Top Tips for Charities Ahead of the Annual Information Statement Deadline
Tuesday, 24th January 2017 at 8:42 am
The deadline for most registered charities to submit their 2016 Annual Information Statement is now only one week away. Here are some submission tips from acting commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) David Locke ahead of the due date.
As of now, approximately 17,000 registered charities still need to submit their Annual Information Statement before 31 January. I’m calling on these registered charities to please not delay and to submit as soon as possible.
Here are a few tips to help your charity file its 2016 Annual Information Statement accurately, and on time.
Don’t leave it until the last minute
January is our busiest time of the year in terms of call volumes. In January 2016, we received over 3,700 calls, an increase of 31 per cent compared to the monthly average. So if you leave your Annual Information Statement until the last minute and need assistance, we may not be able to help you.
As you can imagine, with up to 17,000 charities logging into the Charity Portal over the next week, our systems are likely to be slower. This will be particularly the case in the last few days. Thousands of charities file in the last 48 hours. So don’t leave it till the last moment.
For charities in South Australia and Tasmania – it is very important that you submit on time, as late reporting may mean you lose the exemption from lodging with your state regulator.
Please don’t ask for an extension
On or just prior to the Annual Information Statement due date we see an influx of requests for extensions. Most of these are refused, but they take up ACNC staff time where we could be helping people who are trying to submit.
The ACNC Act states that registered charities must submit an Annual Information Statement, and for medium and large charities annual financial reports, each year – within six month of the charity’s financial year end.
This means that registered charities have a full six months in which they can file.
We provide multiple reminders to charities each year, both directly and in other materials such as ACNC Quarterly and the Commissioner’s Column.
We do not provide extensions to charities that simply forget, or claim that they were unaware of the due date. Extensions can only be granted in certain circumstances, for example:
- severe illness
- natural disasters
- catastrophic system issues (not just system slowness).
Before you start, read/watch our guidance
To help charities submit their Annual Information Statement and annual financial report quickly and easily, we have developed a range of guidance materials. I recommend that charities review at least some of these before logging into the Charity Portal to start their submission.
- complete the checklist
- read the guide
- watch our webinar or screencast on completing the 2016 Annual Information Statement.
Avoid common reporting errors
Last year we found a significant number of reporting errors when reviewing the 2015 Annual Information Statements reported by registered charities. In fact, we contacted nearly 7,000 charities to request that they correct the errors that we had identified and re-submit their Annual Information Statement.
Some of the common errors included:
- misclassifying the charity as a basic religious charity when it did not meet the requirements
- incorrectly entering figures – rounding (as opposed to entering the full number) and decimal point errors
- submitting incomplete financial reports, for example, forgetting to sign them where required or uploading the wrong document.
Please take care to avoid such errors when submitting your 2016 Annual Information Statement, as it will avoid the need to resubmit later in the year.
Update your charity’s responsible person details
A charity’s responsible persons are the people responsible for running the charity, normally the board or committee members. For the first time we have included the option to update these as part of the Annual Information Statement. Please make sure that we have all your responsible people listed and that their details are up to date.
Update your charity’s Address for Service
The Address for Service is the address the ACNC holds for your charity, it’s where we will send all official correspondence.
The vast majority of charities have an email address as their Address for Service. As is often the case in our personal lives, we tend to change email addresses from time to time. Similarly, people may leave the charity, taking with them the official Address for Service email account.
This is why we always recommend making your charity’s email Address for Service a generic, corporate style account, for example something like firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 2016 Annual Information Statement gives charities an opportunity to check and update their official Address for Service. Please make sure the Address for Service we have for your charity is correct. If this is wrong then none of the ACNC’s correspondence or reminders will reach you.
Make sure you submit, don’t just save
It may seem an obvious point to raise, however hundreds of charities each year log on and complete their Annual Information Statement, only to forget to click “submit”, instead clicking “save”. The charity is sure they have filed, but actually is in breach. It’s an easy mistake to make, so please double check.
If you have successfully submitted, you will receive an email confirmation to your Address for Service.
Once you’ve submitted your Annual information Statement, there’s no need to phone us to confirm that we have it
In addition to receiving a confirmation email, you can check your charity’s listing on the Charity Register to make sure that your Annual Information Statement has been submitted. It is published once you have submitted it.
There is no need to call us to tell us that you have lodged.
There’s no need to send in hard copy documents
Over the past three years many charities have posted a hard copy of their Annual Information Statement and associated documents even though they have submitted on line. Once the Annual Information Statement has been submitted via the Charity Portal, you will receive an email notification, there’s no need to send us anything in hard copy.
Remember, we’re always here to help
The best place to start is our range of guidance materials available here.
However, you can always call our friendly Advice Services team by calling 13 ACNC (13 22 62) or by emailing us at email@example.com if you need further assistance.
This is the busiest time of year and we receive many more calls than usual, so please be patient and use the resources available online if you can.
For more, visit here.
About the author: David Locke is the acting commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.