The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (“ACNC”) now looks likely to commence operation in early December 2012 with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012 (“Bill”) passed in the Senate this week (with amendments) and approved by the House of Representatives.
The Bill was amended to adopt the majority of the recommendations contained in three committee reports which were undertaken throughout August and September 2012 by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services and the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs.
Significant amendments to the Bill include:
- both Houses of Federal Parliament must pass a resolution approving the governance standards and external conduct standards which are yet to be prescribed in regulations to the legislation and which will be the subject of further consultation with the charities and not for profit sector and community at large; and
- a prohibition on ‘gag’ clauses into the governance standards which might otherwise restrict a not-for-profit organisation in its advocacy or criticism of Government policy or other issues related to its mission or purpose.
The date of actual commencement of the ACNC is yet to be determined and we will keep you informed. It is most likely that the ACNC will, however, be operational within a matter of weeks.
What to do now?
In short, if you are presently endorsed by the Australian Taxation Office (“ATO”) to receive charity tax concessions, then you will be automatically registered with the ACNC and do not need to do anything in order to obtain registration from the date the ACNC commences.
Only charities endorsed by the ATO, as referred to above, will be regulated by the ACNC from its inception. Whether the remainder of the not-for-profit sector will be regulated by the ACNC is yet to be seen.
In related news
ASIC annual review fees
Recently, Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury announced that registered charities which are corporations will no longer have to pay annual ASIC fees. It is estimated that around 1,400 charities will benefit from the removal of ASIC annual fees.
Victoria and South Australia lead the way
Victoria and South Australia are leading the way on state reform in attempting to reduce red tape for not-for-profits in light of the implementation of the ACNC. Victoria has introduced the Associations Incorporation Reform Act 2012, which comes into effect on 26 November 2012. The legislation aims to reduce duplicative state regulations, reduce costs for charities, and to transition to the national regulatory framework which the ACNC hopes will be achieved. In South Australia, amendments have been proposed to harmonise reporting requirements and authorise charities to collect charitable donations in South Australia, once they are formally registered with the ACNC. Developments on initiatives in other states will be advised as they come to hand.