DSS Options Paper on regulation of charities

8 September 2014
Not-for-profit Law made a submission to the Department of Social Services on its Options Paper on the proposed regulation of charities in Australia

The Department of Social Services (DSS) published an Options Paper outlining a proposal for the regulation of charities to replace the regulatory regime currently administered by the ACNC that commenced in December 2012. This DSS proposal is in furtherance of the Federal Government’s commitment to decommission the ACNC.

Not-for-profit Law made a written submission on the Options Paper. 

We submitted that the Government is proposing to abolish a regulatory regime for charities that is the product of 15 years of planning and consultation, which has the support of 81% of charities, and has been defended by 81% of submissions received on the Bill proposing to abolish the ACNC.

We strongly opposes a reversion to the regulatory framework that existed before the establishment of the ACNC, which the Productivity Commission found to be ‘complex’, noting that it ‘lacks coherence, sufficient transparency, and is costly to NFPs’

NFP Law further submitted that there are two essential elements to the adequate regulation of charities: 

  • the independent, specialist determination of charitable status, and 
  • the maintenance of a publicly accessible register of charitable organisations.

In our view, the DSS proposal does not satisfy either of these threshold requirements.

Further, Not-for-profit Law has particular concern with the DSS proposal that charities will self-report by maintaining their own websites and uploading relevant information and reports. Many charities, especially volunteer-run charities will find maintaining a website more difficult, expensive, and time-consuming than reporting to the ACNC. It will also be harder for members of the public to find relevant information about charities without a register of charities.

Not-for-profit Law also has significant concerns that the DSS proposals regarding assessment of charitable status are not sufficiently independent of the ATO, and apply only when an organisation challenges an ATO decision not to award charitable status. We submitted that decisions about charitable should be made independently of the ATO, or at minimum by a division that is legislatively quarantined from revenue collection sections of the ATO.

Our submission can be downloaded in full here:

Options for replacement arrangements following the abolition of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.pdf

The DSS options paper is available to download at the DSS Options Paper page