It was a pleasure to attend the Charity Law Association of Australia and New Zealand (CLAANZ) Conference in Wellington last week. The conference, hosted by CLAANZ and supported by Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand, discussed the future of charity law, accounting and regulation.

I also had the opportunity to meet Natasha Weight, the General Manager of Charities Services at New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs.

Natasha’s team were kind enough to invite me to attend their Sector User Group meeting, which brought together sector representatives to discuss the key issues facing New Zealand’s charity sector. It was a fascinating insight into the differences and similarities our nations share.

My thanks to our friends and colleagues from New Zealand for being such gracious hosts.

Latest report from ACNC shows charity concerns continue to rise

Just before I left Australia for the land of the long white cloud, I was pleased to publish the ACNC’s annual Charity Compliance Report.

The 2018 edition of the report found that more than 1,800 concerns were raised about charities, up 6 per cent compared to 2017. Charity concerns have increased each year since the ACNC’s establishment in 2012.

The increase is not necessarily reflective of charity behaviour – it is more likely that it mirrors the community’s growing awareness of the ACNC. Presumably, those concerns went unanswered in years prior to the establishment of the ACNC.

In 2018, we did more internally to uncover wrongdoing by charities. Concerns proactively identified through the ACNC’s intelligence gathering and data-matching initiatives more than doubled from 8 per cent in in 2017 to 20 per cent in 2018.

In this edition of the report, we have been able to share a case study from registered charity Guide Dogs Victoria – detailing their approach to identifying fraud, taking firm action and reducing the risk of fraud occurring again. This real-life example provides a practical explanation of how a charity can identify risks in their organisation, and the steps that can be taken to reduce risk.

I applaud Guide Dogs Victoria for courageously sharing their story.

Read the full report now on the ACNC website.

2018 Annual Information Statement now overdue for some charities

The due date for the 2018 Annual Information Statements has now passed for the majority of charities.

I appreciate that some charities encountered technical issues when trying to submit their 2018 Annual Information Statement. To assist, I exercised my discretion to extend the 2018 Annual Information Statement due date to 7 April 2019 – allowing charities affected by the temporary outages extra time to submit their reporting.

The extended due date has now passed. All charities with outstanding reporting are encouraged to log into the Charity Portal and submit the Annual Information Statement as soon as possible to avoid penalties.

If you are having any problems accessing the new ACNC Charity Portal, please first visit acnc.gov.au/charityportal or contact our friendly Advice Services staff on 13 22 62 (Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm AEST).

Further information and guidance can be found at acnc.gov.au/2018AIS.

Updated education resources available for charities

The ACNC has been hard at work improving the education and guidance available for charities on key topics and issues across the sector.

Several of the ACNC’s templates have been updated, providing a foundation for charities to build policies and procedures. Recent improvements have been made to the template conflict of interest policy and the related register of interests.

All templates can be found on the ACNC website here.

Registrations are also now open for our next webinar, on the topic of Commonwealth charity tax concessions. This joint session with the Australian Taxation Office is always popular, providing a detailed look at the tax concessions available to organisations in the sector.

For more information or to register, visit acnc.gov.au/webinars.

ACNC opening hours during public holidays

With several public holidays over the next two weeks, the ACNC will be operating under modified opening hours.

Our Advice Services team will be closed for the Easter long weekend, with phone lines unavailable from 5pm Thursday 18 April until 9am Tuesday 23 April.

The ACNC will also close on Thursday 25 April in recognition of the ANZAC Day public holiday.

I wish you all a safe and happy Easter break, no matter how you and your family choose to spend it.

I would also like to take this opportunity to pay my respects to all who have served Australia in wars, conflicts and peace-keeping missions.

Lest we forget.

Best wishes,

The Hon. Dr Gary Johns