Late last year, the Federal Government announced a series of major reforms to the oversight of charities operating overseas and organisations with Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status. Charities that work overseas will be subject to new standards of governance, called External Conduct Standards.

This week, the proposed External Conduct Standards were tabled in Parliament. Unless they are disallowed, the External Conduct Standards will come into effect on 1 July 2019 and operate in addition to the existing ACNC Governance Standards.

The four standards will require charities to manage their activities and the control of resources overseas, conduct an annual review of overseas activities and record keeping, ensure protection from fraud and corruption, and safeguard vulnerable individuals.

For more information or to find out if your charity will be required to meet the new Standards, visit acnc.gov.au/ExternalConductStandards.

New gifts and honorariums guidance now available

The ACNC has recently published new guidance on the issue of providing gifts to individuals. Charities may want to provide gifts or honorariums to individuals as a gesture of gratitude and appreciation for their services – be it as a board member, staff or volunteer.

However, any decision to provide a gift or honorarium must be made with care and diligence, to ensure it is in the best interests of the charity. Charities are encouraged to consider the legal implications of providing a gift or honorarium, as well as understanding the ACNC’s expectations and reporting requirements in relation to the giving of gifts.

For more information or to read our new guidance, visit acnc.gov.au/gifts.

Independent review into the prevention of sexual misconduct in aid organisations completed

Last week saw the release of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine’s Independent Review into the Practice and Response of ACFID Members in the Prevention of Sexual Misconduct, a report commissioned by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The report was designed to assess the safeguarding priorities and protocols of international aid organisations in relation to the risks of sexual abuse and exploitation.

While the review found that many ACFID organisations are “in many ways better prepared” than other international organisations in preventing sexual misconduct, it also identified capability gaps throughout the sector – particularly in relation to reporting incidents of sexual misconduct and an inability to monitor responses.

For more information or to read the full report, visit the ACFID website.

Charity sector research on mergers and amalgamations – survey closes soon

A large research project is currently underway on the topic of mergers and amalgamations in the charity sector – designed to provide a sector-wide understanding of resource sharing arrangements and restructuring options undertaken by Australian charities.

This project is being conducted by senior researchers from RMIT University, the University of Western Australia, and Queensland University of Technology.

If you are a CEO or senior member of the governance team of an Australian charity, I encourage you to complete the 20-minute survey as soon as possible. The survey period has been extended to next Friday 7 December.

For more information or to complete the survey, visit the RMIT University website.

Streamlining reporting arrangements now in effect for Victorian charities

A reminder to our Victorian charities that are also incorporated associations – streamlined reporting arrangements are now in place, so you are only required to report to the ACNC and not to Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Affected charities must submit their 2018 Annual Information Statement to the ACNC. We will then share the information provided with Consumer Affairs Victoria, reducing duplicate reporting for thousands of charities.

If your charity has an Annual Information Statement reporting due date between 31 December 2018 and 28 February 2019, you now have until 31 March 2019 to submit your reporting. Otherwise, your due date is six months after the end of your charity’s financial year.

If you are unsure of when your charity’s next Annual Information Statement is due, check your charity’s listing on the ACNC Charity Register at acnc.gov.au/charity.

Compliance action taken against two charities

The ACNC has revoked the charity status of two organisations, Perpetual Energi Ltd (ABN: 61150002654) and Lien Hoa Women Buddhist Meditation Centre (Chua Lien Hoa) Incorporated (ABN 30568237208) following compliance investigations.

Both organisation was endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office to access Commonwealth charity tax concessions including goods and services tax (GST) concessions, income tax exemptions and FBT rebates.

Perpetual Energi Ltd was also endorsed as a deductible gift recipient (DGR).

These charities have now lost access to Commonwealth charity tax concessions.

We are prevented from disclosing further details due to secrecy provisions in the ACNC Act. However, we publish instances where we use our formal powers – including where we revoke a charity's registration – on the Charity Register and at acnc.gov.au/compliancedecisions.

Each month we receive around 150 concerns about charities, many of which are submitted by members of the public. If you have concerns about a registered charity, you can let us know via the ACNC website.

Logging in to the Charity Portal? More instructions coming soon

Some charities will soon receive an email from the ACNC featuring more detailed instructions on the process of logging in to the ACNC Charity Portal. These emails will be issued gradually over the coming weeks.

While we appreciate that many charities are eager to complete their reporting and meet their ACNC obligations, I’d like to remind charities that if you have an Annual Information Statement reporting due date between 31 December 2018 and 28 February 2019 now have until 31 March 2019 to submit their reporting.

Our Advice team are working diligently to handle a significant backlog of enquiries from charities in relation to the new Charity Portal, and we apologise for any inconvenience caused by the delays.

Please be assured the team are working to respond as soon as possible, and that there is no need to follow-up on your charity’s query.

As an Australian Government agency, the ACNC will be closed over the Christmas and New Year period. Our office will be shut from close of business Friday 21 December 2018, and will reopen on Wednesday 2 January 2018.

Thank you for your patience throughout the release of our improved ACNC website and Charity Portal.

Best wishes,

The Hon Dr Gary Johns