New Discussions on a Definition Of “Charity” to Begin
20 October 2011 at 11:37 am
The Federal Government is about to release a consultation paper to the Not for Profit sector on the key issues around a statutory definition of ‘charity’ – falling short of offering a final definition for consideration.
The consultation is expected to be brief, occurring in the first half of 2012 with the Government committing to introduce a statutory definition of charity from 1st July 2013.
The current definition of charity is based largely on over 400 years of common law. The Government agrees the current definition is complex, inconsistent between Australian jurisdictions, outdated, and creates considerable uncertainty for the sector.
Recommendations from a number of inquiries in recent years have failed to deliver a new definition from Government.
The Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten says a statutory definition will clarify the key principles of the common law, be more accessible to the charitable sector, reduce their administrative costs, and provide greater clarity.
News of the release of the Discussion Paper comes as Bill Shorten moves to re-assure the sector that the reform agenda is on track to deliver smarter regulation, reduce red tape and improve transparency and accountability.
Shorten has outlined the Government’s reform agenda in a newsletter to the Not for Profit sector.
Shorten says, in what is believed to be the first of a number of newsletters to the sector, that if reforms are to be sustainable and workable they need to be owned by the sector and the government – not the government alone.
He points to a number of reform areas of concern to the sector including the reform of tax concessions available for unrelated commercial activities.
He says Treasury is currently developing options to implement the announced changes to the use of tax concessions by the sector and will undertake targeted and intensive consultations in the coming months.
He says with regard to the consultations around the ‘In Australia’ special conditions for tax concession entities, the Government acknowledges that the released draft legislation had some issues.
Shorten has asked Treasury to consult on a second exposure draft of the legislation, which he says is likely to address the vast majority of sector concerns. A revised exposure draft is due later in 2011.
The Shorten newsletter says the Government will develop materials, fact sheets, rulings and whatever else is needed to assist Not for Profits to comply with any new tax or legislative arrangements.
The newsletter provides a time line of public consultation for the next twelve months:
- Introducing a statutory definition of ‘charity’: consultation paper — expected October 2011
- Second exposure draft of ‘In-Australia’ special conditions and definition of Not for Profit:
- expected – expected late 2011
- Better targeting of tax concessions:exposure draft — expected late 2011
- A national approach to fundraising regulation:discussion paper — expected late 2011
- Legislation to establish the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission (ACNC): exposure draft — expected late 2011
- Review of corporations limited by guarantee and governance arrangements for NFPs: late 2011
- Introducing a statutory definition of ‘charity’:exposure draft legislation— first half of 2012
To download the Treasury’s Not for Profit Reform Newsletter go to www.treasury.gov.au/documents/2189/PDF/NFP_newsletter_Issue_1.PDF