Registered Charities

Registration FAQs

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What does it cost to register?

Application for registration is free of charge however you will be required to furnish an Annual Return each year at a cost of $76.67 for paper based Annual Returns and $51.11 for online returns. Charities with a gross annual income below $10,000 do not pay an Annual Return fee.

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What are the benefits to my organisation of registration?

As a registered charitable entity, your organisation can be reasonably sure it will be eligible for tax exempt status. It will enjoy improved public trust and confidence in its activities, and receive, if you wish, support and guidance from the Commission on good governance and management.

You can display your unique registration number on promotional and identification material and quote it over the telephone to prospective donors or funders as proof of your legitimacy.

Potential donors and funders can research the register and make informed decisions about who to support.

For more information, read Benefits to Charities.

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What information do we need to give the Commission?

The Commission has developed a checklist to show the information an organisation needs in order to register.

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What happens once we are registered?

Once a charitable organisation has registered with the Commission, it is issued with a unique registration number. Organisations are required to disclose this number at the request of a member of the public, if they are invited to make a donation over the phone or Internet.

This requirement is an important safeguard and will be useful in providing the public with a high degree of confidence that an organisation is undertaking activities that are both charitable and in the public interest .

Charitable organisations are required to notify the Commission if certain core information, such as the organisation's charitable purpose, has changed during the year.

This requirement will ensure that all information that is held on the Charities Register is as up to date as possible. Late filing fees will apply if the Commission is not notified of these changes within a specified time.

Organisations also need to submit an Annual Return that provides basic financial data such as its income, outgoings and net worth.

Collecting this data provides valuable information for the Commission, the Government, and the charitable sector on funding sources and trends within the sector.

Charitable organisations are also required to assist the Commission with any investigations that it undertakes in performance of its statutory monitoring obligations. It is an offence for any charitable organisation to fail, without reasonable excuse, to supply the Commission with information and documents that have been requested during an investigation.

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How do we register with the Commission?

You can register online, or by completing and posting hard copy forms to the Charities Commission.

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Is registration compulsory for all organisations?

No, but charitable organisations wanting to retain or gain tax exempt status on the grounds of charitable purpose will need to register.

Also, charities wishing to use the term "registered charitable entity", "charitable entity" or any other term implying registration must register.

The Charities Act 2005 includes penalty provisions for organisations that say they are registered when they are not.

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How long will it take to process our registration application?

We are currently working on registration applications that we received about six weeks ago.  

In most cases, once an application reaches the front of the queue, if the applicant has correctly completed their application form, and provided all the necessary information, our registration analysts will - within five to eight working days - either register the charity or send notice that we may decline the application.

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How long will it take to process our Notification of change?

We are currently working through notifications of change that we received about eight weeks ago.

In most cases, once a notification of change reaches the front of the queue, if the applicant has correctly completed everything and provided all the necessary information, our analysts can process it in a further eight working days.

The queue is an “exception” to our normal timeframes, and we are making good progress on reducing it.

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Group Registration

How does a group apply for registration?

Applying to register as a group is a two-stage process.

The parent must collect and present the information needed to show that we should treat the group as a "single entity". This includes —

The parent should use a Group Member Information Form to collect this information and include these forms with its submission. The Registration Checklist shows you what information is needed to complete a Group Member Information Form. We suggest that the parent keeps copies of these forms to help with the second stage of the process.

Make a submission : The parent must make a written request to us, asking for the group of organisations to be treated as a "single entity". This must be signed by an officer of the parent.

Below is a list of items that the submission must, or should, include.

To differentiate the name of the group from any of its member organisations, the submission must include —

It should also include —

The submission may also include if you wish —

Once we decide to treat the organisations as a group, we will write to the parent to outline the proposed terms and conditions. These will be set on a case-by-case basis and will vary from one group to another.

The terms and conditions may relate to —

Once the terms and conditions have been agreed between the Commission and the parent, the parent can proceed to stage two of the application process.

Apply: The parent makes an application to register the group by requesting form 5 – Application by a group for registration as a single charitable entity.

The parent will need to complete Form 5 showing the terms and conditions agreed, and the terms and conditions set for the group will help the parent complete Form 5 as will copies of the Group Member Information Forms for each member organisation.

Does your organisation meet the criteria to register as part of a group?

Two or more organisations may register together as a group if they —

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Does your organisation qualify for registration under the Charities Act?

It can apply for registration if —

Does your organisation agree to be part of the group?

All organisations must agree to register as part of a group, so you should make sure you know who the other organisations in your proposed group are.

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Does your organisation have similar charitable purposes to the others in the proposed group?

You must have similar charitable purposes to the other organisations in the group. The Commission will be looking for similarity of charitable purposes between group members.

Which organisation will act as parent for the proposed group?

The parent leads the application process on behalf of the group and must understand and accept its ongoing responsibilities. We explain more about this below under the headings Who will lead your group? and What are their responsibilities? All organisations in the group must agree on which one will be the parent and take these responsibilities.

Does your organisation have a close relationship with the group parent?

You must have an affiliation or close relationship with the parent organisation of the proposed group.

How does your organisation manage its finances?

You should think about how you will provide financial information for Annual Returns. You should also work with the other members of the group to decide how to file Annual Returns and how the parent will report financial information for the group.

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What happens once the group is registered?

The following information relating to each group member will usually be publicly available on the Charities Register:

The following information relating to the group will usually be publicly available on the Charities Register —

However, the group's terms and conditions might allow some of this information to be restricted from public access on the Register.

Notifying changes and filing Annual Returns

Obligations under the Charities Act, such as notifying changes to the information held on the Register and filing Annual Returns, will be met either by the parent, or by each group member. This will depend on the terms and conditions set for the group.

Before sending us information about changes, the parent must first check to see if any of the changes impact on the information held on the Register for the group. If they do, the parent must notify us of the changes as set out in the group's terms and conditions.

Our information sheet – Annual Returns under the Charities Act explains more about filing Annual Returns.

Annual Return fees will vary from group to group, depending on how the group files them. This will be set out in the terms and conditions for the group.

Parent's powers and responsibilities

We will usually work with the parent on any matters relating to the group or any of its members.
The parent should, subject to terms and conditions —

Group member's responsibilities

The terms and conditions will determine how the group will communicate issues relating to membership of the group to us.

The group member should (subject to terms and conditions):

Removal of a group member from the group

We can remove a group member from a group if we are no longer satisfied that:

We can also remove a group member from a group if:

When we consider removal, we must allow both the group member affected and the parent the opportunity to have their say on the matter.

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What are the responsibilities and powers of the parent?

When two or more organisations wish to register together as a group, they must first agree on which one of them will become the parent. The parent may be any one of the organisations that is part of the group. For example, it may be the head office, national body or one of the local offices. The parent is not an organisation set up especially to act as parent.

As well as leading the application process, the parent has responsibilities and powers after we have registered the group. Its responsibilities and powers are to —

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Restricting Information

Can information on the Charities Register be restricted from public view?

Yes. Section 25 of the Charities Act says that the Commission may restrict public access to information and documents on the Register "if it considers it in the public interest to do so". Restricted information will still be on the Register but members of the public won"t be able to see it.

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What information does the Register usually show about a charity?

Section 24 of the Charities Act says that the Register must show the charity's:

The Register must also show each notice of change, Annual Return and financial statement that is filed by the charity.

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How do we apply to have information restricted from public view?

If you have a reason that you think is in the "public interest", you can make a written request asking for your information to be restricted so the public cannot see it. There is no special form or process to follow. Simply write a letter detailing:

For example, if you claim it would be unsafe for an individual or members of the public if certain information is shown on the Register, provide evidence to support your claim. Or, if applicable, explain how restricting information will help promote philanthropic giving.

If you claim that there will be unreasonable prejudice to your charity's commercial position, you should:

Include the letter with your application form or, if you are already registered, include it with the form you use to advise us of new information.

We will consider your request (on a case-by-case basis) and write to you to let you know our decision. See our information sheet What you can do if you disagree with our decisions.

If you want information to be restricted from public access you should send us your request at the same time that your send us the information that the request relates to. This may be when you are applying for registration or when you are updating information already on the Register.

If you are updating information that is currently restricted from public access, you must ask for this information to remain restricted, if that is what you want.

Please note that we are not able to consider a request to restrict public access to financial information before we have seen the financial information that the request relates to.

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What does the phrase "public interest" mean?

The Act does not define the phrase "public interest". However, we use its plain meaning, keeping in mind the overall purpose of the Charities Act, which is "to promote public trust and confidence in the charitable sector".

The following are some examples of public interests that may justify restrictions to information:

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What reasons are unlikely to be accepted for restricting financial information?

We are unlikely to accept the following reasons as a basis for restricting financial information:

We are also unlikely to grant a request to restrict information if it is already in the public arena – for example, if this information is already available on the Companies Office register or on your own website.

If we do not agree to your request, we will not put the information on the Register before talking to you about your options. These can include:

See our information sheet What you can do if you disagree with our decisions.

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Who will have access to restricted information on the Register?

Government - Legally, we must allow access to government agencies. For example, Inland Revenue and Statistics New Zealand may access your information even though it is not publicly available.

Official Information Act request - Section 25 of the Charities Act does not limit the Official Information Act, so information held on the Register (even though it is not publicly available) could be accessed under the Official Information Act.

We consider requests made under the Official Information Act on a case-by-case basis, using the criteria under that Act.

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Officer Certification

How do you know that an officer is qualified?

To qualify, an officer must not be:

The disqualifying factors are set out in section 16 of the Charities Act and include being an undischarged bankrupt, being under 16 years of age, having a conviction for dishonesty within the last seven years, as well as other criteria.

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What information about your officers will be on the Charities Register?

The name, position held and date of appointment of all officers since your charity first registered will be on the public Register. However, you can ask for information about your officers to be restricted from public access.

The Charities Commission may restrict public access to certain information and documents if it considers it is in the public interest to do so (see our information sheet Restricting public access to your information on the Charities Register for more details).

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What happens if an officer becomes disqualified after registration?

You should either replace the officer or write to us explaining the reasons why you would like the officer to be allowed.

You can ask us to allow your charity to be registered with the disqualified officer. To do this you need to write a letter explaining:

We will consider your request and let you know our decision in writing.

If you decide to replace the officer, you should complete Form 2 to certify the new officer and Form 3 to let us know which officer has resigned.

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Charitable purpose: Social enterprises

“Social enterprise” is a broad term which does not have a clearly identified meaning. This term is used to describe both not-for-profit and for-profit organisations or projects. For example, this term is used to describe:

In all cases, whether a social enterprise has a legally recognised charitable purpose will depend on the specific purposes stated in its rules and the activities it undertakes.

The rules of the organisation must clearly restrict the purposes to only those that are charitable. Being a not-for-profit organisation will not automatically mean that that organisation will have charitable purposes.

The rules must also make it clear that on winding up, any remaining assets will go to a charitable purpose.

The following questions have been put to the Commission by the charitable sector:

From a Charities Commission perspective, when would a “charity” become a “social enterprise” and what is the likely impact of that on charitable status?

The Commission is not concerned with classifying entities into categories such as “social enterprises”, “economic development organisations” or anything else.
The Commission merely assesses whether applicant entities and registered charities meet the requirements for registration. If an entity becomes a “social enterprise”, it will have no impact on that entity’s charitable status, unless this change also affects the entity’s charitable purposes and activities.

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How does the Commission view a charity which operates a successful trading company as part of its activities?

A charity which operates a successful trading company is likely to remain charitable, as long as the charity continues to have exclusively charitable purposes and activities, and no profits from the trading company can be distributed to non-charitable shareholders or individuals.

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The Commission cannot give legal advice on “optimum legal structures” for social enterprises. Advice on the best structure to adopt should be sought from an independent professional who has an understanding of your entity’s particular circumstances,  and who is experienced in tax and legal matters.

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Companies can be granted charitable status if they have exclusively charitable purposes and activities, and no profits can be distributed to non-charitable shareholders or individuals.

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Can a charity provide funding or guarantee a loan facility for an associated trading company?

A charity must only provide funds and assistance to further its stated charitable purposes. Providing funding to, or guaranteeing a loan for, a non-charitable entity will be considered to be a non-charitable purpose.

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Is tax relief available for donee organisations that contribute investment funds to a social enterprise?  Can social lenders receive tax credits if they loan at below market rate  – for example,  Community Investment Tax Relief?

The Commission is unable to answer questions relating to tax relief or tax credits. These should be addressed to Inland Revenue.

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