On Thursday, 16 July, the ACNC will stage a free webinar - 'Managing charity money in the wake of COVID-19' -

As charities continue to feel the effects brought about by COVID-19, our July webinar will provide practical advice, good practice tips and important reminders for charities as they move into the new financial year, perhaps approach important reporting deadlines and think about their Annual General Meetings. Register for the webinar: acnc.gov.au/webinars.

The recording of our 'Charities, the ACNC and COVID-19' webinar - staged in March - is available.

acnc register tick icon Due to restrictions in place because of COVID-19, our Advice phone service is operating at reduced hours. You can call our helpful staff on 13 22 62 between 1pm and 5pm (Sydney/Melbourne time) from Monday to Friday. We thank you for your understanding and patience.

This page last updated: 3 July 2pm.

The ACNC recognises that a charity’s usual operations may be affected by the outbreak and spread of COVID-19, as well as measures being established to try and control its spread. We provide some information about a number of relevant issues below.

Blanket extension to Annual Information Statement submissions

As a result of the effects of COVID-19, many charities are likely to experience issues with submitting their 2019 Annual Information Statement (and, if required, their annual financial report) by their due date.

Some of the reasons for this may include:

  • the inability to hold Annual General Meetings
  • the inability for charities to have their financial accounts audited or reviewed
  • charity Responsible Persons who are unwell due to COVID-19.

ACNC Commissioner the Hon Dr Gary Johns has approved a recommendation that charities with AIS due dates between 12 March 2020 and 30 August 2020 now have an extension until 31 August 2020.

This latest extension also includes bushfire-affected charities that had previously been granted an AIS submission extension to May.

This blanket extension to AIS submission does not automatically include any obligations to other regulators - for example, charities that are incorporated associations and who report to state or territory regulators. More information on charity obligations to other regulators can be found in the 'Charity meetings and AGMs section', below.

​​​Note: The revised due dates for charities' Annual Information Statements are shown on the ACNC Charity Register.

In recognition of the unique challenges brought about by COVID-19, the ACNC Commissioner has decided that the ACNC change its approach to certain breaches of the Governance Standards and the External Conduct Standards that occur from 25 March until 25 September 2020.

The ACNC believes this short-term position is appropriate to allow charities to operate effectively and to enhance public trust and confidence in the sector.

Read the full explanation of the changes to the ACNC’s approach to certain breaches of the Governance Standards and the External Conduct Standards.

alert icon The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has established a central dedicated webpage for charities and not-for-profits to access ATO COVID-19 support and information.

This includes information on the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure and the Jobkeeper payments.

Visit the support page on the ATO website.

Information about these initiatives is also included in the section below.

Boosting Cash Flow for Employers

The Federal Government's Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure includes support for eligible charities to manage cash flow and retain employees.

The measure will benefit around 30,000 not-for-profits - including charities.

JobKeeper payment

The Federal Government's JobKeeper measure aims to provide wage subsidies to eligible businesses and not-for-profits, including charities, that are significantly affected by COVID-19.

Support is directed to employers who, in turn, pass it on to employees.

Changes to ancillary fund guidelines

The Federal Government has announced amendments to the ministerial guidelines for public and private ancillary funds to 'provide a credit for funds that make total distributions in financial years 2019-20 and 2020-21 that are at least four percentage points above the minimum required distributions'.

The credit may be used to reduce the minimum distribution by up to one percentage point in 2021-22 and future financial years until the credit is exhausted.

The amendments aim to encourage ancillary funds to increase their granting during this time.

COVID-19 pandemic declared a disaster - implications for Australian disaster relief funds

The Federal Government has declared the COVID-19 pandemic a disaster for the purpose of establishing Australian disaster relief funds as deductible gift recipients (DGRs), allowing them to receive tax-deductible donations.

Donations to Australian disaster relief funds will now be tax deductible when made within two years of the day specified in this declaration as the first day of the event.

Disaster relief funds will need to apply for formal endorsement as a DGR fund with the ATO. This requires charity registration with the ACNC.

Further information

The ACNC's Governance Standard 2 requires a charity to be ‘accountable to members’. One common way in which a charity can do this is through AGMs and other meetings.

An option at this time may be to hold meetings remotely via video or phone conference. If you charity is considering this, read our tips for holding meetings remotely to assist.

If a charity is unable to hold its meetings at this time due to government requirements on physical distancing, the ACNC recommends the charity to:

  • advise or consult with members on the reasons for the postponement
  • document the reason why the meeting did not occur or could not occur digitally
  • use alternative ways to communicate the information that it would have provided at that meeting to members
  • schedule a future date for the meeting (even if this has to be amended again later).

If your charity believes it might need to delay or postpone its AGM, it may need to check information with its state or territory regulator (for incorporated associations) for further guidance on the requirements.

Companies

More information on ASIC's approach to AGMs.

Hold meetings in accordance with your governing document.

Charities regulated by ORIC

More information on the Office of the Registrar for Indigenous Corporations' approach to AGMs.

ACT incorporated AssociationMore information on Access Canberra's approach to AGMs.
NSW incorporated Association

More information on Fair Trading NSW's approach to AGMs.

NT incorporated AssociationCharities should contact Licencing NT directly.
Qld incorporated AssociationMore information on Office of Fair Trading Queensland's approach to AGMs.
SA incorporated AssociationMore information on Consumer & Business Services' approach to AGMs.
Tas incorporated AssociationCharities can contact Consumer, Building and Occupational Services for support.
Vic incorporated AssociationMore information on Consumer Affairs Victoria's approach to AGMs.
WA incorporated AssociationMore information on Consumer Protection WA's approach to AGMs.

Some charity operations may be affected by COVID-19.

We know that your charity's priority is to keep its beneficiaries, staff and volunteers safe. This may mean that some or all of your charity's activities may need to be modified or even temporarily halted; this is a reasonable course of action for charities to take.

It is important your charity keeps records of changes it makes to its operations as a result of COVID-19 impacts, and keeps everyone informed of what it is doing, and why.

Regular communication about your charity's changed activities should be a priority. Some charities may be able to offer their programs through online channels.

guides icon We have updated our guidance on record-keeping to include more information on keeping records if working remotely or from home.

Importantly, if your charity's operations do change, it is important it remains consistent with its charitable purpose. Your charity's purpose is what it was set up to achieve. Some people also refer to this as their charity's mission. Your charity can have more than one charitable purpose.

Each charity needs to consider how COVID-19 impacts their financial operations. These can include:

  • Considering the use of reserves (see the section on charity reserves, below)
  • Assessing their eligibility for the Federal Government's stimulus packages, any state or territory packages, or any other grants and how receipt of these may impact other funding.
  • Considering any other financial assistance available (for example, business relief packages from banks or financial institutions)
  • Assessing future cash flows and doing a forecast - or adjusting their forecast - in light of current events.
  • Speaking to funders about the effects of cancelling or delaying activities that are part of funding agreements.
  • Knowing fixed costs and when they will need to be paid. Also, not committing to any more expenditure if possible.
  • Reviewing existing liabilities (for example, exploring options with banks or financial institutions, including deferring loan repayments if applicable).

Responsible Persons should speak to their charity's accountant and auditor in preparation of budgets, forecasts and financial statements.

If waiting for the JobKeeper payment presents cash flow difficulties, businesses (including charities) may want to discuss their options with their bank. Banks have indicated that businesses may be able to use the upcoming JobKeeper payment as a basis to seek credit so they can pay their employees while awaiting the scheme's first payments. More from the Australian Bankers Association.

The ACNC understands that many charities will be concerned about their financial position if their income sources change or their services need to increase.

A charity may want to draw on its reserves to stay afloat at this time.

It is vital that a charity's Responsible Persons consider whether drawing on reserves is the best option (in addition to any support the charity may be entitled to from the Federal Government's stimulus package) along with other options - for example, delaying or postponing some non-essential activities and projects.

A charity's Responsible Persons should also be aware of any restrictions on the use of reserves. And there should be proper records that document any debate or decision to draw on charity reserves.

For a charity that has decided to cancel or postpone a fundraising event due to concerns over COVID-19, there may be questions raised over what to do with any money already committed (for example, through ticket sales or other purchases).

In these situations, it is important that a charity is transparent about what it is going to do:

  • Will the money be refunded - either immediately or in time?
  • Can the money be refunded - are there any legal issues preventing this happening?
  • Will the charity hold the money until the fundraiser is rescheduled?
  • Will the charity commit the money towards a future event or effort?

Whatever the charity decides to do, it is important that it documents the decision and communicates clearly with supporters and other stakeholders the reasons why it made the decision, as well as the measures it has in place to ensure the funds are properly refunded or used in line with donors' original intent and the charity's charitable purpose.

Charities that are continuing to fundraise should be mindful of current social distancing protocols and other limitations. Charities may also want to consider alternative ways to raise funds, such as online appeals.

Information from other organisations

A number of other organisations and websites have additional information specifically related to COVID-19 that may be of assistance.

Charity operations and governance

Financial reporting

Other regulators

Financial support and fundraising

Note that for the purposes of banking, many charities are often classed as small-medium businesses. This means they may be eligible for support provided to small or medium business. Contact your bank or financial institution to find out more.

    Further health related information

    Stay up to date on developments relating to COVID-19 by visiting the Federal Department of Health website, as well as State and Territory government websites: