Basic religious charities

What is a basic religious charity?

A 'basic religious charity' is a registered charity with the purpose of advancing religion and which meets five other requirements. Only a small number of charities that advance religion meet all of these requirements. Work through the steps below to work out if your charity meets the definition.

Basic religious charity: obligations to the ACNC If your charity meets the definition of basic religious charity, it does not have to:

  • answer financial information questions in its Annual Information Statement
  • submit annual financial reports to us (regardless of its size), or
  • comply with the ACNC governance standards.

Also, the ACNC does not have the power to suspend or remove a member of a basic religious charity's governing body (a 'responsible person').

Basic religious charities must still meet all other ongoing obligations such as submitting the Annual Information Statement each year and notifying us of any changes to their details, including details of their responsible persons.

How to work out if your charity is a 'basic religious charity'

Click on each question for more information.

1. Could your charity be registered as any other subtype of charity?

A basic religious charity must be registered with the charitable subtype of 'advancing religion'. However, if your charity is registered, or could be registered, with an additional charitable subtype, it is not a basic religious charity.

The ACNC Act sets out 14 categories or 'subtypes' of charity that the ACNC can register. These are based on its charitable purpose. Your charitable purpose is the reason your charity was set up, or what your activities work towards achieving. Charity subtypes include:

  • advancing religion
  • advancing education, and
  • advancing social and public welfare.

A religious charity's activities may seem to fit another charitable purpose. However, if those activities are only done to further the purpose of advancing religion, the charity may still be eligible to be a basic religious charity.

For example, religious education as part of promoting religious principles in a religious community is not likely to be a separate charitable purpose (advancing education), compared with setting up a separate school, which is likely to be a separate charitable purpose.

2. Is your charity incorporated or registered under certain legislation?

This question is about your charity’s legal structure or status under certain legislation.

Your charity is not a basic religious charity if it is registered under any of the following laws:

  • the Corporations Act 2001 (such as a company limited by guarantee)
  • the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (as an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporation), or
  • the Companies Act 1985 of Norfolk Island.

Your charity is also not a basic religious charity if it is incorporated under any of the following laws:

  • the Associations Incorporation Act 2009 of New South Wales
  • the Associations Incorporation Act 1981 of Victoria
  • the Associations Incorporation Act 1981 of Queensland
  • the Associations Incorporation Act 1987 of Western Australia
  • the Associations Incorporation Act 1985 of South Australia
  • the Associations Incorporation Act 1964 of Tasmania
  • the Associations Incorporation Act 1991 of the Australian Capital Territory
  • the Associations Act 2010 of the Northern Territory, or
  • the Associations Incorporation Act 2005 of Norfolk Island.

However, if your charity is a charitable trust, the fact that it has a trustee that is registered under the Corporations Act (for example), does not prevent the charity (the trust) from being a basic religious charity.

Read more information about legal structure.

3. Has the ACNC allowed your charity to report as part of a group?

If your charity has received approval from the ACNC to report as a group for a particular reporting period, it is not a basic religious charity for that reporting period.

Charities must apply to the ACNC before they can report as a group. Read more information about group reporting.

4. Is your charity (as a whole) endorsed as a deductible gift recipient (DGR) or does it operate a DGR fund(s), authority(ies) or institution(s) that had total revenue of $250 000 or more in the reporting period?

Charities that can receive income tax deductible gifts, such as financial donations, have 'deductible gift recipient’ status. They are also called 'deductible gift recipients' (DGRs).

People donating to DGRs may be able to get a tax deduction for their donation. Not all charities are DGRs. You can check if your charity is a DGR by visiting ABN Lookup and entering your charity’s Australian Business Number (ABN) in the search box.

If your charity as a whole is endorsed as a DGR, it is not a basic religious charity. However, if your charity is not endorsed as a whole, it may be endorsed as a DGR in relation to certain funds, institutions or authorities that it operates. If so, your charity can only be a basic religious charity if the total revenue from all of these funds, institutions and authorities is less than $250 000 for the particular reporting period.

5. Has your charity received more than $100 000 in government grants in the current reporting period or in the previous two reporting periods?

After the 2015 reporting period, if a charity receives more than $100,000 in government grants in the reporting period or in the previous two reporting periods, it is not a basic religious charity.

However, in the 2015 reporting period, the charity only needs to consider government grants in the 2015 period and the previous reporting period. In other words, government grants in the 2013 reporting period will not be counted.

Attention - Important information!When working out how much your charity received in government grants, include all Commonwealth, state, territory and local government grants.