In England and Wales all Methodist churches, circuits and districts with a gross income of over £100,000 per annum must, by law, register with the Charity Commission.
Step by step guidance on registering with the Charity Commission can be found on the links below:
The Charities Act definition of 'gross income' can be found on page 6 of CC15d -Charity reporting and accounting: the essentials.
If your Local Church or Circuit’s gross income has exceeded £100,000 for one year only due to a one-off event, such as a receipt of a large legacy or grant, you may request a ‘dispensation’ from registration from the Charity Commission.
Methodist charities with a gross income under £100,000 per annum are ‘excepted’ from registration, under the Charities (Exception from Registration) Regulations 1996 (as amended).
For more information about excepted charities, please see the Charity Commission’s guidance: Excepted charities - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The Charity Commission has also provided a letter explaining the status of local Methodist Churches, which can be downloaded here.
Methodist charities in Scotland (which also includes Shetland) are all registered with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR).
Charity law and regulations are different in the Channel Islands and Isle of Man. In Jersey, registration as a charity is stated to be voluntary, but since 1 January 2019 any Jersey entity styling itself as a ‘charity’ must be registered, therefore Methodist charities in Jersey should register themselves as charities in order to claim entitlement to certain charitable tax reliefs.
In Guernsey, Methodist charities need to register if they have a gross annual income of over £5,000 or gross assets or funds of over £10,000.
Difficulties caused by excepted charities’ lack of charity registration numbers
Excepted charities can experience difficulty in applying for grant funding or opening bank accounts (among other things) because they do not have a registered charity number.
Please note that it is not possible for a Local Church to use its Circuit's Charity number in such circumstances: Although a Local Church and its Circuit are related bodies, in legal terms they are entirely separate charities. Similarly, Local Churches and Circuits must not use the Methodist Church in Great Britain’s registered charity number for their own purposes (see below).
If exception from registration is a problem for your Local Church, the Conference Office can provide a letter explaining that Methodist charities with a gross income of less than £100,000 cannot currently register voluntarily with the Charity Commission due to their excepted status, but that they are still obliged to comply with charity law.
Please email email@example.com to make the request.
NB - We are aware that excepted churches have not been able to open Community Direct Plus Accounts with the Co-op Bank because of the lack of a charity registration number. The Co-op Bank have indicated that they are dealing with a considerable backlog of account openings at this time and are not able to review their policy.
Tax reference and Gift Aid numbers
Most Local Churches use the Methodist Church's gift aid department to administer gift aid claims and therefore do not have an HMRC number themselves. Please call 020 7486 5502 and ask for the gift aid department.
However, if HMRC has formally recognised your Local Church or Circuit, you should have a charity tax reference number and this is often sufficient evidence of charitable status. This tax reference number will appear on any correspondence you have received from HMRC. If you are unable to locate your charity tax reference number, you can contact HMRC's dedicated charities helpline on 0300 123 1073. In order to become recognised by HMRC, you will need to access the gov.uk website and type in 'charity recognition' in the search box, followed by clicking the link 'Get recognition from HMRC for your charity' and following the process from there. The HMRC recognition process takes between 6 and 8 weeks.
Changing the name of your charity
If your Local Church or Circuit changes its name, the managing trustees should notify HMRC as soon as possible using form ChV1. It is good practice to include the minutes of the meeting of the managing trustees at which the name change was adopted. If the managing trustees change or if the bank account details change, HMRC should be notified as soon as possible, again using form ChV1.
Registered Methodist Charities who change their name should also notify the Charity Commission here: Tell the Charity Commission about a change to your charity - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The Methodist Church in Great Britain
Whilst it is recognised that the Connexion is comprised of approximately 4000 individual charities and is not a single entity, the Methodist Church in Great Britain is separately registered as a charity in its own right with the Conference as the trustee body.
The registration number for the Methodist Church in Great Britain applies only to the connexional charity and the main connexionally-held funds. Local Churches, Circuits and Districts must not use this number.
Trustee eligibility declaration forms
Once a year, each trustee will need to fill in, sign and return the below trustee eligibility declaration form to their Church Council Secretary, Circuit Meeting Secretary or District Policy Committee. The relevant trustee body should hold the forms on file. Trustees of both excepted and registered Methodist charities are required to prove their eligibility.
Trustee declaration and eligibility form (pdf) - Trustees may sign these forms electronically using suitable software.
This form should NOT be used if you are applying to register your Church as a charity with the Commission for the first time. For these purposes, the Charity Commission will only accept its own Trustee Eligibility Declaration form.
HMRC 'Fit and Proper Person' test
The 'Fit and Proper Person' test applies to 'managers' i.e. those trustees and senior employees having general control and management over the running of the charity or the application of its assets (this includes the claiming of tax reliefs and Gift Aid).
For more information about Methodist charity registration, please contact the Conference Officer for Legal and Constitutional Practice, Mrs Joanne Anderton, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 020 7467 5268