USA Looks to Copy ACNC
6 November 2014 at 9:30 am
Charity regulators from across the United States are looking to the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) for advice on cutting the red tape burden that charities face.
ACNC Director Policy, Education & Red Tape Reduction Sue Woodward was invited to present at the National Association of State Charity Officials (NASCO) recent national conference to discuss how the Australian regulator built a single online registration and reporting portal.
In contrast to the ACNC’s work, the US proposal has been initiated by state regulators.
A group of 12 US pilot state regulators have come together to form their own Not for Profit organisation – Multistate Registration & Filing Portal Inc (MRFP) – for the purpose of establishing a portal to allow charities, their professional fundraisers, and private foundations to comply with every state’s registration and reporting requirements in one online location.
Woodward said the invitation provided the ACNC a unique opportunity to meet with US charity regulators including State Attorneys General, Federal agencies including the IRS and Fair Trade Commission, charity rating agencies, sector peak bodies and academics.
“Australian and US charity regulators share a concern about precious charity resources being wasted on duplicative government paperwork. The US single portal initiative is aimed at achieving something similar to the ACNC’s registration and reporting portal,” Woodward said.
“Interestingly, while the ACNC is Government funded and our Register and Charity Passport provide a free ‘report once, use often’ mechanism, the uncertainty around our future has hindered take up by State and Federal agencies.
“In the US, they have the opposite issue: they now have a process to pull states towards reporting and registration harmonisation, but need funding to make it happen. For us, it was great to learn more about how the US has developed a process for bringing a large number of jurisdictions together with the sector to tackle this problem.”
MRFP, working with its sector-led Advisory Board and other key stakeholders including NASCO, says is currently seeking philanthropic and other sector funding so it can start work building the portal’s IT architecture. When fully implemented, it will eliminate the cost and inefficiencies of complying with the disparate rules of 39 US states, as well as enabling filing of the required Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
NASCO President at Colorado’s Attorney General’s office, Alissa Gardenswartz, said the purpose of the portal was to reduce the red tape burden US charities faced by having to register in multiple jurisdictions where they had fundraising operations.
“The single portal would also provide free and easier access for the public to information about charities’ activities. It will allow Government agencies to better use their resources to protect charitable assets.
“Unlike the ACNC’s Charity Passport, state regulators in the US cannot automatically access electronic data from annual filings made by charities to federal regulator (IRS),” Gardenswartz said.
MRFP President and Connecticut Assistant Attorney General for Charities Karen Gano said: “Australia was an obvious place to look when advancing this project as the ACNC has achieved a lot in short period of time. The ACNC’s ‘report once, use often’ model with its website and searchable public Charity Register, its user friendly online filing and reporting portal combined with the level of guidance they offer the sector, provides inspiration as to what is possible.”
Sue Woodward said the Washington visit had helped strengthened ties and knowledge sharing among charity regulators.
The ACNC said it will continue to share its red tape reduction work such as ‘lessons learnt’ in building a single registration and reporting portal.