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Registering a Place of Worship as a Charity

Photo of Kevin Russell Kevin Russell
2 min

In our work, it is not uncommon to find that some church trustees are unclear on their legal obligations to register their church as a charity. This is not surprising given that, until fairly recent times, Charity Commission officers seemed to share the same confusion.

Which register? Registered with whom?

We have recently published a new Briefing Paper which sets out four different forms of ‘registration’ that a church may have to consider:

  • Registration with the relevant charity regulator
  • Recognition (rather than ‘registration’) as a charity with HM Revenue and Customs
  • Registration of building trusts
  • Registration as a ‘Place of Worship’

Does my church need to register?

We dispel the myth that where a church is a registered place of worship, it does not need to be registered with the Charity Commission. Registration as a place of worship entails registration under the Places of Worship Registration Act 1855. This registration is of the building (only) and enables solemnization of marriages to take place in that building.

Where a building is registered as a place of worship, the trusts over the building do not need to be registered with the Charity Commission as they fall within an exception. However, the funds of the congregation that meet in the building will be subject to the normal charity registration rules in Charities Act 2011 and must register with the Charity Commission if the 2011 Act applies.

The Paper also considers the current but temporary exception from registration with the Commission that churches that are associated with certain defined denominations and church groups can enjoy, where gross income is less than £100,000.

Finally, we explain why registration with the relevant charity regulator (which may be the Charity Commission in England and Wales, the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator or the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland) is so important if the church wishes to benefit from the various tax reliefs available to charities. The main available reliefs are listed under each type of tax.

Read the paper: Registration of churches as charities


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Written by

Kevin Russell

Kevin is one of Stewardship’s leading team of technical experts with over 25 years of experience of helping churches and Christian charities maximise their potential. His expertise and knowledge is sought not only by charitable organisations but by Government, the Charity Commission and HMRC, helping to solve complex tax and charity law problems.

Prior to working for Stewardship, Kevin had a wide range of business, charity and teaching experience and is a qualified chartered accountant, and a chartered tax advisor. At PwC he was a Senior Tax Consultant assisting medium and large businesses in all aspects of their tax affairs. Also a lecturer in the Business School at Middlesex University and Principal of his own Chartered Accountancy practice.

Kevin is Vice Chair of the Charity Tax Group and Chair of CTG’s Gift Aid & Giving Technical Group. He represents the Christian church on HMRC’s Charity Tax Forum and advocate for the sector to Government, the Charity Commission and HMRC.

Currently a trustee of the UK arm of an international charity that inspires people to discover Jesus for themselves. Past roles include church deacon, trustee and auditor and he has helped set up two church plants.

Kevin and his wife Carol have 3 adult children and one grandchild.  They attend Grace Church, Highlands in North London.

Causes close to Kevin and Carol’s hearts are those working directly with the homeless, with drug addicts, and women in prostitution. Organisations working in evangelism amongst young people, in family life and demonstrating Christian love in action in the public sphere.


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