The Australian Charities and Not for profits Commission (ACNC) is the independent national regulator of charities.
The ACNC’s Compliance team is responsible for administering the ACNC’s regulatory approach, which involves working with some of the 56,000 or so registered charities to ensure they meet their obligations to the ACNC.
This helps to maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the Australian not-for-profit sector.
We look into serious concerns raised about a charity’s compliance with the ACNC Act.
These may be based on information that a charity has reported to us, a complaint made about a charity, information received from other government agencies (including state and territory agencies), or issues identified through our own internal processes.
The ACNC has published its regulatory approach that explains the way we approach issues of compliance.
We understand that most people involved in charities are honest and trying to do the right thing. We will consider whether a charity has breached the ACNC Act and how that breach can be resolved.
Where appropriate, we will work with charities to allow them to resolve any issues.
We will act quickly and firmly where there is evidence of serious mismanagement or misappropriation, a serious or deliberate breach of the ACNC Act, or if vulnerable people or significant charitable assets are at risk.
The ACNC does not have the power to act on internal disputes, contract issues, policies or actions of boards or directors (that are within their powers), or employment issues such as unfair dismissal.
If we do intervene, we will conduct either a compliance review - which reviews a charity’s general level of compliance with the ACNC Act and addresses any risks identified - or an investigation.
Investigations are conducted in higher risk or more complex cases.
Every charity must make sure it meets the obligations set out by the ACNC Act.
We encourage charities to self-assess by using our checklist: Take the ACNC Compliance Test: Is your charity complying?
Charities must notify the ACNC if:
- they are not meeting their obligations in a significant way, and as a result their organisation is no longer entitled to registration (for example, if the charity is not complying with the ACNC Governance Standards), or
- they have made a material error in their Annual Information Statement or financial reports.
Charities should also notify us if they discover they have made a false or misleading statement to the ACNC.
If we decide to review or investigate a charity, we will send the charity a letter setting out the scope of our compliance review or investigation and ask for information.
During the review or investigation we may meet with the charity or seek information from the charity or third parties.
We may finalise the review or investigation in a number of ways. For example we may:
- provide regulatory advice to the charity
- recommend steps the charity should take to address the issues identified
- require the charity to have its accounts audited or lodge additional reports
- use our enforcement powers or impose administrative penalties
- revoke the charity’s registration
- refer the concern to another government agency, or
- decide not to take any further action.
Our service standards require us to complete most compliance reviews within three months and most investigations within six months.
We understand compliance investigations can be a sensitive matter for charities, and the ACNC Act and privacy laws also restrict how we can share or otherwise disclose a charity’s information.
Generally we do not publicise whether we are reviewing or investigating a particular charity, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
But we will always tell the charity before any compliance information about the charity is published.
However, if we use a formal power as set out by the ACNC Act, this will be recorded on the charity's page on the ACNC Charity Register.
We may also publish statements on the Register if a charity does not meet certain reporting obligations.
Charities can make a complaint if they are not happy about the way we are conducting a compliance review or investigation. They can also ask for an internal review if they disagree with our decisions.