New Charities Act 2013 commenced 1 January 2014

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The new Charities Act 2013 (the “Act”) commenced on 1/1/14. The Act defines charity and charitable purpose for the purposes of Commonwealth law (whereas previously the meaning of charity was largely based on common law and the preamble to the Statute of Charitable Uses 1601).

Section 12 of the Act defines charitable purpose as follows:

“charitable purpose means any of the following:

                     (a)  the purpose of advancing health;

                     (b)  the purpose of advancing education;

                     (c)  the purpose of advancing social or public welfare;

                     (d)  the purpose of advancing religion;

                     (e)  the purpose of advancing culture;

                      (f)  the purpose of promoting reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance between groups of individuals that are in Australia;

                     (g)  the purpose of promoting or protecting human rights;

                     (h)  the purpose of advancing the security or safety of Australia or the Australian public;

                      (i)  the purpose of preventing or relieving the suffering of animals;

                      (j)  the purpose of advancing the natural environment;

                     (k)  any other purpose beneficial to the general public that may reasonably be regarded as analogous to, or within the spirit of, any of the purposes mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (j);

Note:       In the case of a purpose that was a charitable purpose before the commencement of this Act and to which the other paragraphs of this definition do not apply, see item 7 of Schedule 2 to the Charities (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2013.

                      (l)  the purpose of promoting or opposing a change to any matter established by law, policy or practice in the Commonwealth, a State, a Territory or another country, if:

                              (i)  in the case of promoting a change—the change is in furtherance or in aid of one or more of the purposes mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (k); or

                             (ii)  in the case of opposing a change—the change is in opposition to, or in hindrance of, one or more of the purposes mentioned in those paragraphs.”

The amended Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (s 25-5(5)) now lists 14 subtypes of charity for the purposes of ACNC registration. These subtypes reflect the new Charities Act definitions and provide a quick reference as to what now constitutes a charitable purpose. There were previously only 7 subtypes.

As well as a much broader range of specified charitable purposes, there is also a subtle change in expression for the familiar purposes. For example, gone is the familiar phrase ‘the relief of poverty, sickness and the needs of the aged’, which is replaced with the purpose of ‘advancing social or public welfare’.

The Charities (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Act 2013 also commenced on 1/1/14, and makes amendments to various other pieces of legislation.

The online ACNC registration application has also changed as a result of the new Charities Act.

Those Charities that are already registered with the ACNC will have 18 months from 1 January 2014 to transition to the new subtypes. If a Charity needs to elect a new subtype, there will be a message to this effect on the register (under “Registration Details / Sub-Entity Type  – “Awaiting selection of new subtype”). We recommend that Charities check the ACNC register to ensure that they are registered for the correct subtype(s). Contact us if you require assistance.

The Coalition Government had given an indication that they would be moving to delay the introduction of the Charities Act 2013 by 9 months until 1 September 2014. But given that the Act has now commenced, we will need to wait and see what steps, if any, they may take to change it.

If you have queries regarding the new Charities Act 2013 or the ACNC, contact us

Our Brisbane not for profit and charity lawyers can assist, book an appointment with them through our Business Development Officers today.