There are several types of legal structures used by charities. Different obligations apply to each type. Your charity’s legal structure affects many things, such as:
its reporting and governance requirements to the government agency that incorporated (registered) it
its ability to operate outside the state it is registered in without further registration, or
its eligibility for certain tax concessions.
The types listed here are examples of the most common legal structures, but there are others (such as trusts and unincorporated associations).
Charities incorporated as companies, registered Australian bodies and foreign companies are registered under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) and are regulated by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). Read more about companies limited by guarantee and ASIC/ACNC requirements for charities.
Registered charities that are incorporated as companies or registered with ASIC have many of their notification and reporting obligations to ASIC replaced by obligations to the ACNC.
Some charities are incorporated using the legal structure of ‘cooperative’ and are regulated by state and territory governments. A cooperative is a type of organisation that is owned, controlled and used by its members. There are different kinds of cooperatives. Read more about obligations to state and territory regulators for cooperatives.
Most charities are incorporated associations and are regulated by state and territory governments. Incorporation is a voluntary, simple and inexpensive means of establishing a legal entity. It is particularly suitable for small, community-based organisations. These charities have 'Inc.’ or ‘Incorporated’ at the end of their name.
Incorporated associations may have obligations to state or territory government regulators, such as providing annual reports or keeping financial records. Charities must still meet these obligations.
Read more about obligations to state and territory regulators for incorporated associations.
Charities registered as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations are regulated by the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations are a particular type of corporation registered according to the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (Cth) (CATSI Act). These corporations are controlled by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The ACNC and ORIC are working together to try to reduce the number of times Indigenous corporations must report.
Annual reports lodged with ORIC will satisfy your corporation’s reporting obligations to the ACNC.
Find out more about how the ACNC affects your Indigenous corporation.
There are many different types of trusts. Only trusts supporting a charitable purpose that meet legal meaning of charity and our requirements for registration can register as charities with the ACNC.
Read more about Trusts and the ACNC.
An unincorporated association is a type of organisational structure for a charity. Unlike an incorporated structure, an unincorporated association is not a separate legal entity from its members. It is simply the group itself, of people who has agreed to come together to pursue a common purpose, such as to establish a faith community.
Read more about unincorporated associations.