THE CHARITY Law Association (CLA) is to present draft legislation on the constitution of charities to the Home Office next year.
The association is sponsoring research at Liverpool University with the aim of finding a simple system to replace the present web of regulations.
CLA chair Anne Marie Piper says directors of charities with ordinary charitable status are uncertain of the extent of their personal liability. Those operating as companies limited by guarantee enter a legal morass where they have dual registration as a charity and a company.
"We are sponsoring a law student to do an MA. It will be a comparative study which will be looking at models in other countries. We hope to find a way of improving on charities' current lot," she says.
Charity law barrister and CLA member, Francesca Quint, says charities are at present registered under a number of "artificial structures".
"Company law is strained in its application to charities. We would ideally want a tailor-made legal form so that charities can have simple constitutional arrangements and directors can read and understand their own constitutions."
Quint says charities who raise funds through shops have particular problems with registration.
She says overseas research would probably not reveal much. "We have to accept we will have to originate our own systems. It would be appalling to go down the American route, which is complicated."