1 April 2014
Since 1995, there have been seven major reviews of the Not-For-Profit (NFP) Sector, including the Productivity Commission Research Report on the Contribution of the Not-for-Profit Sector released in 2010. In 2011 the Federal Government made an election promise to support a reform agenda which lead to the establishment of the Office for the Non-Profit Sector in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet and, subsequently, the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) Taskforce.
ACNC may be fatally wounded but survives another day
1 April 2014
The proposed bill to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), although introduced into Parliament on 26 March, was not debated nor was it listed with the other red tape reforms during the highly publicised "Autumn Repeal Day" event. It has subsequently been announced that the bill has been referred to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee who will report back to the House on 16 June 2014.
It was speculated that the Minister would introduce a bill to repeal the Charities Act 2013 (Cth) however this is yet to occur.
Minister Kevin Andrews has begun a consultation process where interested parties including the ACNC are making submissions to his department proposing future models for the ACNC.
View online: ACNC – Breaking news: There is no news (Hunt & Hunt)
View online: ACNC Act may be fatally wounded but Charities Act survives red tape reduction (Hunt & Hunt)
View online: Not-for-profit March 2014 Newsletter - What's happening with ACNC?
NFP's open letter asking that ACNC be retained- Andrews' response
20 March 2014
Signatories from 54 quite disparate organisations have vigorously
argued in an open letter to the Commonwealth Government
make it very clear to the Commonwealth Government and wider community that like
most charities across Australia, we value the Australian Charities and
Not-for-Profits Commission, and we want to see it continue its impressive
and strongly reject the
proposal to dismantle the national charity regulator.
Despite this call, the Federal
Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, remains intent on ensuring that
the ACNC legislation will be repealed and the regulator abolished.
Andrews believes that the independent regulator had not proved to be the
best use of government funding and maintains he has been in ongoing
consultations with major stakeholders and heard overwhelming evidence
that the ACNC needs to go.
To this effect he announced on 19 March that the repeal of
the ACNC is the first stage of a two-stage process. The first Bill proposes to
repeal the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012, while
the substance of replacement arrangements will be dealt with in a later Bill.
The repeal day is scheduled to occur in the House of Representatives on
Wednesday 26 March but because the Coalition does not hold the balance of power
in the Senate it is unclear how, when or with what amendments the passage of
the Bill will take.
For the time being, charities will still be required to lodge their Annual
Information Statements and comply with all relevant provisions of the ACNC
View online: Open Letter to Government:
Retain Charity Regulator (Community Council of Australia)
View online: Two-stage Plan to Abolish ACNC (Pro Bono News)
View online: ACNC must go to free up
red tape (Media Release)
Repealing of charity legislation unsuccessful
18 March 2014
Attempts to repeal both the Charities Act 2013 and the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission Act 2012 was defeated in the Senate. However it is accepted that the Abbott Government has not walked away from its commitment to repeal the two Acts.
Academics from both Curtin University and the University of Melbourne have separately noted that the repeal may well result in unintended consequences.
David Gilchrist, Industry Professor within the School of Accounting at Curtin University notes that:
“the removal of the Charities Act from the statute books will not return the legal position of the Charities Sector to the position it was in before the Act was passed last year.”
University of Melbourne Professor of Law, Ann O’Connell and University of Melbourne Law Lecturer, Associate Professor, Matthew Harding observed that:
“The lack of a national regulator with a focus on reducing red tape will inhibit the reduction of red tape at the State and Territory level, mean a loss of graduated powers and a return to ATO compliance and a return to under-regulation by State and Territory Attorneys-General and other bodies.”
View online: Charities definition safe, for now (Media release)
View online: Academics Warn of Unintended Consequences of NFP Reform (Pro Bono News)
View online: Babies and Bathwater – Repealing is Not the Same as Fixing (Pro Bono News)
ACNC future, Support for ACNC, tax concession rebate, red tape solutions
28 February 2014
Based on evidence presented at the Senate’s Estimates Committee, the Australian Tax Office (ATO) has started planning to take over the regulatory role of the ACNC. Andrew Leigh MP, shadow Assistant Treasurer noted in his press release that neither Minister Kevin Andrews’ promised discussion paper on the future of the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission, nor the formal consultation process are in evidence.
The Senate Estimates also heard that the ATO would need additional resources if it was to take on the charity regulator role, suggesting that there are no real cost savings in closing down the ACNC.
View online: ATO Planning ACNC Takeover (PBN)
View Online: Zero consultation as government prepares to scrap charities commission (Press Release)
Response to CIS’ advice to remove the ACNC
Articles continue to be written in support of the ACNC. Krystian Seibert’s ,(Policy & Research Manager – Philanthropy Australia, formally a policy advisor in the previous Federal Labor Government) article for Pro Bono News (PBN)systematically analyses and responds to the CIS report.
Seibert notes that a major benefit of the ACNC is the possibility that there could be aggregated NFP sector wide data which would be a crucial resource. He concludes:
“Whatever happens to the ACNC, we certainly need a more effective means of data collection on the NFP sector. This will be critical to supporting the growth of philanthropy and the broader NFP sector going forward.”
View online: Testing the Case Against Independent Charities Regulation (Krystian Seibert – PBN)
View online: Government Should Keep the Australian Charities Commission (Labor Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh – PBN)
View online: Too much regulation not too little? (Prof Myles McGregor-Lowndes – ACNC)
View online: Charities Still Waiting to be Heard? (David Crosbie – PBN)
The final report of the Not for Profit Sector Tax Concession Working Group (NFP Sector Tax Concession WP)has been released under Freedom of Information provisions. It includes a call for the extension of Deductible Gift Recipient Status (DGR) to all charities registered with the charity regulator.
View online: Fairer, simpler and more effective tax concessions for the not for profit sector (NFP Sector Tax Concession WP)
Red tape reduction and principles of good charity regulation
ACNC has released two documents. The first was produced by the ACNC Advisory Board outlining eight principles for effective regulation. They include independence of decision making, clarity, transparency and accountability amongst others.
The other document is a report based on the proceedings of the Measuring and Reducing Red Tape in the Not-for-profit Sector held on 4 December 2013 at the Australian National University. The report summarises the forum and includes the red tape reduction recommendations arising from it. It was prepared within the context of the Federal Government’s system-wide deregulation agenda being implemented across Commonwealth departments and agencies and the proposed National Centre for Excellence for Civil society.
The 18 recommendations fall into five categories, National Approach, Risk, Outcomes, Funding Agreements and Reporting and Sector Capacity.
View online: Principles of good charity regulation (ACNC)
View online: Measuring and Reducing Red Tape in the Not-for-profit Sector (ACNC)
View online: Deregulation Agenda (Dept Prime Minister & Cabinet)
Loss of ACNC is a loss to the future
13 February 2014
Karen Mahlab argues that abolishing the ACNC is shortsighted. She points out that the information it could pull together over for example a five year period would be invaluable for government, policy makers, sector organisations, researchers, etc. She believes the ACNC is about much more than cutting red tape, harmonising fundraising legislation and prosecuting fraudulent charities.
View online: ACNC – The loss for our future
CIS advises “slash” ACNC
6 February 2014
Centre for Independent Studies has advised the Federal Government to act on its pre-election promise to abolish the ACNC it “is not achieving its main objectives, which were to improve public trust in the not-for-profit sector, reduce red tape, and police fraud and wrongdoing”.
View online: Slash red tape for charities by slashing regulator
Proposed option to replace ACNC
30 January 2014
Speaking at the Australian Institute of Company Directors' NFP Directors Lunch in Melbourne Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews, has indicated that the ACNC would be replaced by a National Centre for Excellence with the ultimate aim being to transfer ownership to the social sector. He referred to Charity Navigator , an independent United States NFP that posts charity evaluations and compiles charity lists as a possible model for an alternative to the ACNC.
View online: ‘Charity Navigator’ Model Tipped to Replace ACNC
Charity Act and the future of Not for Profit Reform
23 December 2013
Charity Act - potential delay
Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews introduced a late amendment to the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 to delay the introduction of the Charities Act 2013 from 1 January 2014 to September 2014.
The Government introduced the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 to the House of Representatives in November. The Bill already covered a range of amendments including to the ACNC Act, gambling reform, the NDIS, Family Tax Benefit, Parenting Payment, Age Pension, Youth Allowance, and income management on Cape York and Child Care.
In early December it was introduced to the Senate where it was referred to a Senate Committee of Inquiry. The Committee reported on 12 December and the Bill was returned to the Senate for debate. However, it was not finalised before the Senate rose for the holidays.
Because the Bill was not passed, the Charities Act will commence from 1 January 2014 as originally legislated. It is unclear whether the Government will still attempt to amend or repeal the Charities Act now that it has commenced operation.
Future of the ACNC
The Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, confirmed his plans to abolish the ACNC at the Disability Services CEO conference. He stated that “to benefit civil society as a whole, the Government has committed to abolishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, with repeal legislation to be introduced into Parliament next year”.
It is understood that the some of the ACNC’s functions will be replaced with a “Centre for Excellence”. However it is unclear which agency or department will perform the other functions of the ACNC (including determining charitable status). Changes to the ACNC in 2014 will not necessarily be tied to amendments to the Charities Act.
It should be noted that while the Government has said it will abolish the ACNC, this is yet to occur. Therefore organisations registered with the ACNC will still need to comply with the current laws, this includes submitting the Annual Information Statement due in March 2014.
NFP Tax reform
As part of the Government’s drive to address “the backlog of legislative matters and restore integrity to the Australian taxation system” three charity related measures were identified as requiring “further consultation”. The results of the consultation were:
1. Better targeting of not-for-profit tax concessions
Also known as the Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT), the Government will not be proceeding with the measure to ‘better target’ not-for-profit tax concessions at this stage.
2. Reforming the “in Australia” requirements
This legislation will proceed when Parliament resumes in 2014
3. Defining ‘not-for-profit’ in the tax laws.
The purpose of this measure was to standardise the term ‘not-for-profit” across Commonwealth legislation. The definition will be removed from the “in Australia” legislation.
View online: Pro Bono Australia News NFPs Address Senate Committee on Charity Legislation
View online: Makinson d’Apice Lawyers Charities Act Delayed and ACNC to be Abolished
View online: Makinson d’Apice Lawyers Charities Act to Commence on 1 January 2014
View online: Makinson d’Apice Lawyers Government Announces more Legislative Changes for Charities
ACNC post the Federal election
3 December 2013
Following the Federal election, Susan Pascoe, the ACNC’s Commissioner has now met with both the Assistant Treasurer, Senator Arthur Sinodinos AO, and the Minister for Social Services, Hon Kevin Andrews MP.
Her Column for 26 November 2013 briefly outlines the ACNC’s relationship with the two Ministers and notes there will a formal consultation process with the NFP sector on how the Government’s election commitments will be implemented before finalising their plans for the sector.
However the Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, confirmed his plans to abolish the ACNC at the Disability Services CEO conference. He stated that “to benefit civil society as a whole, the Government has committed to abolishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, with repeal legislation to be introduced into Parliament next year”.
View online: ACNC Commissioner’s Column , 26 November 2013
Office for the Not-for-Profit Sector disbanded
18 September 2013
On 18 September 2013 the Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott MP, was sworn in by the Governor-General. On this day, the Governor General signed the Administrative Arrangements Order and the Social Inclusion Unit and the Office for the Not-for-Profit Sector was disbanded.
NCOSS has prepared an overview of the Federal Government's
not-for-profit reform agenda.This paper will be updated regularly as new
information comes to light.
Senior Policy Officer
ph: 9211 2599, ext 127