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Australia’s New Charities Commission

Australia’s first charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has officially opened its doors for business announcing it will hit the road in the New Year in a national campaign to explain the ACNC’s proposed regulatory approach.

The Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission Act was assented in parliament yesterday, and establishes the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission; charges the ACNC with registering not-for-profit entities (initially charities) and maintaining a register; provides for the powers of the ACNC Commissioner in relation to the regulation of registered entities; and sets out the obligations and responsibilities of registered entities.

From 1 July 2013, the government intends to introduce governance standards that will apply to all registered charities (except basic religious charities). Before these are finalised, the government will consult further with the sector, and the public more generally, before registering the standards and tabling them before each House of Parliament for its consideration prior to their commencement.

Until a statutory definition of charity has been finalised (with a briefing paper expected early in 2013 and the definition likely to take effect on July 1, 2013) a ‘charity’ will be understood to encompass organisations for: the relief of poverty, advancement of education, advancement of religion and other purposes beneficial to the community (including childcare, self-help and contemplative orders).

Registration with the ACNC is voluntary. If your charity has been automatically registered you have 6 months to opt-out. However, registration will be a necessary prerequisite for charities to access Commonwealth tax concessions and other concessions, exemptions and benefits.

There are a number of steps its recommends for charities wanting to be registered:

  • Check that your organisation has been automatically registered;
  • Check that the correct registration sub-type has been applied;
  • Confirm whether basic religious charity status should be applied;
  • Apply for a substituted accounting period (if you do not wish to report in accordance with the financial year);
  • Apply for registration, if your organisation has been self assessing (e.g. religious institutions);
  • Familiarise yourself with your new obligations such as the duty to notify the ACNC of changes and the new obligations on directors; and
  • Check your operational and financial records are in order as these may be checked at any time.

Should you have any queries regarding the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission or any other Charity queries, please contact our Principal Solicitor, Mr George Hanna on (02) 9587 0458 or by email on .

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