Commissioner’s Column – 4 June 2018

As I am sure you are aware, the ACNC Act has an object specifically dedicated to red tape reduction for registered charities. One of the measures the Commission put in place over the first five years is to allow certain groups of charities to submit reports that were originally prepared for another government agency, rather than requiring them to produce duplicative reporting. We have referred to these as transitional reporting arrangement.

These arrangements have saved thousands of charities a great deal of time and energy. I am pleased to report that these arrangements have been extended to include the 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial years.

Charities will be able to continue to provide financial reports prepared for state and territory regulators to the ACNC as part of their annual reporting obligations. In addition, the ACNC will also accept financial questionnaires and statements lodged by non-government schools with the Department of Education and Training, and annual returns lodged by Indigenous Corporations with the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC) for the 2017-18 financial year.

More information about the ACNC’s transitional reporting arrangements is available on our website at acnc.gov.au/transitionalreporting.

ACNC IT system speed and stability

Currently our website and the ACNC Charity Register are experiencing a series of issues that affect speed and responsiveness, due to the limitations of our current IT system. These issues are particularly annoying those looking for information and guidance on our website (me too!), and donors and volunteers searching the Charity Register.

I apologise for the inconvenience caused, and assure you that our IT team are working hard to resolve the issue. We will continue to provide updates on our social media accounts, and in this column.

On a positive note, our $3 million project to upgrade the ACNC’s IT infrastructure is well underway. Once completed, our new systems will improve the speed, stability and functionality of the ACNC’s online services including the ACNC website, Charity Register and Charity Portal.

I can assure you that the new system will be a vast improvement, however, in the meantime I thank you for your patience

New ACNC research finds charity donations continue to grow

Last week, the ACNC launched the Growth and change in Australia’s charities: 2014 to 2016 report, a sub-report of the Australian Charities Report 2016.

The report assessed the Annual Information Statements of more than 45,000 charities to identify trends in income, workforce, location and activities.

This was the ACNC’s first comparative report and it found that in addition to donations increasing by almost $1 billion, overall charity income also increased from $110 billion in 2014 to $121 billion in 2016. The amount of money charities spent to deliver their services also grew, up 12 per cent over three years.

And with that increased income and expenditure, not surprisingly, the number of paid staff in charities also increased by 4 per cent over the period.

For more information or to download the full report, visit the website at australiancharities.acnc.gov.au.

New guidance on AEC reporting obligations for third parties

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has recently published new guidance, designed to help explain the obligations under the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 which may impact third party campaigners. The guidance is now available to download from the AEC website.

Changes to the political expenditure disclosure requirements came into effect in March 2018 - and charities that participate in political debate may have an obligation to report to the AEC.

As these changes related to AEC obligations, charities should contact the AEC – contact details are available on the AEC website at aec.gov.au/contact.

Two charities revoked following compliance investigations

Two charities recently lost their charity status after separate investigations into their operations. The Australian Foundation for Disabled Children and Youths Ltd (ABN: 53615513712) and Pockets Australia Pty Limited (ABN: 79601790425), both operating in South Australia, have lost generous Commonwealth charity tax concessions.

Revoking a charity’s status is the strongest enforcement power available to the ACNC, and is only used in the most serious cases of misconduct and mismanagement. Where charities fail to display their commitment to good governance, transparency and accountability, we take appropriate firm action – to protect trust and confidence in Australia’s charity sector.

We receive over 100 concerns regarding charities each month, and we take these very seriously. I encourage any members of the public, beneficiaries, or charity employees or volunteers, to raise their concerns online at acnc.gov.au/raiseaconcern, or by calling 13 ACNC (13 22 62).

More information about the previous compliance action taken by the ACNC is available on our website at acnc.gov.au/compliancedecisions.

Best Wishes

The Hon Dr Gary Johns

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