Northern Territory charity roundtables

I’m writing to you from (hot and humid) Darwin, in between meetings with local charities and peak bodies.

On Monday I was joined by 50 members of the local not-for-profit sector to discuss issues specifically relating to regulation and reporting in the Northern Territory.

On Tuesday I met with 20 representatives from charities that are controlled by, or support, Indigenous Australians in the Northern Territory. We discussed the role and functions of the ACNC, the relationship between the ACNC and ORIC, how ACNC data can assist charities, and the major challenges charities in the NT face.

I don’t have the privilege of visiting Darwin very often, so when I do, it’s fantastic that so many people are willing to take time out of their busy schedules to attend an ACNC session.

New guidance: charities, elections and advocacy

On Wednesday last week the ACNC published a new guide to help registered charities ahead of the Federal Election this year, and any other state, territory or local government elections.

The guidance, Charities, elections and advocacy, is a timely resource for charities that advocate and campaign on particular issues.

The guide outlines the ACNC’s interpretation of “advocacy” and “campaigning” and specifically covers:

  • Advancing public debate, including promoting or opposing law changes
  • Promoting or opposing a change to a law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth Government, a state/territory government, or overseas
  • Promoting or opposing political parties or candidates
  • Engaging in or promoting unlawful activities
  • Engaging in or promoting activities that are contrary to public policy (the rule of law, Australia’s constitutional system or public safety/national security)

Advocacy and campaigning by registered charities, particularly in the context of elections, is a complex area of charity law. The primary issue is whether or not charities are pursuing their charitable purpose, or if instead, their purpose is to promote or oppose a particular political party.

The new guide explains to charity boards and committees what the ACNC considers to be appropriate behaviour, and what activities could put a charity’s entitlement to registration at risk.

It’s important that boards and committees familiarise themselves with this guidance ahead of the election. Download your free copy, and find our other helpful guidance relating to charities and advocacy at acnc.gov.au/advocacy.

Confirmation transitional reporting arrangements for charities extended

As foreshadowed in my 9 March Column, I’m pleased to confirm that on 15 April 2016 the ACNC regulations were updated to allow these transitional arrangements to reporting to continue. You can find the updated regulations in full at legislation.gov.au. Information about the current transitional reporting provisions, which have now been extended, are on our website at acnc.gov.au/transitionreporting.

Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership

I was delighted to host the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership last Tuesday at the ACNC’s Melbourne office.

Senior members from the ACNC met with the members of the Partnership to address a number of key issues, such as charity tax concessions, efficiency and transparency in the sector, volunteering in Australia, and duplicative reporting requirements.

It was our first meeting since the announcement by the Minister for Social Services and Assistant Treasurer confirming that the ACNC will be retained.
At the time, the partnership supported the announcement, stating:

The Partnership forged a strong working relationship with the ACNC in 2015 over its shared goals, in particular the pursuit of reducing unnecessary red tape and other barriers to a strong and thriving charitable sector and fostering philanthropy in Australia through giving and investment.

I know speak on behalf of my colleagues at the ACNC when I say that the support of the partnership is greatly appreciated, and I look forward to working closely with them in 2016.

159 charities at risk of revocation

A group of 159 registered charities that have failed to submit two Annual Information Statements are now at risk of losing their charity status. This group of charities need to complete both outstanding Annual Information Statements by 10 May 2016 to avoid revocation.

Submitting an Annual Information Statement each year is a requirement to maintaining registration with the ACNC, and the Commonwealth charity tax concessions that can come with it. The information charities provide the ACNC via the Annual Information Statement is also used to populate the Charity Register, which is increasingly being accessed by the public.

We have been unable to contact this group, despite repeated efforts to do so. I encourage you to check the list to make sure your charity isn’t at risk. If you happen to know someone that works or volunteers for a charity listed, please ask them to contact the ACNC immediately.

You can find the list, and the notice of intention to revoke registration, at acnc.gov.au/whereareyou.

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