Fiji cyclone

Following the devastating cyclone that hit Fiji recently, I would like to express my concern and support to all those affected. In particular, I offer my condolences to those who have lost loved ones, and wish everyone the best in their efforts to rebuild.

Many Australian charities have a presence in Fiji and are already on the ground helping people deal with the aftermath of the disaster. I acknowledge the tireless work of those volunteers and aid workers involved and their contributions to the local communities.

Devastating events such as these in our region often promote great generosity from Australians who want to contribute by donating to the charities working in the area. Charities need cash at this point in time rather than goods. I would encourage you to give to an established humanitarian charity with people on the ground. These charities have the skills and experience to ensure donations go to where they are most needed. You can use the ACNC Charity Register to find registered charities to support.

Report says cutting red tape could save charities millions

I am pleased to release a new report on reducing red tape for the charity sector. The report, Cutting Red Tape: Options for alignment of regulatory obligations on the charity sector, was commissioned by the ACNC and produced by Deloitte Access Economics. It shows there is potential to save millions for charities by further measures to harmonise and streamline government requirements of charities.
We are passionate about our role in facilitating genuine red tape reduction for charities and continue to work hard to achieve results. While some progress has been made in this area, as the report highlights, there is much more that can be achieved.

The report proposes three options for red tape reduction:

  • allowing existing ACNC obligations to fulfil state and territory regulatory requirements
  • aligning state, territory, and ACNC regulatory obligations, or
  • legislating for the ACNC to become a central regulatory body for charities.
Implementing any of these options will require ongoing collaboration across different levels of government. We are continuing to work with the states and territories to make further progress and achieve meaningful reduction in the regulatory burden for charities. I acknowledge the leadership of some states and territories in red tape reduction initiatives and thank our colleagues in the state and territory governments for their input into this report.

Charities to lose registration

While the majority of registered charities have lodged their Annual Information Statements by the deadline, there are more than 2100 charities that have now failed to do so for two years. As I have mentioned in previous columns, these charities now face imminent loss of their charity registrations. The list of these charities can be found at acnc.gov.au/doubledefaulters.

We have issued multiple reminders and warnings to these charities over the last two years, have offered them help to comply with their reporting and they have still failed to comply. We believe that many of these will be inactive and may have even wound up. We do not want to revoke any active charities that are delivering services, so if you know any of the charities on the list please do ask them to urgently complete their reporting. If they have any difficulty then they should contact us immediately so we can assist them.

Importantly, when charities lose their registration they also lose access to Commonwealth charity tax concessions, including deductible gift recipient status, income tax exemption, Fringe Benefits Tax rebates, and Goods and Services Tax concessions.

If you are unsure whether your charity's Annual Information Statements are complete, I encourage you to log on to the Charity Portal at charity.acnc.gov.au or check your charity’s entry on the Charity Register at acnc.gov.au/findacharity.

With the help of our detailed and practical reporting guidance, submitting the Annual Information Statement is not a difficult process. You can find all you need to get your Annual Information Statement done at acnc.gov.au/2015AIS. Also, our Advice Services team is always happy to help charities that need assistance over the phone, too. You can call our friendly staff on 13 ACNC (13 22 62).

Correcting information about religious charities

In our analysis of 2014 Annual Information Statements, we identified a group of charities that had incorrectly assessed themselves as falling within the category of ‘basic religious charity’. This is a very specific ACNC category of charities with the sole purpose of advancing religion who also meet other strict requirements.

We are working with umbrella groups and directly with the affected charities to ensure they are aware of their errors and understand how they can correct them. So far, the response from these charities has been very positive.

I would like to thank the people involved in the charities as well as the various representative bodies and councils of for their support with this project. The level of cooperation from affected charities has been pleasing and it shows a commitment to accountability, ensuring that information on the Charity Register is accurate and up to date.

Charities will not be penalised for incorrectly choosing to classify themselves as falling within the basic religious charity category. However, once we have contacted the charities to advise them of their error they will be required to correct their information and provide financial information. This is not optional.

Webinar for new charity board members

If you have recently been elected to a charity board or committee, I recommend you register for our upcoming webinar 'Welcome to the board'. The session will be held at noon AEST on 9 March 2016 and will provide an interactive overview of charity governance designed especially for people new to charity boards and committees.

In addition to registering for upcoming webinars, you can also catch up on previous webinars at acnc.gov.au/webinars. So far this year we have broadcast two to great interest: 'What does the Australian charity sector look like?' and 'Before you apply to register a charity'.

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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