It’s with a heavy heart I write this fortnight’s edition of the Commissioner’s Column. Three countries I have visited a number times throughout my life, France, Turkey and the United States, have in the last week been rocked by senseless violence. My thoughts are with the citizens of those countries and all of their friends and relatives here in Australia. It is comforting that many charities in Australia contribute to community building and to positive relations between people of different backgrounds and belief systems.

Government Ministers

Yesterday (18 July 2016) the Prime Minister, The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, announced his Ministry for the 45th Parliament of Australia.

The two Ministers that had responsibility for the ACNC in the previous Parliament will continue their roles. They are:

In March 2016, both Ministers announced that the Government had decided to retain the ACNC, sighting a commitment to red tape reduction.

At the time, Minister O’Dwyer stated:

“Today’s announcement sees us striking the right balance between having effective public accountability and cutting red tape.

“The Government will now work with the ACNC to remove duplication and increase accountability and transparency.

“The Government will continue to work with the ACNC, states and territories and the sector to identify areas where we can reduce the burden of red tape for charities and not-for-profit organisations.”

Since the Ministers’ announcement we have already seen progress in this space. Readers of this column will be aware that both the Tasmanian and South Australian Parliaments have passed legislation that will significantly reduce red tape for charities in those states.

In case you missed it, you can find more information about the Tasmanian and South Australian legislation in David Locke’s 7 June Acting Commissioner’s Column.

The ACNC is committed to working with the government, all state and territory regulators and the sector to see significant reduced red tape for charities. This will remain a top priority in 2016-17.

Tasmanian Charity Forum

Last Tuesday (12 July 2016) I was delighted to meet with 170 representatives of Tasmania’s not-for-profit sector.

The event was co-hosted by the Director of Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading, Dale Webster, who is also an ex-officio member of the ACNC Advisory Board.

The event was a fantastic opportunity to discuss changes to charity regulation in Tasmania, and speak directly to those running charities to find out what issues they are grappling with.

Thank you to all who attended. Be sure to join us again when we visit Tasmania for our series of free sector seminars - Ask ACNC in September.

Ask ACNC

Beginning in August 2016, the ACNC will host a series of free events for registered charities across the country. We will be hosting 26 sessions across every state and territory.

The events, named “Ask ACNC”, will give charities an opportunity to hear directly from senior ACNC executives, myself included, and ask us any questions they might have.

Ask ACNC will feature a presentation, which will cover:

  • A charity sector update
  • Important information to help charities meet ACNC obligations
  • Future areas of focus for the ACNC, for example financial reporting and governance
  • Basic financial training

This year we have expanded the program to include a section on basic financial training. The purpose is to assist those running registered charities with financial management and record keeping throughout the financial year, and in particular, when it comes time to report to the ACNC.

This free training package is part of our commitment to support and sustain a robust sector through guidance and education.

In some locations the ACNC will be joined by representatives from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and state and territory regulators, giving charities an opportunity to get all their questions answered at once.

Spaces are filling fast, so I encourage you to register as soon as possible. You can find dates, locations and the link to register at acnc.gov.au/askacnc.

Charities on notice

Notice of Intention to Revoke Charity Status

I have talked before about the ‘double defaulter charities that have failed to lodge two Annual Information Statements. After the 30 June deadline had passed we published a list of 1,700 charities that had fallen into this category. It is pleasing that 600 of those charities have now submitted their outstanding reporting. The remaining 1,100 registered charities have not, so they were issued with a Notice of Intention to Revoke charity status.

These charities have until 10 August 2016 to submit their outstanding Annual Information Statements. If they fail to do so, their charity status will be revoked, which will remove their entitlement to access Commonwealth charity tax concessions.

I encourage these charities to submit their outstanding Annual Information Statements immediately, and if they need further assistance, please contact our Advice Services team at advice@acnc.gov.au or by calling 13 ACNC (13 22 62).

The list of charities at risk is available at acnc.gov.au/doubledefaulters.

Data integrity project

As part of the ACNC’s Data integrity project, we have written recently to 3,000 registered charities to highlight where we think they may have made an error in their annual reporting. The

Data integrity project is part of the ACNC’s ongoing commitment to provide the community with an accurate and up-to-date register of charities.

The issues we have highlighted range from incorrect data entry to self-assessing as a basic religious charity despite the charity not meeting all the requirements.

Charities that have received one of these emails are asked to resolve the issues highlighted in the email as soon as possible.

2015 Annual Information Statement overdue reminders

In the next week or so approximately 10,000 registered charities will receive a reminder regarding their overdue 2015 Annual Information Statement.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind them of the other consequences for late lodgement.
Charities that are six months late with their annual reporting, which is just weeks away for charities that report on a 1 July to 30 June financial year, will receive a “red mark” on their Charity Register listing.

The red mark highlights to the public, donors and other government agencies that the charity has failed to meet its obligations. This may damage a charity’s reputation and could impact their ability to obtain grants or donations.

The ACNC is also able to impose financial penalties on registered charities. We have used this power sparingly since the ACNC was established in December 2012, which was appropriate as charities familiarised themselves with the new regulatory framework.

However, most charities have now been required to report to the ACNC three times, meaning lack of awareness is no longer a legitimate reason for non-compliance. What we have found recently is that some charities are wilfully avoiding their reporting obligations, which I consider grounds for the ACNC to issue a financial penalty.

I’m calling on charities to meet their obligations and submit their outstanding Annual Information Statements as soon as possible.

ACNC Quarterly

On a much more positive note, registered charities should have received the winter edition of ACNC Quarterly.

In the winter edition you’ll find information on:

  • the spate of recent charity revocations and what charities can do to ensure they’re not at risk
  • how charities should approach handling complaints
  • the new ACNC Advisory Board
  • a raft of new (and free) resources
  • the passage of red tape reduction legislation in South Australia and Tasmania, and
  • W.O.W! - the charity featured in this quarter’s Charity Chat section.

The ACNC’s quarterly newsletter is sent to the address for service for all registered charities, however if you don’t represent a registered charity you can still read the latest edition at acnc.gov.au/quarterly.

Charities and fundraising

Finally, for those of you who are based in Brisbane there are still some places at a free event taking place this Thursday 21 July 2016 at 12pm.

Charity Fundraising Australia: ACNC Update & Proposed Future Reforms

Assistant Commissioner David Locke is speaking on fundraising as well as Nigel Harris, the Chair of the Fundraising Institute of Australia, and Associate Professor Wendy Scaife, the Director of The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Non Profit Studies at Queensland University oF Technology. It should be a really interesting session.

You can find out more information here:
http://windsor-recruitment.com/?p=2857


Good wishes
Susan Pascoe AM

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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