With the 2019 Federal Election just around the corner, it is important for registered charities to familiarise themselves with their obligations regarding political advocacy and campaigning.
Advocacy and campaigning can be legitimate and effective ways of furthering the charitable purposes of a charity. However, there are lines that a charity should not cross.
Our guidance, available here, has been developed to help charities decide what advocacy they can appropriately undertake and what they should avoid.
A short summary is included below, and I would encourage all charities to read the guidance in full to ensure they do not jeopardise their charity status.
In short, it is okay for a charity to:
- have a purpose of advancing public debate – including promoting or opposing a change in law – where this furthers or aids another charitable purpose.
- have a purpose to promote or oppose a change to a law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a state or territory or another country where this furthers or aids another charitable purpose
However, it is not okay for a charity to:
- have a purpose to promote or oppose a political party or a candidate for political office.
- have a purpose to engage in or promote activities that are unlawful.
- have a purpose to engage in or promote activities that are contrary to public policy (which, in this context, means the rule of law, our constitutional system, the safety of the public or national security).
Charities should also be aware that certain types of expenditure may need to be disclosed to the Australian Electoral Commission, as required by the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth). More information about these requirements is available on the Australian Electoral Commission website at aec.gov.au.
Annual Information Statement due date fast approaching for charities operating on calendar year
Charities who report on a calendar year (from 1 January to 31 December) have until 30 June to submit their 2018 Annual Information Statement.
To submit the Annual Information Statement, charities will need to log into the new Charity Portal at charity.acnc.gov.au. If you have not logged into the Charity Portal since October 2018, your username and password will have changed. Visit acnc.gov.au/charityportal for instructions.
More information about the 2018 Annual Information Statement, including a helpful checklist and guide, is available on the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/2018AIS.
Tenth annual report on ‘Targeting scams’ released by ACCC
This week the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released its 10th annual report on ‘Targeting scams’. The report dissects scams reported to Scamwatch during 2018 and identifies emerging trends and techniques used by scammers.
The report highlights that financial loss from scams is up 44 per cent compared to 2017. However, I am pleased to note that reports of ‘fake charity’ scams are down nationwide.
The ACNC encourages donors to give with confidence to charities. If you are approached to donate to charity either in person or online, do your research to ensure you are protecting yourself from potential scam activity.
If you are approached by a fundraiser, you are entitled to ask for identification to ensure the activity is legitimate before committing to a donation.
If you receive a request to donate online, avoid clicking links or providing sensitive personal information via social media - it is best to visit a charity's website directly to ensure your contribution is going to a legitimate charity.
You can also search the ACNC Charity Register at acnc.gov.au/charity to find out more about any of Australia’s 57,000 registered charities.
More information about fake charity scams can be found on the ACCC’s Scamwatch website.
ACNC webinar on charity tax concessions
Our next free webinar, scheduled for Thursday 23 May, will be presented in conjunction with the ATO’s not-for-profit team. The topic is Commonwealth charity tax concessions and DGR endorsement.
This is always a popular webinar, so I encourage you to book now and secure a spot.
You can find out more information and register your attendance on our website here.
The Hon Dr Gary Johns