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Website reviews

1 November 03

Reviews of websites covering charity law

by Iain Nisbet

Inland Revenue charities pages

www.inlandrevenue.gov.uk/charities/index.htm

Top of the pile this month is the Inland Revenue’s pages for charities. Much charity law is related to taxation and in Scotland, of course, it is the Inland Revenue which determines whether a body can have charitable status.

The site is simply set out, which makes it easy to navigate, despite the amount of information available. The information is, as it were, straight from the horse’s mouth and is both easy to understand and authoritative. The website is comprehensive, providing information for charities and donors alike.

The extent and variety of the site is difficult to explain in such limited space, but virtually all you might need to know about charities and tax can be found here. Information is often to be found more than once as the user can find introductory leaflets, online advice, detailed official guidance, FAQs, forms and extracts from the relevant legislation. It is indispensable for charitable bodies and practitioners advising charities.

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SCVO Information Service

www.scvo.org.uk/information/default.htm

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations has a useful information service section to their immense website. This touches on many legal topics, but is presented very much with the lay reader in mind. It would therefore be most useful to people involved in running smaller charities, but would also help as a good introduction to this area of law for solicitors. It deals with many of the practical issues faced by charities in a very helpful and pragmatic manner.

The five broad headings covered are: law; management; finance; funding; and miscellaneous. Each heading has a number of sub-headings with sometimes many different documents or articles to a sub-heading. Frustratingly, many of the sub-headings under “law” reveal only the message “Information to be added shortly” (Grrr…).

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Charity Law Research Unit

www.dundee.ac.uk/law/clru/welcome.htm

Dundee University’s Charity Law Research Unit is a leading authority on charity law. It was not unreasonable for me to expect great things from their website – my expectations, however, were cruelly dashed.

Unless you are looking to find a member of staff at the Unit, the site has next to nothing to offer a solicitor.

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J & H Mitchell

www.hmitchell.co.uk/jhmchari.htm

Perthshire-based solicitors J & H Mitchell who boast an accredited charity law specialist in Colin Liddell. Their website is aesthetically unpleasant, but it does contain some useful information. The firm provides a Frequently Asked Questions page on how to set up a charity. It also has two online leaflets: one on Companies Limited by Guarantee (an ever popular structure with charities) which outlines its advantages and responsibilities; and another on setting up a charity, which covers much of the same ground as the FAQ page. The information is presented in a straightforward manner, again with the lay reader in mind.

As with the SCVO site, this would be useful to solicitors who are not used to dealing with charity law.

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Turcan Connell’s Briefing Note

www.turcanconnell.com/briefings/charitybn.htm

Following the publication of the report of the McFadden Commission, the Scottish Executive are formulating legislative changes to charity law in Scotland. Dated October 2002, this briefing note gives a useful, if not entirely up-to-date, view on the proposed changes. The briefing is succinct but covers all of the most important topics including the definition of “charitable”; trading for charities; and a proposed new structure unique to charities (the “Charitable Incorporated Organisation” or “CIO”).

The McFadden Commission’s report can be found on their website (http://www.charityreview.com) but was unavailable when I tried to visit it.

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