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Key points:

  • Charities may change the way they operate over time. This could include changes to the charity’s subtype or legal structure, or may involve the charity merging with another charity or winding up its operations completely.
  • When the ACNC registers a charity, it registers it under one or more charity subtypes. Subtypes reflect a charity’s purpose. If your purpose or focus area changes, you may have to change or add a charity subtype.
  • If you are changing your charity’s legal structure, you will need to inform the ACNC, and possibly other regulators.
  • There are many reasons why a small charity may consider merging or winding up. When doing so, be aware of your legal obligations to regulators and fulfil them.
  • There might be other obligations your charity has when merging or winding up, such as to staff, donors, members and those it owes money to.
  • If required, your charity should seek out appropriate professional or legal advice when winding up, merging or changing its legal structure.
  • Charities also have an obligation to notify the ACNC of other changes to charity details, including changes to the Responsible People or the charity’s Address For Service.

Your charity subtype reflects your charitable purpose, such as ‘advancing health’ or ‘advancing education’.

Your charity’s purpose reflects the work it does and what your charity’s activities aim to achieve. When the ACNC registers your charity, it will be registered under one or more charity subtypes.

If you wish to change your subtype because it no longer reflects your current work, or if you want to add a subtype, you will need to request to change your charity's subtype through the ACNC Charity Portal. It is not an automatic process to add or change a charity subtype - the ACNC will need to formally approve this request.

Also, if you are changing your charity’s purposes or activities, check that you allowed to do so under your governing document (constitution or rules).

If your governing document needs to be updated to reflect your charity's new or changes purposes, you will need to update it first by following your charity's process to amend the governing document. Then, you will need to upload the new version in the Charity Portal, before you can apply to change your charity subtype.

See our guidance about changing your charity subtype for more information.

If your charity changes its legal structure, you need to notify the ACNC. The steps you need to take will depend on your former and new legal structure.

You may need to:

You should refer to our table that covers the steps a charity needs to take the the ACNC when changing its legal structure.

You might also need to notify relevant incorporating regulators, and register or cancel an Australian Business Number (ABN) with the Australian Business Register.

Your charity may choose to merge with another charity. Some reasons that charities may choose to merge are because they:

  • think it will benefit the people they help
  • have similar purposes, activities and values
  • conduct the same or similar activities
  • already work together
  • want to combine and share resources
  • think they will be more effective working together.

If your charity is merging, you need to make sure you are following your governing document (the constitution or rules) and any relevant legislation.

You will need to notify the ACNC of the merger. Depending on if the merged charity has a different legal structure or a new ABN, you may need to revoke the existing charity registration and apply to register the new charity.

In addition, you may have legal obligations to your incorporating regulator, the Australian Business Register (ABR), and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

See our guidance about merging for more information.

Charities can choose to voluntarily wind up if they feel they have finished their work or if they have reached the end of their useful existence. They can also be forced to wind up in some circumstances, such as if they are insolvent.

When winding up, charities should:

  • get professional advice
  • follow their governing document and all relevant legal obligations
  • inform people (including donors, members, staff) that they are winding up
  • remain solvent while they wind up
  • revoke their charity registration with the ACNC
  • follow any other winding up processes with other regulators, if required.

See our guidance about winding up for more information.

Charities also have a duty to notify the ACNC if their details have changed. Small charities need to notify us within 60 days of becoming aware of the change.

You need to notify the ACNC of changes to your charity’s:

  • Address For Service
  • legal name
  • governing document
  • Responsible People.

Charities can update their details in the Charity Portal. See our guidance about updating charity details for more information.

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