Process for setting up a registered charitable trust

Created: July 25, 2013 at 11:04 AM | Updated: August 10, 2020 | By Community Resource Kit

The following steps outline the process for setting up a registered charitable trust. This information supplements Charitable Trusts of the Community Resource Kit.

[For more information on the different types of organisation you can set up see Formal Organisational Structures and Characteristics of different organisational legal structures.]

Your group has decided to set up a registered charitable trust...

1. Meet and:
  • decide whether it will be society-or trust-based
  • decide on a name
  • decide who will be the trustees or board members and how the trust or society will operate
  • draft a trust deed or constitution that includes your aims, powers and rules of the trust or board.
2. Go to Societies and Trusts Online website ( and:
  • check the name is available
  • review rules of other charitable trusts
  • download application form or ring 0508 762 438 for forms to be posted out.
3. Call a meeting of the trust board. At this meeting your board or trustees need to:
  • approve the trust deed (trust-based) or rules (society-based)
  • approve the application for incorporation documents, including the registered office and statutory declaration
  • elect a secretary, treasurer and management committee (for a society)
4. Send the completed documents back to the Companies Office.
5. The Companies Office informs your group that it is now a registered charitable trust and sends you a certificate.
6. To maintain your registration you will need to file the following documents with the Registrar of Incorporated Societies:
  • rule changes (including name changes)
  • address changes.

If you are registered with Charities Services, you will need to notify changes and file an annual return (including annual accounts) with Charities Services.

Tip: By registering with Charities Services, an organisation with a charitable purpose can expect an exemption from income tax and resident withholding tax. If you want to apply for registration under the Charities Act 2005, you need to meet their requirements for registration:
  • the name needs to be suitable i.e. not offensive or liable to mislead the public
  • the purposes need to be charitable
  • the officers need to be qualified under the terms of the Act.
You will also need to fill out an application form, an Officer Certification Form (one copy for each of your officers), and send in a copy of your rules, including all amendments. For more details visit:   and

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