A Definition of Charity – 400 years on
Monday, 25th September 2000 at 12:09 pm
The Federal Government has set up an inquiry to review the 400-year old definition of what constitutes a charity!
The three person independent inquiry is the result of a commitment to the Australian Democrats by the Federal Government to try to eliminate anomalies in the tax and legal treatment of charities.
The Prime Minister announced the inquiry saying it will look at all the definitional issues relating to charitable, religious, and Not for Profit community service organisations.
‘We need to ensure that the legislative and administrative framework in which they operate is appropriate to modern social and economic environment.’
The Common Law definition of charity, which is based on a legal concept dating back to 1601, has resulted in a number of legal definitions.
Democrats spokesman, Senator John Woodley says the charitable sector has changed considerably since the time of Elizabeth the First, yet charities are still classified according to Elizabethan charities.
‘Some charitable activities attract full tax concessions, some attract only partial concessions and some are allowed no concessions at all. All these anomalies are based on outdated and sometimes incomprehensible criteria.’
The Chairman of the Committee is former Supreme and Federal Court Judge, the Hon I.F. Sheppard. The other members are Robert Fitzgerald, the Commissioner of Community Services in NSW and David Gonski, principal of Wentworth Associates.
Under the terms of reference the inquiry must advertise nationally and produce an issues paper for public comment as well as consult with key interest groups.
The Committee will report to the Government by March 2001.
The obtain a copy of the terms of reference go to the Prime Ministers web site at www.pm.gov.au/home.htm and click on ‘Inquiry into Charitable and Related Organisations’. Pro Bono Australia will keep you informed of dates and times and submission details when they become available.