One of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission's (ACNC's) objects is to 'promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the Australian not-for-profit sector'.
The ACNC works within the Commonwealth Government’s Regulator Performance Framework to reduce the cost of unnecessary or inefficient regulation, or ‘red tape’.
ACNC red tape reduction work
The ACNC’s ‘red tape reduction’ work includes:
- sharing charity information with other government agencies to build a ‘report once, use often’ framework for charities using the ACNC Charity Passport
- streamlining reporting arrangements for charities with other Commonwealth regulators
- harmonising ACNC and state and territory regulatory requirements for charities registered under state and territory laws
- commissioning research on red tape reduction in the not-for-profit sector to inform red tape reduction initiatives, and
- providing guidance and advice to charities to assist them to meet their regulatory obligations.
Ways to reduce red tape
Some of the ways that red tape reduction can be achieved include:
- Education and advice: The ACNC and other agencies provide education and advice to assist charities to understand their regulatory obligations. For example, the ACNC has worked with the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations on joint guidance for Indigenous corporations
- Information sharing: The ACNC shares charity information through the Charity Register, data.gov.au and, in order to implement of the ‘report once, use often’ framework, the Charity Passport
- Implementation of policies and procedures: Procedures can be implemented across agencies to reduce the administrative burden on charities. For example, one state currently uses ACNC data in grant acquittals and asks on its fundraising licence application form whether an applicant is ACNC registered (to identify whether ACNC charity data is relevant).
- Memoranda of understanding: The ACNC has Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with a number of Commonwealth agencies, which cover information sharing. MoUs may be used to formalise arrangements with additional agencies.
- Administrative orders or directions: Agency heads may make directions within their powers to streamline regulatory requirements. For example, the ACNC Commissioner’s transitional reporting arrangements mean that financial reports submitted to certain other regulators are accepted by the ACNC on a transitional basis. In addition, a state agency head may, for example, exempt charities that report to the ACNC from its own reporting requirements.
- Machinery of government changes: Changes could be made to reduce the number of agencies that charities deal with. For example, charities that are incorporated with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) report only to the ACNC, not ASIC.
- Legislative change: New or amended subordinate legislation and statutes can be made to effect more substantial alignment of regulatory regimes (see the examples under Alignment with state and territory regulators.
Sharing charity information
The ‘report once, use often framework’ enables charities to report to the ACNC and for that information to be shared with other government agencies, the public and researchers. In particular, it means that charities do not have to provide the same information to government multiple times. The ACNC chiefly implements this framework through the Charity Passport.
ACNC reports on red tape reduction
In 2014, the ACNC engaged Ernst & Young (EY) to research the regulatory and reporting burden on charities. This is reported in EY’s report Research into Commonwealth Regulatory and Reporting Burdens on the Charity Sector: A report prepared for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (September 2014).
The ACNC recently commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to report on the cost of red tape at the state and territory level. This independent report puts forward options to streamline regulatory requirements, particularly in the areas of incorporated associations and fundraising regulation and state and territory taxes and duties exemptions.
The ACNC reports on our performance in reducing red tape in our annual reports to the Assistant Treasurer. The ACNC’s annual reports are tabled in Parliament and publicly available.
The ACNC Charity Passport enables authorised government agencies to access ACNC charity data via a file transfer protocol (FTP) process for the purpose of reducing red tape for charities. By allowing agencies to access charity data directly from the ACNC, the Charity Passport reduces the amount of information that charities have to provide to different government agencies, in line with a 'report once, use often' reporting framework.
The ACNC Charity Passport and Commonwealth government grants
The Charity Passport supports the Commonwealth Grants Rules and Guidelines (CGRGs), which require that:
- Commonwealth officials must have regard to information collected and made available by regulators (such as the ACNC) and should not seek this information from grant applicants/recipients, and
- if an organisation has provided a regulator with an audited financial statement, an audited financial acquittal should not be required, unless the grant is higher risk (under the CGRG Resource Management Guidance).
To find out how the Charity Passport works and what information it includes, see our Charity Passport factsheet.
Alignment with other Commonwealth agencies
The ACNC works with other government agencies to align regulatory requirements and remove reporting and other requirements for charities. The ACNC’s arrangements with some agencies are outlined in our memoranda of understanding.
Australian Taxation Office
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) administers Commonwealth taxation law, including deciding eligibility for tax concessions. Charities registered with the ACNC are eligible to apply for charity tax concessions from the ATO.
The ACNC and the ATO
The ACNC reduces red tape for charities by working with the ATO to:
- enable organisations to apply for deductible gift recipient (DGR) status and Commonwealth tax concessions at the same time that they apply to register as a charity, and
- share charity information with the ATO.
Australian Securities and Investments Commission
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is Australia’s corporate, markets and financial services regulator. Approximately 6 000 ASIC-registered organisations, mainly companies limited by guarantee, are also registered as charities with the ACNC.
The ACNC and ASIC
When the ACNC was established, most requirements for ACNC-registered charities to report annually to ASIC and notify ASIC of certain changes were replaced by obligations to report to and notify the ACNC. If a charity’s registration is revoked, its obligations to report to and notify ASIC start again.
Find out more about charity obligations to ASIC and the ACNC.
Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations
The Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) registers, regulates and supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations as corporations under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth) (CATSI Act).
The ACNC and ORIC
The ACNC has reduced red tape for ORIC-registered charities by not requiring charities that report to ORIC to also report to the ACNC.
For more information see:
Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency
The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) is the independent national regulator of the higher education sector.
The ACNC and TEQSA
The ACNC has reduced red tape for TEQSA-registered higher education providers by accepting audited financial reports and Provider Information Request submissions lodged with TEQSA as satisfying the ACNC’s financial report requirements. This applies up to and including the 2014-2015 reporting period.
Other Commonwealth government agencies
A charity's notification and reporting obligations to certain government agencies can be reduced or replaced by obligations to the ACNC. For example, the ACNC will accept financial questionnaires provided by non-government schools to the Department of Education and Training as meeting the requirement to lodge financial reports under the ACNC legislation for the 2014 and 2015 reporting periods, and is working with the sector on longer-term streamlined arrangements.
The ACNC will also continue to work with other agencies to streamline reporting requirements, for example for organisations on deductible gift recipient registers.
Alignment with state and territory regulators
The ACNC works with state and territory regulators to streamline regulatory and reporting for charities, including those that are incorporated associations, charitable fundraisers or charities with state taxes and duties exemptions.
Under the ACNC’s transitional reporting arrangements, until the end of the 2015 reporting period the ACNC will accept financial reports prepared for any state and territory incorporated associations, co-operatives and charitable fundraising regulators as meeting ACNC requirements.
Victoria has introduced the Associations Incorporation Reform Amendment (Electronic Transactions) Bill 2015 (Vic), which aligns financial reporting requirements for Victorian incorporated associations with the ACNC’s requirements. This will mean that:
- incorporated associations registered with both the ACNC and Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) do not need to produce multiple annual reports, and
- the exchange of information between CAV and the ACNC is simplified.
South Australia has consulted on an Exposure Draft of the Statutes Amendment (Commonwealth Registered Entities) Bill 2013 (SA). This Bill would exempt SA incorporated associations that are ACNC-registered charities from reporting annually to the SA incorporated associations regulator, and from holding a fundraising licence to collect donations in South Australia.
Western Australia has introduced the Associations Incorporation Bill 2014 (WA), which would, for WA incorporated associations, align size/tier definitions and financial report auditing and review requirements with the ACNC and Victoria and align some governance requirements with the ACNC.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) has announced its intention to make changes to its incorporated associations and charitable collection legislation, to reduce regulatory requirements for ACT charities.