Regulation of charities in the ACT

Charities registered with the ACNC have ongoing obligations under the ACNC Act. A charity may also have obligations to other Commonwealth, state or local government agencies.

Obligations to the ACNC

If a charity is registered with the ACNC, it has ongoing obligations to maintain registration, including to:

Obligations to other government agencies

A charity may have obligations to and receive benefits from other Commonwealth, state or local government agencies in addition to the ACNC. These may include obligations or benefits related to:

  • its legal structure (for example, as an incorporated association)
  • how it raises money (for example, if it runs raffles or street collections)
  • the exemptions, concessions or other benefits it may receive from government (for example, certain Commonwealth, state and local government taxes) and
  • what it does (which may apply to specific sectors such as aged care, housing, childcare and education).

Some charities also choose to meet voluntary standards set by professional associations or peak bodies such as codes of conduct or codes of ethical practice.

Charities do not have to be registered with the ACNC to be an incorporated association, cooperative or other legal structure, to access ACT tax concessions  or other benefits, or to fundraise in ACT.

Legal structures

There are several types of legal structures used by charities. Different obligations apply to each type. A charity's legal structure may affect:

  • its reporting and governance requirements to the government agency that incorporated it
  • its ability to operate outside the ACT without further registration
  • its eligibility for certain tax concessions.

The legal structures listed here are examples of the most common two types, but there are others too (such as trusts and unincorporated associations).

Incorporated associations

Some charities in the ACT are incorporated under the Associations Incorporation Act 1991 (ACT) (AI Act). These are called 'incorporated associations' and have 'Inc.' or 'Incorporated' at the end of their name.
Incorporated associations have a number of obligations, such as keeping appropriate financial records, following their rules and holding annual general meetings. These obligations are regulated in the ACT by Access Canberra.

Changes to incorporated association reporting

In June 2017, there were amendments made to the AI Act which changed the way that ACNC-registered incorporated associations report and update their details.

From 1 July 2017 ACNC-registered charities incorporated under the AI Act in the ACT will:

  • report only to the ACNC, using the Annual Information Statement (AIS);
  • update charity details, such as the Address For Service, business address, contact details and committee members only with the ACNC, using the Charity Portal; and
  • not be required to pay an annual fee.

What didn’t change?

Associations incorporated in the ACT still need to tell Access Canberra when they change their public officer, or their name, rules or objects.

To find out more, visit the Access Canberra website or call 13 22 81.

When to contact ACNC or Access Canberra

I want to:

ACNC

Access Canberra

Additional information

Incorporate an association

No

Yes

 

Register as a charity

Yes

No

 

Change a charity’s rules

Yes

Yes

 

Change a charity’s name

Yes

Yes

 

Update a charity’s address or contact details

Yes

No

ACNC will tell Access Canberra the charity’s details

Update a charity’s responsible persons (committee members)

Yes

No

ACNC will tell Access Canberra the charity’s committee details

Update a charity’s public officer

No

Yes

 

Submit the Annual Information Statement and financial report

Yes

No

 

Revoke a charity registration

Yes

No

If the association is no longer running, make sure you wind up with Access Canberra too.

Wind up an association

No

Yes

Don’t forget to revoke the charity’s registration with the ACNC when it winds up

Fundraising

Fundraising in the ACT is regulated by two government agencies.

Access Canberra is responsible for registering and regulating organisations that conduct fundraising activities. To find out more, visit Access Canberra website or call 13 22 81.

The ACT Gambling and Racing Commission is responsible for regulating fundraising activities through raffles, bingo, and lotteries. To find out more visit the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission website or call (02) 6207 0359.

For more information about fundraising, see Fundraising in ACT.

Changes to fundraising reporting

An ACT charity registered with the ACNC no longer needs to apply for a licence (or renew a licence), nor report annually to Access Canberra.

In the Annual Information Statement, charities will be asked to advise if they intend to fundraise in the ACT.

Access Canberra has published a page on its website with more information about the changes.

Financial reporting transitional period for incorporated associations and fundraisers

Where ACT charities were previously required to provide financial reports to Access Canberra because they were an incorporated association or holders of a charitable collections licence, the ACNC accepted those financial reports as meeting ACNC requirements.

However, as a result of the changes, ACNC-registered ACT charities that are medium or large will need to ensure that the financial reports they provide to the ACNC meet all the ACNC reporting requirements.

Medium and large charities must prepare financial reports under the Australian Accounting Standards that provide a true and fair view, report on an accrual basis and ensure statements include required comparative figures.

To support charities whose reports do not currently meet these standards, the ACNC has established a two-year transitional reporting arrangement. This will help charities adjust to their new reporting requirements.

The specific arrangements for the 2017 and later years are as follows:

2017 reporting period

For medium and large ACT charities affected by the new arrangements that are preparing financial reports for the reporting period ending 30 June 2017 (or any later reporting period approved by the Commissioner), if the charity:

it can submit the same financial report that previously met the ACT requirements.

2018 reporting period

For the reporting period ending 30 June 2018 (or any later reporting period approved by the Commissioner), if the charity:

  • did not submit a full financial report meeting the ACNC reporting requirements for the 2017 reporting period, and
  • continues to be a non-reporting entity and prepares a special purpose financial statement,

it will need to prepare a full financial report meeting ACNC reporting requirements for special purpose financial statements.

However, it will not need to provide 2017 comparative information in the 2018 financial report.

The charity (and its auditor or reviewer) needs to ensure that reports communicate why it is not providing 2017 comparative information and adequate disclosures are made in the notes to the financial statements. Example disclosure: comparative information not included in financial report.

Audit requirements during transitional period

Audit/review requirements for ACNC-registered charities are as follows:

  • Small charities (revenue of less than $250,000) no longer need to submit audited financial reports. However, they must continue to report annually to the ACNC using the Annual Information statement.
  • Medium charities (revenue of $250,000 to $999,999) are required to submit financial reports that have been reviewed or audited.
  • Large charities (revenue of $1 million or more) are required to have their financial reports audited and submit the financial report and auditor’s report to the ACNC.

Reviews for medium sized charities can be done by:

  • a registered company auditor
  • an audit firm
  • an authorised audit company
  • a current member of a relevant professional body, CPA Australia – CPAA (CPA or FCPA designation), Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand – CAANZ (CA or FCA designation) or Institute of Public Accountants – IPA (FIPA or MIPA designation).

Audits must be conducted by:

  • a registered company auditor, or
  • an audit firm, or
  • an authorised audit company

During the transitional period, charities will not be penalised for providing audited statements that do not meet the ACNC requirements.

Ongoing reporting obligations apply – 2019 reporting period

Medium and large charities registered with the ACNC that are no longer required to report to Access Canberra must use accrual accounting when preparing their financial statements and ensure the financial statements meet all of the ACNC reporting requirements, including comparative requirements.

Cooperatives

A cooperative is a type of organisation that is owned, controlled and used by its members. There are different types of cooperatives.

Charities that are cooperatives are also regulated by Access Canberra.

As part of a new national law scheme to regulate co-operatives, the ACT repealed the Cooperatives Act 2002 (ACT) and adopted the Co-operatives National Law (ACT) Act 2017.

To find out more, visit Access Canberra website or call 1300 65 44 99.

Other legal structures

Information about reporting and other obligations for charities set up with other legal structures is available on these pages:

Territory taxes

Charities that operate in the ACT may also be eligible to receive concessions on some state taxes, including payroll tax, land tax and stamp duty from the ACT Revenue Office.

To find out more, visit the State Revenue Office website or call 02 6207 0028.

Other general obligations

There are a number of other laws that affect charities in the ACT which cover areas such as employment, trading, occupational health and safety, and anti-discrimination. For example, charities that operate in the ACT are obliged to meet obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (ACT).

Some charities may have responsibilities that are specific to their area of work. For example, charities that provide aged care services may need to meet other obligations or hold accreditations as part of working in this field.

Related information

A list of other regulators, including contact details, that may affect charities.

Attention - Important information! Please note: this fact sheet is an overview of laws and regulations affecting charities in ACT, not a complete guide. For more information about laws and regulations in the ACT, please consult the relevant regulatory agencies.

Contact the ACNC

Phone: 13 ACNC (13 22 62)
Email: advice@acnc.gov.au
Mail: Advice Services, Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, GPO Box 5108, Melbourne VIC 3001
Fax: 1300 232 569


 

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