Welcome to the February issue of ACNC Quarterly.

ACNC Quarterly is your source of information about the ACNC, and provides resources to help your charity meet its obligations to the ACNC.

Introduction from the Commissioner

The end of 2018 saw huge achievements for the ACNC – most notably, the launch of the new and improved ACNC website, Charity Register and Charity Portal.

I would like to thank our charities for their patience as we worked to implement the changes to our online services. The updated website and Charity Portal are faster, more accessible, and easier to navigate.

As with any large-scale IT upgrade, it has not been all smooth sailing. We have had a record number of enquiries from charities, which has increased call wait times and enquiry response times. I apologise for the inconvenience, and assure you that our team is working hard to manage the influx of queries.

If you have had trouble when attempting to log into the new Charity Portal to submit your 2018 Annual Information Statement, please do not panic. I have extended the due date for those charities that normally submit between 31 December and 29 February to 31 March 2019. For most charities, this will provide an additional two months to log into and navigate the new system (noting we normally extend the due date to 31 January).

The start of a new year brings new opportunities. We are excited about the challenges ahead in 2019, including new projects to continue the development of the ACNC Charity Register.

We are looking at creating new education and guidance material to support small charities and charities operating overseas.

We are also set to consult on proposed definitions and measures of the ACNC’s second Object in early 2019.

Our project to improve the ACNC Charity Register’s search function is continuing. The objective is simple: we want to help connect charities and donors.

We are still in the scoping phase of the project; I will continue speaking with charity sector representatives from a range of backgrounds as we work toward a solution.

Meeting with charities was undoubtedly the highlight of my first year as Commissioner, and I look forward to spending more time on the road in 2019, meeting with a range of charities to discuss their incredible work and the issues most important to them.

If you would like to stay up to date with our work, you can subscribe to my fortnightly Commissioner’s Column on the ACNC website. Alternatively, you can follow us on Twitter or Facebook for news, resources and more.

In October 2018, the ACNC implemented a new look ACNC website, Charity Register and Charity Portal – the culmination of a long-standing project to improve the speed, accessibility and useability of our online services.

The ACNC website has been revitalised, with easy-to-follow menus and an improved search function.

Due to the system changes, there is a new log-in process for charities when accessing the Charity Portal – the previous system of logging in with your charity’s ABN and password will no longer work.

Instructions on how to access the new and improved Charity Portal are available on the ACNC website, including a short and helpful video. We are also emailing detailed instructions to charities over the coming months.

If you are having problems or need further assistance to log in to the new system, our friendly Advice Services team can be contacted on 13 22 62, 9am to 5pm (Melb/Syd time) Monday to Friday.

Due to the recent changes to the ACNC’s online systems and the potential effect on charities, the Commissioner has exercised his discretion to extend the 2018 Annual Information Statement due date for many charities.

Charities with reporting due dates between 31 December 2018 and 28 February 2019 now have until 31 March 2019 to submit their 2018 Annual Information Statement.

If you are unsure of your charity’s due date, check its listing on the ACNC Charity Register.

Ready to submit your charity's 2018 Annual Information Statement? We have produced a helpful guide and checklist to make sure you have everything you need to complete it.

In 2018, the ACNC commissioned a report titled Measures in support of the not-for-profit sector – indicators of Object 1(b), which explores the second Object of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth).

The meaning of the object, which is “to support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative Australian not for profit sector”, is not clearly defined in the ACNC Act, the Explanatory Memorandum or the Minister’s Second Reading Speech.

The report is the start of a conversation about how to define what a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative sector looks like, and how it can be measured.

The ACNC will consult with charities, professional advisors and academics over the coming months to discuss the issues and opportunities.

For more information or to express your interest in the consultation, visit acnc.gov.au/object2.

In November 2018, the Australian Government introduced proposed External Conduct Standards for registered charities. The standards are intended to provide a minimum level of assurance that charities have appropriate governance and behaviour when operating overseas.

The standards cover key issues for charities operating overseas, including:

  • Activities and control of resources (including funds)
  • Annual reviews of overseas activities and record keeping
  • Anti-fraud and anti-corruption
  • Protection of vulnerable individuals

Charities that operate overseas are encouraged to review the proposed standards and consider how the standards may affect their operations when they likely come into effect later in 2019.

These may not come into effect if the Parliament runs out of sitting days. Nevertheless, in anticipation the ACNC is currently developing guidance materials to support charities in meeting the proposed External Conduct Standards.

For more information about the standards, visit acnc.gov.au/ExternalConductStandards.

Towards the end of 2018, two pieces of legislation relating to foreign donations were passed by the Parliament, both of which may affect a small number of charities.

Foreign Donations reform
The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Act 2018 came into effect on 1 January 2019 and bans donations of more than $100 from foreign governments and state-owned enterprises to all political parties, individual candidates and significant political campaigners.

Read more about the changes, including how they may affect charities, on the Australian Electoral Commission website.

Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme
The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme came into effect on 10 December 2018. Its purpose is to provide the public and government decision-makers with visibility of the nature, level and extent of foreign influence on Australia's government and political process.

A limited number of charities that undertake activities on behalf of a foreign principal may need to register for the Scheme.

A foreign principal may include a foreign government or government-related entity, a foreign political organisation or a foreign government-related individual.

Find more information about the scheme on the website of the Attorney-General’s Department.

Indigenous employees of an ACNC-registered charity who are undertaking education training may be eligible to receive an allowance from the ABSTUDY scheme, operated by the Department of Human Services.

Employees who are undertaking part-time education or training could be eligible to receive Incidentals Allowance, an annual amount to assist with the costs of commencing study. Employees undertaking distance education or online learning who are required to travel for any academic components of their course may also be entitled to receive assistance for travel and accommodation costs.

Additionally, charities providing accredited training to Indigenous communities and students are encouraged to consider whether they and their students are receiving their maximum ABSTUDY entitlements.

Read more information and determine your charity’s ABSTUDY eligibility at the website of the Department of Human Services.

New guidance
Charities may want to provide a gift to individuals who are important to their organisation, as a gesture of gratitude or appreciation – however, the decision to provide gifts or honorariums comes with some important considerations and charities should approach it with care and diligence.

Our new guide, Gifts and Honorariums, discusses the key considerations – including potential legal issues, financial reporting requirements and more.

Read or download Gifts and Honorariums guide.

The ACNC’s monthly webinars will restart for 2019 in February. This year we will be focussing on important issues and advice on meeting your ACNC obligations.

The first three webinars for the year are:

  • Gifts and Honorariums
  • How to start a charity
  • Tax concessions

Read more information about, or sign up for, one of our free webinars.

How do I submit my charity's 2018 Annual Information Statement?
To complete your charity’s 2018 Annual Information Statement, log in to the new Charity Portal and select the charity from under the ‘Charities’ heading.

On the ‘Manage Reporting’ page, click the ‘Start the 2018 AIS’ icon to begin. Much of the guidance to help you complete the Annual Information Statement is located within the online form.

I have logged in to the Charity Portal, but the charities I represent are not displayed.
If you are an authorised contact for a charity, it should be listed under the ‘Charities’ heading on the Charity Portal home page.

If the charity is not listed, it is likely that the email address you used to create your new Charity Portal account is not the email address we hold for that charity.

Our Advice team can help you resolve this - call our team on 13 22 62 from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (Melb/Syd time).