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Help Sheet

Legal structures

Do you really need to set up an organisation?

You don't have to be part of an organisation to do good work- you can go it alone, and many successful people have. You can work on the basis of ad hoc and informal ringarounds when anything needs to be done, and avoid getting bogged down in inflexible structures.

If you get to a certain size, though, you'll need to set up procedures and systems, and that means organising. Furthermore, a formal organisation can, be a powerful way of getting your message across and achieving your goals.

Becoming a legal entity

If you want your organisation to have a legal status, you have a number of options - you can become

All of these forms have their advantages and disadvantages. For smaller organisations, the choice is generally between company status and incorporation. Limited companies are highly regulated; incorporated associations are lightly regulated. Setting up a company is complicated and expensive; incorporating as an association is comparatively cheap and simple. Unless your organisation is very big indeed, or carries on a lot of business, your best option will probably be to become an incorporated association.

Incorporating is not the same thing as registering as a charity or getting entitlement to tax exemption or obtaining permission to raise funds from the public. All those have to be applied for separately.

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