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Not-For-Profits – Understanding the ACNC and Your Role

The ACNC – Keeping Australian Charities Honest

The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission – commonly known as the ACNC – is the regulator of charities in Australia. Whilst ASIC focuses on compliance with the corporate side of regulation, the ACNC focuses on the activities of charities and ensures that charities are using their funds for their intended purpose. The ACNC’s oversight and investigative powers are designed to give the public faith in the charitable sector.

As a charity in Australia, you will almost certainly need to register with the ACNC. Not only does registration place you on the public portal for potential donors to see, but it also grants you valuable exemptions such as income tax and GST concessions. These concessions may encourage donors to give to your cause. Furthermore, registration with the ACNC also signifies to these investors that you are complying with the strict regulations of the ACNC.

To register with the ACNC, you will need to demonstrate that the work conducted under your not-for-profit is “charitable”, which is done by ensuring your activities fall under designated categories such as Advancing Health or Advancing Education or Advancing the Natural Environment.

The ACNC ensures compliance and integrity in the charitable sector through the promotion of its governance standards. Whilst at first glance these standards seem straight forward, many of them require considerable effort to maintain, or may be easily overlooked. For example, a charity must be accountable to its members, and provide space for members to raise concerns about governance. Does your charity have this forum?

As the regulatory body, the ACNC has enforcement powers which are frequently exercised. If the ACNC is concerned as to the actions of your charity, it may issue you with a Notice of Investigation requesting further information. This is not necessarily a cause for concern, as the ACNC may simply be needing more information to ensure you are complying with its governance standards. Furthermore, it may be an opportunity to work with the ACNC to address any concerns it has identified which may in turn improve your charity.

If you are found to not be complying with the governance standards, the ACNC may implement disciplinary action, ranging from regulatory advice, to removing board members, and even removing the charity’s charitable status.

If you are a Director of a charity or not-for-profit, it is essential that you are on top of all your regulatory requirements and that you manage your donations correctly. The team at Streeterlaw are trusted experts in providing advice to not-for-profit entities, which will ensure that your focus remains on your cause.

If you’ve been issued with a Notice of Investigation, time is of the essence – contact our team now for a discussion as to how to best address the Investigation and ensure you can continue with your charity’s work.

If you are thinking about setting up a not for profit charity (or have and are unsure about what you need to do next), please contact Streeterlaw. Our Team of Corporate Governance solicitors are here to help guide you through regulatory compliance, governance and incorporation, so that you’re free to focus on the core values of your charity.

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