Govt Releases Consultation Paper on 'Charity' Definition
31 October 2011 at 2:26 pm
The Federal Government has released its much-anticipated Consultation Paper on a new definition of charity.
The Government is calling for submissions from the Not for Profit sector on the key issues around a statutory definition of ‘charity’ – however the paper falls short of offering a final definition for consideration.
The Government announced in the 2011-12 Budget that it would introduce a statutory definition of charity, applicable across all Commonwealth laws from 1 July 2013.
This Consultation Paper outlines the background to a statutory definition, including previous recommendations and inquiries, as well as developments that have occurred since the 2003 consultation package on a charity definition was released.
It discusses elements of a possible core definition of charity by raising discussion on possible refinements to the exposure draft of the Charities Bill 2003. It also covers Australian Disaster Relief Funds, interactions with State and Territory laws and transitional issues.
Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten, said "The current definition of charity is based on the 1601 Statute of Elizabeth, with over 400 years worth of often confusing case law added on top."
He said a single national definition will make it easier for charities to navigate state and federal regulations, allowing them to spend less time on administration and more time doing what they do best – helping people.
"It is well past time Australia cleans up this mess and creates a modern, workable and Australian definition of charity to clarify the work of the Not for Profit sector.”
The Government has appointed Senator Ursula Stephens, the former Minister for Social Inclusion in the Rudd Ministry, as a specialist adviser to assist Shorten during the consultation process.
The consultation builds on a range of previous inquiries including the 2001 Report of the Inquiry into the Definition of Charities and Related Organisations, the Charities Bill 2003 and recent court decisions including the High Court's decision in Aid/Watch Incorporated v the Commissioner of Taxation.
The Australian Tax Office is currently operation on an interim definition of ‘charity’ following a number of recent court rulings.
The Consultation paper is available at: http://www.treasury.gov.au/contentitem.asp?NavId=037&ContentID=2161
Read Pro Bono Australia's special report into the ATO's definition of charity here: Tax Office Ruling on ‘Charity’ Creates Uncertain State of Limbo