This Commissioner’s Policy Statement is issued under the authority of the Commissioner and should be read together with the ACNC Policy Framework, which sets out the scope, context and definitions common to our policies.

This Commissioner’s Policy Statement sets out the principles the Commissioner will consider when exercising the transitional discretion to accept reports given by a charity to another Australian government agency under an Australian law in place of the Annual Information Statements and/or annual financial reports required under the ACNC Act.

This policy sets out the principles the ACNC will apply both when negotiating access to these reports with other government agencies, and when receiving reports directly from charities which have already been provided to other government agencies.

Principles

  • Principle 1: Balancing public trust and confidence against reducing unnecessary regulatory obligations
  • Principle 2: Information to be compared with ACNC requirements
  • Principle 3: Reliability of information in other government report to be assessed
  • Principle 4: Access to information required before discretion exercised
  • Principle 5: Co-operative approach taken in exercising discretion

Legislative context

  1. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (Consequential and Transitional Act) 2012 (Cth) (ACNC Consequential and Transitional Act) gives the Commissioner power to accept a statement, report or other document (‘other government report’) given by a charity to another Australian government agency in place of:
  • the Annual Information Statement, or
  • the annual financial report required under the ACNC Act (see Schedule 1, Part 4, Item 10(1)).
  1. The other government report must be required ‘under an Australian law’ — meaning under a Commonwealth, State or Territory law. For example, this would include reports provided to other government regulators under State incorporations associations legislation, fundraising legislation, cooperatives legislation or the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth).
  1. This power can be used up until the financial years prescribed by regulations (or, where relevant, a substituted accounting period, as explained in our substituted accounting periods policy) (Schedule 1, Part 4, Item 10(4) of the ACNC Consequential and Transitional Act).
  1. When deciding to accept reporting to another government agency as the Annual Information Statement or annual financial report for a charity, the Commissioner must consider certain matters. These include:
  • what access the Commissioner has to the information,
  • the information contained in the other documents and
  • the processes used to verify the other government reports.
  1. These criteria are included in the principles of this policy (see Schedule 1, Part 4, Item 10(2) of the ACNC Consequential and Transitional Act).
  1. If the Commissioner exercises this discretion, the Commissioner must notify the charity of the decision (see Schedule 1, Part 4, Item 10(3) of the ACNC Consequential and Transitional Act). The Commissioner may notify charities in accordance with this provision by way of notification on the ACNC website for a particular class of registered charities.

Principles

  1. When deciding whether to accept reporting given by a charity to another Australian government agency as its Annual Information Statement or annual financial report, the Commissioner will consider the following principles.

Principle 1: Balancing public trust and confidence against reducing unnecessary regulatory obligations

  1. In performing functions and exercising powers, the Commissioner must have regard to the need for not-for-profit sector accountability and transparency to the public (including donors, members and volunteers of registered charities) by ensuring access to information about not-for-profits (subsection 15-10(b) of the ACNC Act) and the benefits gained from providing information to the public (subsection 15-10(c) of the ACNC Act). It is expected that greater transparency and accountability will lead to increased public trust and confidence in the sector.
  1. The Commissioner will balance this need for public trust and confidence in the sector against the object of reducing unnecessary regulatory obligations (as outlined in section 15-5 of the ACNC Act). The Commissioner will also give due weight to the need to cooperate with other Australian government agencies and to administering the laws that confer functions and powers on the Commissioner (including in order to minimise procedural requirements and duplication) (subsection 15-10(f) of the ACNC Act).

Principle 2: Information to be compared with ACNC requirements

  1. The Commissioner will consider whether the relevant statement, report or other document contains:
  • information required by the Annual Information Statement or annual financial report, or
  • other information that relates to, or has the purpose of, enabling the same recognised assessment activities to be carried out in relation to registered charities.
  1. The information required by the Annual Information Statement, and the meaning of recognised assessment activities, is set out in our Annual Information Statement policy.
  1. If the relevant statement, report or other document provides the information required by the Annual Information Statement (or annual financial report where applicable), the Commissioner will accept the report as being an Annual Information Statement (or annual financial report where applicable), assuming there are no considerations to the contrary from applying the other principles in this policy.
  1. If the other government report does not provide the information required by the Annual Information Statement (or annual financial report where applicable), the Commissioner will consider whether the information allows the same recognised assessment activities to be carried out.

Principle 3: Reliability of information in other government report to be assessed

  1. The Commissioner will consider whether, and how, the information in the other government report is verified (both by the charity and by the government agency).
  1. The ACNC will accept a report (which includes either an audit or review report as relevant) if the information has been verified to the same standard as required under the ACNC Act, assuming there are no considerations to the contrary from applying the other principles in this policy.
  1. If another process has been undertaken to verify the information, and therefore give the Commissioner confidence in the integrity of that information, the Commissioner may still accept the other government report. For example, the Commissioner may exercise the discretion under the transitional provisions to accept financial reports (which includes either an audit or review report as relevant) for:
  • Large charities that have been audited by a person other than a registered company auditor, or from an audit firm, or an authorised audit company
  • Large charities that have been reviewed instead of audited, or
  • Medium charities that have been reviewed or audited by a person other than someone authorised to undertake a review or audit under the ACNC Act.
  1. Although the Commissioner must have regard to processes undertaken to verify the relevant financial reports, the Commissioner has discretion and may accept a financial report that has not been audited or reviewed. The Commissioner would only exercise this discretion in exceptional circumstances.
  1. Where the Commissioner exercises the discretion to accept the other government report as a financial report under section 60-10, it is taken to be in accordance with Subdivision 60-C (Annual financial reports) or 60-D. As such, other provisions of Subdivision 60-C are deemed to be satisfied, including requirements for:
  • Annual financial reports (section 60-15)
  • Audit or review (sections 60-20 to 60-35)
  • Auditor’s or reviewer’s independence declaration (section 60-40)
  • Auditor’s or reviewer’s report (sections 60-45 and 60-50)
  • Provision of information and assistance to auditor or reviewer (section 60-55).

Principle 4: Access to information required before discretion exercised

  1. Before the Commissioner can accept the other government report, the Commissioner must consider whether the ACNC has sufficient access to it.
  1. The information in the government report must be able to be lawfully shared with the ACNC under the other agency's laws and information handling policies. The Commissioner will also consider the degree of practical access (for example, the capacity to transfer the information between the agency and the ACNC) that the other Australian government agency can and will provide to the other government report.
  1. The Commissioner will also consider when the relevant statement, report or other document will be available and whether the Commissioner can receive the information in a timely way. The Commissioner will also consider the form in which the Australian government agency collects and holds the information, and whether this can be converted to enable the ACNC Register to be updated.

Principle 5: Co-operative approach taken in exercising discretion

  1. The Commissioner’s preferred approach is to work co-operatively with relevant Commonwealth, state and territory agencies to identify when and how other government reports can be accepted in place of the Annual Information Statement or annual financial report. In these cases, the Commissioner will request the other government agency provide the reports, subject to information handling laws and principles, in order to minimise the regulatory burden on charities.
  1. However, if the ACNC is willing to accept the other government report, but cannot obtain it directly from the other government agency, the ACNC will accept those reports directly from charities themselves. If this is the case, the ACNC will publicise on the ACNC website which reports it has decided to accept rather than asking charities to apply for them to be accepted.

References

Version Control

VersionDate of effectBrief summary of change
Version 1 – Initial policy14/11/2017Initial policy endorsed by the Acting Commissioner on 14 November 2017
Version 2 – updated policy31/08/2021Removed references to 2014 and 2015 reporting periods. Minor reformatting and rewording for clarity. Updated website links.