UPDATE: The recording of our webinar 'Charities, the ACNC and COVID-19' is now available.

acnc register tick icon Due to the effect of COVID-19, and to ensure the health and wellbeing of our staff, our advice telephone line will be closed until further notice. You can contact us via our online enquiry form and we will get back to you as soon as possible. We thank you for your understanding and patience.

We will regularly update this page as new information is released. Last updated: 3 April, 2:30pm.

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 impacts 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 (but are not limited to):

  • 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 charity AIS due dates are now 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.

Boosting Cash Flow for Employers

The Federal Government has announced the Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure, which includes support for eligible charities to manage cash flow and retain employees.

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

Refer to the ATO website's COVID-19 Economic Response for NFPs page for more information about the measure, as well as how the ATO will regulate it.

JobKeeper payment

The Federal Government has also announced its intention to pass additional legislation to introduce the new JobKeeper payments measure.

The JobKeeper payment is intended to provide wage subsidies to eligible businesses and not-for-profits, including charities, that are significantly affected by COVID-19. If legislation is enacted, support will be directed to employers to pass on to employees. Register your interest via the ATO.

For more general information, visit the ATO's COVID-19 support page.

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.

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) or ASIC (for companies) for further guidance on the requirements.

Companies

More information on ASIC's 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 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.

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 the financial effects of COVID-19. These can include:

  • Considering the use of reserves (see the section on charity reserves, below)
  • Assessing their eligibility for the Federal Government's stimulus package - or any state or territory packages.
  • 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.

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?
  • 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 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.

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 People 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.

Information from other organisations

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

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:

Federal GovernmentDepartment of Healthwww.health.gov.au
Australian Capital TerritoryACT Healthwww.health.act.gov.au
New South WalesNSW Healthwww.health.nsw.gov.au
Northern TerritoryDepartment of Healthwww.health.nt.gov.au
QueenslandQueensland Healthwww.health.qld.gov.au 
South AustraliaDepartment for Health and Wellbeingwww.sahealth.sa.gov.au
TasmaniaDepartment of Health and Human Services Tasmaniawww.dhhs.tas.gov.au
VictoriaDepartment of Health and Human Serviceswww.dhhs.vic.gov.au
Western AustraliaWA Healthwww.health.wa.gov.au