A 'Basic Religious Charity' is a registered charity with the purpose of advancing religion that meets five other criteria.

Only a small number of charities that advance religion meet all of these criteria.

Obligations to the ACNC

If a charity meets the definition of Basic Religious Charity, it does not have to:

Also, the ACNC does not have the power to suspend or remove a member of a Basic Religious Charity's governing body (what the ACNC calls a 'Responsible Person').

Basic Religious Charities must still meet all other ongoing obligations, including submitting their Annual Information Statement each year, complying with the External Conduct Standards (if operating or sending money overseas) and notifying us of changes to certain details.

Working out if a charity is a Basic Religious Charity

A charity must meet all six criteria to be as a Basic Religious Charity.

A Basic Religious Charity must be registered only with the charity subtype of 'advancing religion'.

If a charity is registered, or could be registered, with an additional charity subtype, it is not a Basic Religious Charity.

There are 14 categories or charity 'subtypes' that the ACNC can register. These are based on a charity’s charitable purpose. A charitable purpose is the reason a charity was set up or what its activities work towards achieving.

In some instances, a religious charity's activities may seem to fit a charity subtype other than ‘advancing religion’. 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 unlikely to be a separate charitable purpose (advancing education), compared with setting up a separate school, which is likely to be a separate charitable purpose.

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

A 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 or an Australian Registered Body)
  • 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.

A 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 Reform Act 2012 of Victoria
  • the Associations Incorporation Act 1981 of Queensland
  • the Associations Incorporation Act 1987 of Western Australia
  • the Associations Incorporation Act 2015 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.

If the charity is a charitable trust, having a trustee registered under the Corporations Act (for example) does not prevent it (as a trust) from being a Basic Religious Charity.

Read more information about legal structure.

If a charity has received approval from the ACNC to report as part of 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 part of a group. Read more information about group reporting.

If a charity, as a whole, is endorsed as a Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR), it is not a Basic Religious Charity.

However, if the charity is endorsed as a DGR in part for certain funds, institutions or authorities that it operates, it may be a Basic Religious Charity. In this case, the 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.

Read more about Deductible Gift Recipients (DGRs) and the ACNC.

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.

This includes all Commonwealth, state, territory and local government grants.

From March 17 2021, a charity that has been identified as being involved in the abuse of a person, either:

  • in an application for redress under section 19 of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse Act 2018 (Cth) (Redress Act) or
  • in response to a request for information from the National Redress Scheme Operator (Secretary of the Department of Social Services) under section 24 or 25 of the Redress Act,

cannot be a Basic Religious Charity if

  • it has failed to join the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse (Redress Scheme) by not being a ‘participating non-government institution’ within 6 months of the application being made or the response to the request for information was given, and
  • the application for redress relating to it has not been withdrawn under section 22 of the Redress Act.

A charity may be a Basic Religious Charity again later if it joins the Redress Scheme and meets the other Basic Religious Charity criteria.

Find out how to participate in the Redress Scheme.