ACNC staying until at least September 2014?

TN Rachel
Rachel Sloper (June 2014)

The Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, has today announced that he has commissioned the Centre for Social Impact  (CSI) to conduct research into a possible structure and set of functions for the Federal Government’s proposed Civil Society National Centre for Excellence.

The project has already started, and will take place in two stages, with the first stage involving an online survey, ‘targeted consultation’ and research to create a range of models which will be the subject of consultation for stage two.

The final report is due for completion in early September 2014.

CSI will be running focus groups and consultation by invitation as part of both stages of its research, with an emphasis on small organisations in non-urban areas. CSI has made an online survey available to inform its research, which anyone can respond to. The survey is open until 24 June 2014.

You can also register to receive email updates from the project team for other consultation opportunities. More about the project, the project team and the Advisory Council to the project is available on the project’s dedicated website.

What does this mean for the ACNC?

A Bill to repeal the ACNC’s founding legislation was introduced into the House of Representatives on 19 March 2013. The Senate Economics Committee due to report back on the Bill by 16 June 2014. However, even if the Bill is passed, the Bill states that it will not come into effect until new arrangements have been made for the ACNC’s functions. This is likely to include the ACNC’s current role in determining charity status for the purposes of federal laws.

It has always been clear that the Government intends its proposed Centre for Excellence to perform a support and education role, rather than a regulatory role. The announcement of the CSI project could mean that the Government will choose to delay transferring the ACNC’s regulatory functions to another agency until it can also transfer the ACNC’s education and support functions to a new Centre for Excellence. If this is the case, the ACNC will probably continue until at least September.

The Government might also choose to transfer the ACNC’s regulatory functions as soon as possible, without waiting to establish a Centre for Excellence. If this is the case, the ACNC could be abolished at any time after 1 July 2014 if sufficient support is obtained from non-Government Senators.

As yet, there is no indication from the Government as to which of these options it prefers.

So what do we do in the meantime?

Regardless of the future of the ACNC, 30 June marks several key ACNC deadlines which you need to be aware of, especially as they occur before even the earliest chance the Government may have to remove the ACNC:

  • Deadline for charities which the ACNC has not been able to contact to confirm their contact details, or risk losing their registration and associated tax benefits
  • Deadline for Private Ancillary Funds and former Income Tax Exempt Funds to inform ACNC of information they want the ACNC to keep withholding from the public register (otherwise automatically released)
  • Deadline for charities with a Jan – Dec financial year to lodge their 2013 Annual Information Statement. Many charities with a July – June financial year still have not lodged their 2013 AIS. The ACNC has indicated that it will start working with the ATO after 30 June to identify charities which have not submitted their AIS with a view to determining if they are inactive and should be removed from the register

DISCLAIMER: This update contains general information only. It is not all inclusive and should not be considered legal advice. You should always obtain legal advice for your specific circumstances before relying on general information.