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Not-for-Profit Sector Reform PDF Print
4 July 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.

Contents

What's New

 

Next stage of NFP reform announced

4 July 2014

Senate Inquiry Report on ACNC Repeal Bill released

The Senate Inquiry report has now been released and despite the high level of support for the ACNC expressed in the written submissions, the report concludes that:

The ACNC Act has significantly and unnecessarily increased red tape for many charities, thereby creating a burden with no apparent benefit either to those they serve or the wider community. Given the Commonwealth's limited legislative powers in this area, and the low probability of achieving nationally consistent regulation, the Act should be repealed.
(Sec 2.39)

In part it justifies this decision on the grounds that the abolition of the ACNC was a pre-election commitment and “part of the government's effort to 'remove the regulatory impost on the sector as soon as possible', to ensure that organisations were not reporting unnecessarily” (Sec 2.4 of Report).

Despite the fact that the submissions supporting the repeal of the ACNC only accounted for 10% of the 155 submissions, there was a high reliance on these views in the final report. Of the 35 references to the written submissions, 15 were taken from these papers. However, the ACNC and Robert Fitzgerald were provided with the opportunity to respond.

The committee concluded that:

In the process of developing and administering the ACNC legislation, a great deal has been learnt about what constitutes effective regulation of the not- for-profit sector. The regulatory regime that replaces the ACNC Act can apply these lessons. (Sec 2.40)

The report includes two dissenting reports, one each from the Labor and Green senators.

View online: Senate committee reports
View online: ACNC (Repeal) (No. 1) Bill 2014
View online: ACNC’s response to the Senate inquiry reports

 

Consultation on the ACNC's Replacement

An options paper in now available on the Department of Social Services website detailing the ACNC replacement arrangements and providing options on how key functions will be transitioned to the Australian Taxation Office and Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The website includes links to a submission template and information on public consultation sessions. Sessions will only be held in capital cities. Sydney will have two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon on Wednesday 23 July. Registration is online via the website.

View online: Consultation on Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission Replacement Arrangements
                   DSS website

Download: Australia’s Charities and Not-for-profits Options paper
Download: Submission template

 

Consultation into the Civil Society National Centre of Excellence

There is a separate online consultation being carried out by the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) into the creation of the Civil Society National Centre of Excellence (NCE). The regulatory functions of the ACNC are not part of the NCE’s scope.

The survey can be accessed on the NCE website. CSI research along with the results of the survey will form the basis of the Interim Report to go to the Federal Government in July 2014. This will be used to feed into the second phase of consultation which will include workshops and a second online survey.

View online: Civil Society National Centre for Excellence research and consultation DSS website

View online: Civil Society National Centre of Excellence Consultation survey

 

Tax- Full Federal Court confirms the Hunger Project Australia is a Public Benevolent Institution

The Federal Court has unanimously held that Hunger Project Australia (HPA) does not need to directly give aid in order to be endorsed as a Public Benevolent Institution (PBI). The Court also rejected all four arguments presented by the Commissioner. Makinson d'Apice Lawyers note that:

“This finding provides important guidance regarding what is a PBI and is likely to provide comfort for many charities who were awaiting the outcome of this appeal.”

View online: Full Federal Court unanimously confirms that Hunger Project Australia is a Public Benevolent Institution Makinson d’Apice Lawyers

View online: Court Decision Points the Way to DGR Category Simplificatio n Pro Bono News

 

The Unrelated Business Income Tax is gone

The Better Targeting of NFP Tax Concessions, or unrelated business income tax (UBIT), was introduced as part of the 2011-2012 Budget but there has been a delay in introducing it for a number of years. The Acting Assistant Treasurer issued a press release stating “the Government has considered alternatives to the previous government’s better targeting of not-for-profit tax concessions measure. We have concluded that they are not required at this time”.

View online: More progress in restoring integrity in the tax system Press release – Mathias Cormann

View online: The Unrelated Business Income Tax is (finally!) dead Makinson d’Apice Lawyers

 

 ACNC Senate Inquiry hearing

28 May 2014

Respected Not-for-profit legal expert Professor Ann O’Connell has noted that despite 80% of the written submissions opposing the abolition of the ACNC, of the 12 organisations and individuals invited to give evidence before the Inquiry, seven supported the repeal of the ACNC Act.

She said:

“Several aspects of the inquiry suggest that the outcome of the inquiry is a foregone conclusion – that is, that the Committee report will follow party lines and recommend passage of the legislation. For example, there are concerns about the treatment of some submissions; the choice of persons invited to give evidence to the Committee not representing the balance of the submissions and the notion that the Department of Social Services has been engaged in consultation about the proposal.”

View online: Ducks, Elephants, the ACNC and the Senate (Professor Ann O’Connell – Pro Bono News)

View online: Transcript of the Senate hearing

View online: Senate Inquiry Debates ACNC Future (Pro Bono News)

 Sector strongly opposes abolishing ACNC

16 May 2014

The Senate Inquiry in the Bill to repeal the ACNC has closed. Two bills are under consideration, one to repeal the ACNC Act, the second to establish new regulatory arrangements. The Inquiry received 145 submissions from organisations including peak bodies representing a broad range of membership, and individuals.

Based on analysis by Emma Tomkinson, Social Impact Analyst, 118(81%) opposed the Bill and 14 (10%) supported it. The remainder (13) commented on the Bill without taking a stand.

Tomkinson has provided a detail analysis of the submissions on her blog based on themes arising from the submissions. These include the value of the ACNC, its effectiveness in working towards its key objectives and its potential to build on these achievements.

View online: The Charity sector want to keep its regulator: Analysis of submission to the ACNC(Repeal (No.1) Bill 2014 (Emma Tomkinson – Blog)

View online: Charities voice overwhelming opposition to ACNC Repeal Bill (Emma Tomkinson – Pro Bono News)

View online: Not-for-profit Regulation – A Longer Term View (Better Boards)

 

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 that they

“…..want to 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 work.”

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 legislation.

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

ACNC’s future

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)

Related articles

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)

 

Tax Reform

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.


Resources

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.

Links

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  • Amanda Smithers
    Senior Policy Officer
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