What is a charity?

A charity is an organisation that:

  • Has a clear purpose or objective that falls within the 13 descriptions that Parliament has agreed are charitable.

  • Operates wholly for the public benefit.

The 13 descriptions are set out in the Charities Act, and include:

  • The prevention of poverty.

  • The advancement of the arts, culture, heritage or science.

  • The advancement of education.

  • The advancement of citizenship or community development.


Charities are regulated by the Charity Commission of England and Wales, and and most charitable organisations with an annual turnover of over £5000 must register with the Commission. The charity sector benefits from tax breaks, a good reputation, and access to a wide range of funding from trusts and foundations. It is subject to a higher level of regulation, which could include personal criticism of charity managers and trustees if the Commission believes that there has been mismanagement.

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