early to tell whether desired areas of expansion brought in with the Act have been achieved, such as within the charity and sport category, but added that  there are other areas that could be included by clarifying the definition of 'charity'. Social finance could be facilitated as a result, the firm advised, and certain areas of journalism "deserve recognition as charitable objects in their own right," it added. 

While BWB doesn't believe 'public benefit' needs a clearer definition, it does point to contrasting definitions of 'charitable purpose' within the Charities Act 2011 which have yet to be addressed.

"This was identified as an issue during the consolidation exercise leading to the Charities Act 2011, but could not be rectified as it went beyond the remit of the consolidation exercise," it said. "The opportunity should now be taken to remove this anomaly and clarify the drafting for the lay audience."

Lord Hodgson is expected to present his completed review of the Charities Act 2006, which will consider further changes to the legal and regulatory framework for charities, to Parliament ahead of the summer recess this year.

 

Comments

[Cancel] | Reply to:

Close »

Community Standards

The civilsociety.co.uk community and comments board is intended as a platform for informed and civilised debate.

We hope to encourage a broad range of views, however, there are standards that we expect commentators to uphold. We reserve the right to delete or amend any comments that do not adhere to these standards.

We welcome:

  • Robust but respectful debate
  • Strongly held opinions
  • Intelligent relevant discussion
  • The sharing of relevant experiences
  • New participants

We will not publish:

  • Rude, threatening, offensive, obscene or abusive language, or links to such material
  • Links to commercial organisations or spam postings. The comments board is not an advertising platform
  • The posting of contact details for yourself or others
  • Comments intended for malicious purpose or mindless abuse
  • Comments purporting to be from another person or organisation under false pretences
  • Gratuitous criticism, commentary or self-promotion
  • Any material which breaches copyright or privacy laws, or could be considered libellous
  • The use of the comments board for the pursuit or extension of personal disputes

Be aware:

  • Views expressed on the comments board are left at users’ discretion and are in no way views held or supported by Civil Society Media
  • Comments left by others may not be accurate, do not rely on them as fact
  • You may be misunderstood - sarcasm and humour can easily be taken out of context, try to be clear

Please:

  • Enjoy the opportunity to express your opinion and respect the right of others to express theirs
  • Confine your remarks to issues rather than personalities

Together we can keep our community a polite, respectful and intelligent platform for discussion.

Grants are ‘unsustainable’ says minister for civil society

26 May 2016

The minister for civil society, Rob Wilson, has said charities too often focus on “outdated operating...

Citizen’s Advice Scotland denies report it is ‘on the brink of collapse’

24 May 2016

Citizen’s Advice Scotland has denied reports it is “on the brink of collapse”, following allegations...

Oxfam accused of using gift aid for tax avoidance

23 May 2016

Gift aid is used by Oxfam and other charities as a form of tax avoidance, according to an article published...

Oxfam director attacks Acevo and NCVO for 'toothless' response to public criticism of charities

27 May 2016

Bodies like Acevo and NCVO have failed to provide proper leadership and lacked a concerted response in...

Cabinet Office advertises for new Charity Commission board members

27 May 2016

The Cabinet Office has advertised for three new board members for the Charity Commission and reappointed...

Vital work of charities damaged by fundraising, says Charity Commission chair

26 May 2016

The “vital work” of charities has been damaged by aggressive fundraisers at some charities which had...

Facebook looking to make ‘donate’ button available to UK charities this year

23 May 2016

Facebook is looking to roll-out its ‘donate’ button feature to all charity pages at some point this...

Blue Cross, Mary's Meals and Barbican start to fundraise with contactless technology

20 May 2016

The Blue Cross, Mary’s Meals and the Barbican are the latest charities to trial the use of contactless...

Charities need to address digital skills gap or they will lose beneficiaries

6 May 2016

Charities must improve their digital offering or lose beneficiaries, the chief executive of Parkinson’s...

Join the discussion

Twitter button

@CSFundraising