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  • Charitable organisations that wish to benefit from tax exemptions or other statutory relief must register with the relevant authority in order to access such benefit.
  • The Bill, which was passed, provides for the regulation of all charitable bodies intending to, or are already operating in Jamaica.
  • The Bill provides a definition for charitable organisations and the designation of the registrar of charitable organisations.

Charitable organisations that wish to benefit from tax exemptions or other statutory relief must register with the relevant authority in order to access such benefit.

This was stated by Minister of Justice, Senator the Hon. Senator Mark Golding, in the Senate on Thursday, November 28, in response to a comment by Opposition Senator, Alexander Williams, during debate on the Charities Act 2013.

The Bill, which was passed, provides for the regulation of all charitable bodies intending to, or are already operating in Jamaica.

A key part of the Extended Fund Facility between Jamaica and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the legislation makes provision for the establishment of a comprehensive legal and institutional framework and will facilitate the registration, regulation, administration and governance of the private voluntary sector operating in Jamaica.

Senator Williams, during the debate, stated that “while it is good that we now have a Bill, which proposes on its face, to regulate the operations of charities within our country, it is not “the comprehensive Bill to regulate all charities within the country as the Bill does not make it mandatory for all Charities to register”.

Senator Golding acknowledged that while the Bill provides for regulation of the sector, it does not make it mandatory for all charities to register.

He explained that the intention here “is not to force all entities involved in the voluntary sector to comply with the provisions of this Act, but rather, where there is going to be a subsidy from the public’s purse… there is a requirement to register under this Act in order to access those benefits.”

The Bill provides a definition for charitable organisations and the designation of the registrar of charitable organisations by the responsible Minister, which will keep and maintain a register of all registered charitable organisations.

“Currently, there is no single place at which to register charitable organisations. Relevant information is stored at either at the Companies Office of Jamaica, the Department of Cooperative Friendly Societies or at the Office of the Clerk to the Houses of Parliament,” Mr. Golding noted.

The legislation also stipulates the designation of a person or body as the Charities Authority.

Among the functions of the Authority are: to receive, process and determine applications for registration under the Act; make appropriate information available to assist persons to make applications for registration under the Act; monitor and promote compliance with the Act and any regulations; and to ensure that registered charitable organisations are not misused for criminal purposes or controlled by persons engaged in criminal activities.

For his part, Government Senator, Wensworth Skeffery mentioned the critical support that charities provide to the development of the country.

“I know that this Bill will seek to reduce the bureaucracy that exists and will ensure that the process is clear and that we give these charitable organisations the opportunity to register and claim those tax exemptions,” Senator Skeffery said.

The Charities Act was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, October 29.