Welcome to 2016

Happy New Year. I hope you were able to have a break over the holiday period to spend time with your families and friends and relax before diving into 2016.

The ACNC re-opened on 4 January and we are already busily working on achieving our priorities for what promises to be a busy and productive year. This year we look forward to making further progress on reducing red tape for charities, to building the Charity Register with accurate and accessible information, and to helping charities with advice, guidance and education.

I hope that you also have a good start to 2016.

Money myths

The release of the Australian Charities Report 2014 with analysis of charity financial information has, naturally, sparked interest in charity finances.

Understandably, as many people donate to charities, they want to see that charities are well-run and responsible with their money. However, there are a number of common misconceptions about the way charities can use money.

To help people understand how charities may manage their finances, we have published a new piece of guidance. This publication, Charity money myths, outlines some of the common misconceptions of charity financial management and separates the myths from the facts. It is an important and timely resource that will help people better understand the nature of financial management in charities and may help them better articulate what charities can and can’t do with their resources. It is available at acnc.gov.au/moneymyths.

The myths will also be part of a larger guide on managing charity money, and understanding ACNC duties around money, which will be released in coming weeks.

What is a charity?

In addition to Charity money myths, we have added a new video to our guidance which provides an overview of what it means to be a charity.

‘Charity’ has a very particular legal meaning, and organisations seeking to register with us must fall within this definition. Charity law has developed over centuries , and sometimes understanding the legal definition of charity can be difficult. This video – What is a Charity? – provides an overview of the key elements of charities as recognised under Australian law.

Visit our Legal meaning of charity page for a link to the video, which is also on the ACNC YouTube channel. If you would like an overview of the legal definition of charity, I encourage you to take a look.

Webinar

Our popular webinar program continues in 2016 with the first one of the year on 28 January. This webinar will take a look at Australia’s charity sector by exploring the data used for the Australian Charities Report 2014. We will be joined by the CEO of the Centre for Social Impact at UNSW, Dr Andrew Young, who will guide you through the interactive website and help interpret the data.

This webinar is a unique opportunity to see the charity sector in a new light and discover interesting new facts and insights with the report’s lead academic researcher. With the guidance of Dr Andrew Young, you will also get a fascinating view of the research.

If you’re interested in participating in the webinar, I encourage you to have a look at the report – or its shorter summaries – and the interactive data at australiancharities.acnc.gov.au.

We are very pleased to provide this ground-breaking research data to the charity sector and the broader public. It is a great resource for policy-makers, researchers, and donors, and provides a wonderful insight into Australian charities.

You can register for this webinar, or any of the other upcoming webinars, at acnc.gov.au/webinars. You can also view previous webinars and download transcripts from this same page.

2015 Annual Information Statement due date

For many charities, the due date for the 2015 Annual Information Statement (AIS) is not far away. Charities that operate on a regular financial year reporting period (July1 –June 30) are required to submit the 2015 AIS by January 31 2016. Please be aware there thousands of charities with this due date that are yet to submit their AIS. If you leave it until the last minute you may experience delays when trying to submit.

More seriously, if you have not submitted your AIS for two consecutive years the ACNC will move to revoke your charitable status, thereby removing your access to tax concessions. As national regulator we have a responsibility to provide accurate and up-to-date information to assist the Australian community make informed choices about donating and volunteering.

When preparing to submit the 2015 AIS, I encourage you to read the 2015 AIS guide. This guide covers all the questions in the statement and provides explanations about the information you need to submit. The guide and a useful AIS worksheet are available on the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/2015AIS.

It is important to ensure the financial information in your Annual Information Statement is correct. A number of charities submitted their 2014 statements with errors in their financial information and were subsequently required to correct their errors and re-submit their statements. To avoid this fate, it is important to make sure your financial information is correct. For assistance, it may be worth reading through our frequently asked questions about last year’s errors at acnc.gov.au/2014AISfinancialerrors.

As highlighted above, it is a good idea to get your 2015 AIS completed as soon as you can to avoid the rush closer to the due date. You can log in and begin your 2015 AIS at the Charity Portal at charity.acnc.gov.au.

CIS Government entity

The consultation on our draft Commissioner’s Interpretation Statement (CIS) on the meaning of ‘Government Entity’ closes on 29 January 2016. If you want to provide comments on the draft, I encourage you do so soon.

Commissioner’s Interpretation Statements provide guidance for charity representatives and ACNC staff on particular aspects of charity law. This CIS relates to the definition of ‘charity’ as set out in the Charities Act, which provides that a ‘charity’ cannot be a ‘government entity’.

The ACNC is committed to working closely with sector stakeholders and we welcome comments on the CIS. It is currently available in draft form on the ACNC website until 29 January 2015.

Good wishes,

Susan Pascoe AM
Commissioner

Contact us

Our phone number is 13 ACNC (13 22 62) or you can email us at advice@acnc.gov.au.

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