My Charity and the ACNC provides an overview of the responsibilities registered charities have to the ACNC.

It also looks at the ACNC's functions, and offers instructions for charities and their Responsible Persons on registration, access to Commonwealth tax concessions and ongoing obligations.

About the ACNC

new guidance icon The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) is the independent national regulator of charities. This guide explains who we register and what registration means for your charity.

What is a charity?

Under the law, a charity is a type of not-for-profit with a charitable purpose for the public benefit.

Examples of charitable purposes include 'advancing education' or 'health'.

Not-for-profits that do not fit this meaning cannot be registered as a charity with the ACNC.

Your not-for-profit may be registered, even if you don’t think of it as a ‘charity’. If it received charity tax concessions before 3 December 2012 it may have been endorsed as a charity by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and automatically registered with us.

Your charity needs to remain registered to be eligible for Commonwealth charity tax concessions, as well as selected other benefits.

What does the ACNC do?

The ACNC:

  • registers charities
  • regulates charities, helping them to understand and meet their obligations by providing information, guidance, advice and other support, while also looking into complaints about charities
  • maintains the ACNC Charity Register, a free searchable online register of all registered charities in Australia
  • publishes research about charities, drawn from the information it collects. This supports the charity sector
  • has developed a ‘report-once, use-often’ reporting framework for use by multiple agencies, as part of working with Commonwealth, state and territory governments and agencies to reduce red tape for charities.

What doesn’t the ACNC do?

The ACNC does not:

  • regulate not-for-profits that are not charities
  • look into complaints about charities outside of our responsibilities. For example, we generally don’t investigate internal disputes in a charity except in serious cases where such disputes may threaten public trust and confidence
  • make decisions about which Commonwealth tax concessions a charity can receive – the ATO does this. The ACNC only decides whether a charity can be registered, and the charitable subtype or subtypes it can be registered as. The ATO uses the decision of the ACNC to help decide the particular tax concessions the charity is eligible for.

Step 1: Check if your charity is registered with the ACNC

register new charity icon Search the ACNC Register for your charity (by ABN or name) at acnc.gov.au/findacharity. If your charity is listed, it is registered.

The ACNC Register is a publicly searchable database of all charities registered with the ACNC.

Your charity’s ACNC Register listing also includes its Australian Business Number (ABN). Clicking on your ABN as it appears in the register will link to your entry page on the Australian Business Register's ABN Look-up. You can follow this link to view your organisations' charity tax status.

Step 2: Understand information on the ACNC Register

The ACNC Register contains information drawn from charities' Annual Information Statements (AIS), and from other documents like annual reports, governing documents and information previously provided to the ATO.

The Register allows potential donors to view accurate information about your charity, such as its purpose, where it operates, what it does and the names and roles of its Responsible Persons (such as board or committee members, or trustees).

While your charity’s information will appear on the Register, personal information about its Responsible Persons will not appear. And information about your charity can be withheld if the ACNC approves; for example, if it is to protect public safety.

alert icon Find out more about information on the ACNC Register by visiting the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/charity.

Step 3: Check and update your charity’s details

Check contact information and other details

Check that the ACNC has your registered charity’s correct details. You can do this at any time by using our Charity Portal or, after your reporting period ends, by submitting your AIS when it is due. Check we have your charity’s Address For Service correct. That way you won't miss out on important information, as we use this address to contact you and send you formal documents.

Check charity size

Your charity size affects your obligations, such as reporting and the time you have to notify the ACNC of key changes. A ‘small’ charity has annual revenue less than $250,000, a ‘medium’ charity has annual revenue of between $250,000 and $999,999, and a ‘large’ charity has annual revenue of $1 million or more.

Check reporting period

You should also check your charity’s reporting period, as this will affect when it needs to report. The standard ACNC reporting period is 1 July to 30 June, but you can apply to use a different reporting period if required.

submit ais icon You can update your charity’s details by logging in to the ACNC Charity Portal at charity.acnc.gov.au.

Step 4: Understand your charity’s obligations to the ACNC


If your not-for-profit is a registered charity, it has ongoing obligations to the ACNC and must:

  • Keep records
  • Report by submitting AISs and other information if needed
  • Notify the ACNC of changes to its key details
  • Remain eligible to be registered, by meeting minimum Governance Standards and other requirements.

Your charity’s obligations depend on its size, based on its annual revenue:

  • small – less than $250,000
  • medium – between $250,000 and $999,999
  • large charity – $1 million or more.
Keep charity records

Your charity must keep financial and operational records. Records must be easy to access and given to the ACNC if we ask for them. Financial records are documents that allow you to:

  • explain your charity’s financial transactions and position
  • get your charity’s financial statements prepared (and audited, if necessary).

Operational records are any other documents about your charity’s operations, such as meeting minutes, reports and written details of your charity’s activities, programs or services. You need to keep records that allow the ACNC to assess whether your organisation:

  • continues to be a charity (for example, the documents should show that your activities further your charitable purpose), and
  • is complying with its obligations under the ACNC Act and the tax law.
Report charity information

Your charity must submit its AIS once a year, within six months of the end of its reporting period.

You can do this online via the ACNC Charity Portal. The ACNC has also prepared detailed instructions on logging in and accessing the portal.

There is no fee to submit the AIS or any financial reports.

To save you time, we will pre-populate your AIS with information you have previously provided us with.

If there is sensitive information in your statement that you wish to have withheld from the ACNC Register, you need to contact us to request this.

Check your reporting period

The standard ACNC reporting period is from 1 July to 30 June.

If you want to use a different reporting period (for example, a calendar year) you must apply to do this by completing Form 4A: Request a substituted accounting period, available in the ACNC Charity Portal.

You need to provide a brief reason for your request - for example: ‘We have used a calendar year since we started’. This helps us know when your annual reporting is due so we can send you reminders at the right time.

AIS reporting requirements

The amount of information charities need to supply when completing their AIS varies depending on their size or subtype.

Small charities (and Basic Religious Charities) do not need to provide as much information as medium or large charities.

  • Small charities and Basic Religious Charities: the AIS includes basic financial questions. You can choose to submit an annual financial report, but this is optional.
  • Medium charities: you must submit an AIS and an annual financial report that you can choose to have reviewed or audited.
  • Large charities: you must submit an AIS and an audited annual financial report.

did you know icon Find out more about reporting to the ACNC, including financial requirements, on the ACNC website at acnc.gov.au/managemycharity.

Notify the ACNC of key changes to your charity

Your charity must tell the ACNC if there is a change to its:

  • legal name
  • Address For Service
  • Responsible Persons (such as board or committee members, or trustees)
  • governing documents like your constitution, rules or trust deed. Charities must also give us a copy of the changed documents.

Updating your governing documents as needed is an important part of good governance.

It can be a simple task, but even small changes may affect other obligations your charity has, or even its status with the ACNC or the ATO.

Consider getting professional advice before making changes.

Also ensure you follow the correct legal steps to change your governing documents. This includes getting any approval you need from members, and complying with any requirements of other regulators, before informing us of the change.

When to notify us

Small charities must notify the ACNC as soon as they reasonably can, but no later than 60 days after being aware of the change.

Medium and large charities have to notify as soon as they reasonably can, but no later than 28 days after being aware of the change.

Notifying us of failing to meet obligations

All charities must tell us within 28 days if they become aware that they may not be complying with their obligations to the ACNC in a significant way.

An example would be discovering that your charity is not operating for its charitable purpose.

alert icon Find out more about notifying the ACNC of changes on the ACNC website at: acnc.gov.au/notify.

If you don’t notify us, there may be penalties.

Stay eligible for registration

At all times, you need to ensure your charity remains entitled to registration with the ACNC by

  • continuing to:
    • be not-for-profit
    • have a charitable purpose, and
    • be for the public benefit
  • complying with the ACNC Governance Standards
  • not being involved in terrorist or other criminal activity.
Meet Governance Standards

Your charity must meet the five minimum Governance Standards that apply to all registered charities except Basic Religious Charities.

These standards aim to maintain public confidence in registered charities by ensuring they manage their affairs openly, use their resources efficiently, manage risks and pursue their charitable purposes.

The standards cover:

  • a charity’s purposes and not-for-profit nature
  • accountability to members
  • compliance with Australian laws
  • the suitability of Responsible Persons, and
  • the duties of Responsible Persons – the charity must take reasonable steps to make sure those governing it understand their duties and follow them.

Obligations to other regulators

Generally your charity needs to comply with requirements it has your charity has under other laws or to other regulators, as well as those for the ACNC.

If your charity is an incorporated association you will generally still need to meet obligations to the incorporated associations’ regulator in your state or territory - for example, Fair Trading or Consumer Affairs.

If your charity is a company, then most of your reporting is to the ACNC rather than the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

In some cases if your charity has existing obligations (such as to notify and report) to certain government agencies, this may satisfy its obligations to the ACNC.

The ACNC continues to work on streamlining and reducing red tape – for example, by accepting some reports submitted to other agencies.

alert icon Find out more about our work to reduce regulatory burden at: acnc.gov.au/redtapereduction.

More information about charity obligations

Visit the ACNC website to find out more about your charity’s obligations, including how it can meet the Governance Standards.

We have detailed information and education videos that help explain what your charity needs to do.

register new charity icon Visit: acnc.gov.au/managemycharity.

Not registered?

Decide if you want to apply for charity registration with the ACNC.

Registration is voluntary, but if your not-for-profit wants to apply for Commonwealth charity tax concessions or other benefits, it must register with the ACNC.

alert icon Before you apply to register, refer to acnc.gov.ay/startacharity.

If your organisation is thinking about registering as a charity, reading our guidance can help you work out whether your organisation is eligible to register, and what you will need before you start.

You can apply to register it as a charity and for charity tax concessions using the same online form.

register new charity icon Find out more about the benefits of registration at: acnc.gov.au/registrationbenefits.

Where can I find information about managing a charity?

The ACNC produces a range of guidance materials, including guides and quick tips, to assist people managing charities, such as the Governance for Good and the Protect your charity from fraud guides. We also hold regular free webinars to help charities with issues they might face.

webinar icon Visit: acnc.gov.au/guides and acnc.gov.au/webinars.

alert icon If you have trouble completing a form, or can’t access the Charity Portal, please call us on 13 22 62 or email advice@acnc.gov.au

WhatWhere/HowWhen

Check your charity is registered

  • Search the ACNC Register using your ABN or charity name
  • Check your charity details
  • Note your charity ‘subtype’ under its registration details.

You may be asked to confirm this information.

Now

Update your charity’s details

  • Update your charity’s details as required
  • Listed below are some of the details you need to keep updated
Now

Notify us of how we should contact your charity – your Address For Service

Unless you’ve told us already, tell us who the contact person for your charity is, their name and your charity’s Address For Service

  • Your charity’s email address will be our main contact, so use a general one rather than one belonging to an individual

Now and if it changes

Notify us of who governs your charity – Responsible Persons (1)

  • Decide who your Responsible Persons are
  • Make sure they know that they will only have their name and role listed on the public ACNC Register
Now and when responsible
persons start, finish or
change their name or role

Notify us of who governs your charity – Responsible Persons (2)

  • Ask Responsible Persons to confirm that they understand their duties under governance standard 5 and agree to continue/accept their roles
  • Consider whether your charity needs a conflicts of interest register, and any other processes to help you meet Governance Standards 4 and 5
  • Ask Responsible Persons to read our information on the Governance Standards (particularly Standards 4 and 5) at acnc.gov.au/governancestandards
  • Ask all existing and future responsible persons to sign a declaration that they are not disqualified at acnc.gov.au
  • Search for existing and potential future responsible persons on:

Now and each time new
responsible persons are
appointed

Notify us of your governing documents

  • Review your governing documents (such as constitution, rules or trust deeds) to make sure these reflect your charity’s purpose and activities
  • Provide a copy of the governing document, and tell us if there are any changes

Now and in future if your governing document changes

Decide if you want to request us to withhold your charity’s details

  • Consider whether there are any details you would like withheld from the Register (this is only possible in limited circumstances)
  • Use the ACNC Charity Portal at charity.acnc.gov.au and submit the Request to withhold information form, setting out which information you wish not be published and why.

Now (if relevant), or before reporting or changing details

Step 3. Understand your obligations

Record-keeping

  • Make sure your record-keeping is up-to-date, as your charity needs to report each year to the ACNC through the Annual Information Statement

Ongoing

Reporting information to the ACNC (1)

  • Find out when your charity’s reporting period (financial year) ends. This will help you work out when your Annual Information Statement is due
  • If the reporting period is not 1 July to 30 June apply for a ‘substituted accounting period’
  • 30 June? 31 December? Another date?
  • This date may be in your governing documents
  • Use our Request a substituted accounting period form, available in the ACNC Charity Portal: charity.acnc.gov.au.

Now

Now, or at least before the start of the reporting period you need to report on

Reporting information to the ACNC (2)

  • Prepare and submit an Annual Information Statement (and, for medium and large charities, a financial report) every year
  • Report by completing your Annual Information Statement through the ACNC Charity Portal. Login at charity.acnc.gov.au

Submit within six months of the end of your reporting period

Reporting information to the ACNC (3)

  • Make sure that whoever is submitting reports, forms or other documents to the ACNC has the authority to do this (for example, they are a Responsible Person or an authorised agent)

Before submitting a form

Reporting information to the ACNC (4)

  • Work out if there are any changes to your charity’s reporting obligations to other government agencies. For example, companies that are registered charities generally report to the ACNC instead of ASIC
  • This information may be in your governing or other documents (such as grants or funding documents)
  • Read more about reporting and obligations to other regulators at acnc.gov.au/managemycharity

Before the end of the
relevant reporting period

Notify us of any changes to your charity’s details

  • If your charity’s details change (legal name, Address For Service, Responsible Persons, or governing documents), notify the ACNC

When details change, or when requested

Keeping your charity status

  • To remain eligible to be registered, your charity must remain not-for-profit, continue to pursue its charitable purpose, and otherwise meet its obligations to the ACNC
  • If you find out your charity has not done these things, you may have a duty to tell the ACNC

Ongoing