Charity status

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Wikimedia UK is a Registered Charity and a company limited by guarantee. This means that the income and assets of the chapter can only be used to pursue our objects, and that the board members and members cannot receive any personal benefits over and above the benefits given to other beneficiaries.

When we were formed, obtaining full UK charitable status was identified as one of the key objectives. The advantages of charitable status were identified as:

  • It adds to our reputation, meaning that people are more likely to donate, join, partner with us and take our views seriously
  • We can claim Gift Aid income tax relief
  • We can get reduced costs for other services including PayPal and room hire

We drafted our constitution's Objects clause having regard to the Charity Commission's advice on the charitable activity called the "Advancement of Education".

An index and links to copies of correspondence relating to our application and the application itself can be found at /Correspondence.

Tax authorities application

We first applied for charitable status in November 2008 after we were incorporated and the Wikimedia Foundation's Chapters Committee had approved our constitution. As our confirmed annual income was less than £5,000 [1], we were unable to apply direct to the Charity Commission. However, we were able to apply to the UK Tax Authorities (HMRC), and ask them to recognise us for tax purposes.

At first, our application was delayed due to a backlog at the HMRC Charities Unit. We asked our MP to intervene to speed the process up, which he did, and we received a final response in April 2009. The response unfortunately rejected our application, arguing "The production of an encyclopaedia is not the charitable advancement of education"

We obtained informal legal advice and drafted a response addressing the case law raised by HMRC and giving examples of the projects' educational value to demonstrate compliance with Charity Commission guidance. The response was sent in June. However, in August they replied reaffirming their decision and refusing to refer the matter.

Direct application to the Commission

In the meantime, we applied to the Wikimedia Foundation for a £5,000 grant to help kick start the chapter's programmes. In July we were informed that this bid had been successful. We therefore immediately started drafting our direct Charity Commission application which was sent off to the Commission in September 2009.

An initial reply was received from the Commission in April 2010. A firm of solicitors was hired to assist us in our response. After extensive discussions and some delays, we decided to obtain new specialist legal advice in June 2011, and a written submission of some length was sent to the Charities Commission in late July, addressing the points in their letter and giving additional information. This response was compiled with the help of our lawyers, WMUK members and the Wikimedia Foundation, revising, updating and expanding the material previously sent, to explain our aims and activities more fully. Our lawyers have also engaged the Commission in a dialogue about our approach before these documents were sent to reaffirm that the Commission were keen to engage with us in a positive dialogue about our charitable status. The Charities Commission responded with further questions in early September and a very detailed response was sent to them on September 26th.

Charity Status was finally granted in November 2011. Wikimedia UK is now Registered Charity no. 1144513

Notes

  1. See section A3 of this guidance