Last week an impressive milestone was reached at the ACNC with the 50 000th phone call to the advice line since the ACNC commenced in December 2012. These calls are taken by our skilled Advice Services team who are the face of the ACNC. They deliver guidance and support to the charity sector daily. The fifty thousandth call came at 5.45 pm with a concerned member of the public checking to see it the charity he had just donated to was a bona fide charity. Happily, in this case it was. However, we do advise to check the Register before donating.

Federal Budget

There has been much written in the media recently about the impact of the Federal Budget. The ACNC’s full allocation of funding in the Forward Estimates has been retained for 2014-15 in the Treasury papers.

We are now awaiting the report from the Senate Economic Legislation Committee into the proposed ACNC Repeal Bill, due on 16 June. The Committee is conducting formal hearings on Friday 23 May, and the ACNC is appearing.

As mentioned in a recent column, more than 140 submissions have now been published on the Parliament of Australia website, including the ACNC’s submission, expressing a range of views about an appropriate regulatory model for the charity and not-for-profits sector. Our submission can be viewed on the Parliament’s website, or on the ACNC website .

Streamlining Reporting for charities registered with TEQSA

In November 2013 we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) confirming that the ACNC will accept financial reports lodged with TEQSA as satisfying ACNC requirements for annual financial reports, until at least 2014-15.

For higher education providers that lodge the Provider Information Request (PIR) with TEQSA, we will also accept the relevant worksheets (namely the Income Statement and Balance Sheet) of the PIR in place of completing the financial components of our 2014 and 2015 Annual Information Statements (provided you give us consent to publish this on the ACNC Register).

The non-financial components of the Annual Information Statements will be pre-populated with the information you provided in 2013. This means that charities that are registered with TEQSA will not be required to provide any duplicative information to the ACNC. The ACNC will contact the affected charities directly about these arrangements.

Changes to Income Tax Exempt Fund status

More than 600 income tax exempt funds (ITEFs) will soon receive a letter reminding them that their organisation will be listed on the ACNC Register after 30 June, unless the ACNC is advised otherwise.

The organisations were all endorsed as ITEFs by the ATO as at 31 December 2013. The Charities Act 2013 provided that these funds be registered with the ACNC as charities from 1 January 2014. This change means that these entities are registered with the ACNC, and will now be endorsed by the ATO to access tax concessions as a registered charity, rather than as an income tax exempt fund.

The ACNC is delaying publishing information about ITEFs on the Register until after 30 June to enable these funds time to request information about their organisation or responsible persons to be withheld.

ITEFs that do not want to remain registered with the ACNC can opt out of registration up until 31 December 2014 by completing Form AF Income Tax Exempt Funds Opt Out. If the fund chooses to opt out, it will not be eligible for income tax exemption as a registered charity. It will also not be able to access income tax exemption as an income tax exempt fund, since this category no longer exists.

2013 Annual Information Statements are due

If your charity has not completed its 2013 Annual Information Statement, remember that it is a legal requirement to do so. Many charities who have submitted their statements have told us it has been quick and easy to complete.

Consistent with the ACNC regulatory approach, charities who have missed their reporting deadlines will receive final reminders prior to any penalties (under the ACNC Act) being applied.

You can submit the 2013 Annual Information Statement and read our related guidance and frequently asked questions at acnc.gov.au/2013AIS. For additional advice you call us on 13 22 62 or email advice@acnc.gov.au.

Use the Charity Portal to interact with the ACNC

The Charity Portal is the ACNC’s secure online service for charities to complete their Annual Information Statement and update their details.

We continue to work to improve and enhance the portal. This week we have added functionality to use the portal to apply to have information about your charity withheld from the ACNC Register.

There are limited circumstances where the ACNC may withhold information from the Register, for example where this presents a risk to public safety, or is commercially sensitive and harmful. More information on withholding information from the ACNC Register is available on our website.

You can also use the portal to print a copy of your charity’s registration certificate or to tell us about changes to your charity’s legal name, address, governing documents, responsible persons, contact details and where the charity operates.

Stay tuned for further announcements about new functionality to the Charity Portal.

Good wishes

Susan Pascoe AM