A Basic Religious Charity is a registered charity that has the charitable purpose of advancing religion, and that meets six specific criteria.
Only a small number of charities that have the purpose of advancing religion meet all six of these criteria.
Basic Religious Charities' obligations to the ACNC
If a charity meets the definition of a Basic Religious Charity, it does not have to:
- answer financial information questions in its Annual Information Statement
- submit annual financial reports (regardless of its size)
- 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, including the requirement to:
- submit their Annual Information Statement each year
- comply with the External Conduct Standards (if operating or sending money overseas)
- notify us of changes to certain details.
Basic Religious Charity criteria
A charity must meet all six of the following criteria to be a Basic Religious Charity.
A Basic Religious Charity must only be registered with the charity subtype of 'advancing religion'.
If a charity is registered, or is eligible to be registered, with an additional charity subtype, it is not a Basic Religious Charity.
There are 14 charity subtypes (categories that reflect the charity's purpose) that the ACNC can register. A charitable purpose is what the charity was set up to achieve and what its activities work towards achieving.
Some activities carried out by a religious charity 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, such as 'advancing education'. However, setting up a separate school is likely to demonstrate that the charity has a separate charitable purpose.
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)
- 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 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 2003 of the Northern Territory
- 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.
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 situation, 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.
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.