Removing DGR from Enviro Groups Inappropriate – Submission
Tuesday, 19th May 2015 at 12:28 pm
Individual Federal Ministers should not have the final say in determining charitable status or the eligibility for tax deductibility of Not for Profit organisations, a community submission to the Parliamentary inquiry into environmental advocacy groups has claimed.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment, chaired by Liberal MP Alex Hawke, announced in April that it would be scrutinising tax-deductible donations made to environmental groups and their Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status.
Peak body, the Community Council for Australia, in its draft submission to the inquiry said enacting such an approach was “inappropriate” and would create ongoing uncertainty and undermine the credibility of all charities.
Community Council for Australia said it’s concerned that the inquiry seeks to confuse the established definition of charity by bringing into question one particular area of charitable endeavour.
“Any suggestion that charities and Not for Profits advocating to reduce the degradation of the environment offer no benefit to the community is an absurdity,” the submission said.
“Clearly there are strong vested interests that profit by exploiting the environment. While such groups are free to pursue their economic interests, the attacks on those who are operating as charities and Not for Profits is about economic gain, not long term sustainability and community benefit.”
CCA said any reform of these concessions needs to be systemic and based on considered policy across the whole Not for Profit sector. To identify one sector (protecting and enhancing the sustainability of our environment) and raise the possibility of withdrawing concessions that will continue to apply across other Not for Profit sectors is, at best, a retrograde step.
“Such a measure will only exacerbate an already inconsistent set of rules, requirements and concessions while achieving no net benefit for our community.
“The charities and Not for Profit sector wants to work with Government to reduce red tape while improving transparency and accountability. One way to achieve these outcomes is to accept the recommendations of many inquiries and reports by streamlining requirements for all charities in gaining DGR status.
“The best, most efficient, transparent and effective means of doing this is to empower (charity regulator) the ACNC to determine charitable status as well as making recommendations to the ATO on DGR eligibility.
“This would not only make the ACNC a truly one stop shop for charities, but also end duplication and costly reliance on a range of disparate departmentally based bodies that are under-resourced and ill-equipped for the roles they are enacting,” the submission said.
Earlier this month almost 90,000 people signed a petition calling for the charity status of environmental and animal welfare organisations to be protected.
Organisations labelled the inquiry as an attack on their advocacy work, with CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Kelly O’Shanassy, telling Pro Bono Australia News that the inquiry “does look a lot like an attempt to stymie the work of people committed to protecting Australia’s environment for current and future generations”.
The Inquiry is still accepting submissions which are due by May 21st.