We put some of the most commonly asked PTA questions to the Charity Commission – this is what they advise...
We're a registered charity but we are thinking of changing our name from 'Friends' to 'PTA', does this affect our registration?
No. Changing your name does not affect your charity registration, but there are a few steps to follow. Firstly, you need to check your governing document (the paperwork submitted to us to register you as a charity) to make sure there isn't a particular process to follow, e.g. it may stipulate that you must consult members, in which case you are legally required to do so before changing the name. The next step is to check that the new name isn't already in use. You can do this by searching the online register of charities. If the name isn't already being used, then simply submit an online form so we can amend your details on the register.
PTA+ NOTE: Changing your name affects the definition of 'members'. Speak to your insurance provider – if you are a PTA, then grandparents and other supporters might not be covered.
We aren't currently a charity, should we become one?
It may seem odd, but this isn't really a choice that you have. Whether you are a charity or not is something that is determined by charity law. If your organisation has exclusively charitable purposes and operates for the benefit of the public, then you are a charity in law. It's likely that a PTA is considered a charity whether it is on the register or not. If your income exceeds £5,000 a year, you must register with us – you can do this online. You can legitimately be a charity but not be registered with us if your income is under £5,000. If your income remains under £5,000, you may wish to register with HMRC to be recognised as a charity for tax purposes.
After becoming a charity, are there any legal requirements that we need to adhere to?
A charity must abide by charity law, which includes operating exclusively for the charitable purposes it was set up to achieve, and by the rules laid out in your governing document/constitution. When it comes to running a charity in accordance with charity law, the Charity Commission website has a range of guides on matters such as good decision making and the rules on financial reporting, including submitting annual information to the Charity Commission. Your governing document may also set out rules that relate directly to you, such as how often you should meet.
Who are the trustees of our association?
The people who lead the charity and decide how it is run are the trustees. They may be known by other titles, such as 'committee members', but they have overall responsibility for running the charity. We advise that a charity has a minimum of three trustees – usually your 'officers', i.e. chair, treasurer, secretary – whose details must be lodged with the Charity Commission. This information should be kept up to date if the trustees change.
What legal responsibilities do trustees have?
Trustees are responsible for making sure that the charity is run properly – there's a deal of discretion in how they do this, as long as it does not break charity law. Your governing document will also outline any specific rules of the charity, and trustees must make sure they abide by these too. The Charity Commission's handbook for trustees – The Essential Trustee: What you need to know will tell you more about what is expected of trustees.
I have just taken over as treasurer, what accounting requirements are there?
This will depend on your charity's annual income. If you raise under £25,000 and are a registered charity, you only need to submit an annual return – a summary of your income and expenditure. You will be reminded to do this if your details are registered with us. You can complete the form online. If you raise over £25,000 you must submit full accounts and an annual return every year. Whatever information you need to submit, you are required by law to do so within 10 months of the end of your financial year.
Our PTA is currently waiting for someone to take on the role of chair, what do we do?
Trustees must continue to operate the charity in its best interests. If you do still need to make decisions, you must make sure that you have enough trustees to properly do this – we recommend that you have three trustees as a minimum, but your governing document may state something different, so check. It is the responsibility of the remaining trustees to make sure the charity is run properly. If those trustees make a reasonable decision that the charity can continue to operate with a reduced number of trustees (while the search for a new chair goes on), they must demonstrate that they properly considered this decision and that it is in the best interests of the charity. If you decide to close the charity and your annual income has dropped below £5,000, you can complete a form on our website to tell us the charity has closed. If you want to close the charity even though it still raises over £5,000 a year, you will need to contact the Charity Commission direct.
- For more information, see our advice sheet on charity banking, or for guidance on everything from the role of trustees to running an AGM, visit the Charity Commission website.
The above is intended as guidance only. We recommend that you contact the relevant organisations with specific reference to insurance, legal, health and safety and child protection requirements. Community Inspired Ltd cannot be held responsible for any decisions or actions taken by a PTA, based on the guidance provided.