Charity passport launched
The ACNC launched the Charity Passport, a secure online system designed to save charities from reporting the same information to multiple government agencies. The Charity Passport has potential to create substantial time and cost savings for charities. Through the passport, the ACNC can securely share information it collects from registered charities with authorised government agencies. A single charity that conducts fundraising across the country, and receives government grants, may need to report to more than 10 different government agencies.
Authorised government agencies that use the Charity Passport will have access to substantive information about charities, including their contact details, registration information, charitable purpose and who benefits from their work, their size, activities, responsible persons, governance documents, and enforcement outcomes.
Agencies that need information from charities in relation to Commonwealth grants should use the Charity Passport rather than asking the charity to provide the same information again, this is outlined in the Commonwealth Grant Guidelines. When government agencies request information, charities may direct them to the ACNC to obtain information, such as governing documents or financial reports that they have already provided to the ACNC.
The Charity Passport is being tolled out in two phases. The first phase uses a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) repository, where authorised government agencies can securely download the files they need, either using an FTP client or a web browser. The second phase of the Charity Passport is scheduled for implementation at the end of 2014. It will improve integration with agencies' IT systems, increase data currency and have additional functionality to improve the experience for agencies that use it.
ACNC Register additional information published
Shortly, many charities will have additional information – including their addresses – published on the ACNC Register. The ACNC Register, available online at ACNC.gov.au/findacharity, contains important core information about all registered charities. Previously, information that had not been verified by charities, such as their address, was not visible on the register. This was to give charities the opportunity to give us up-to-date details and to apply for information to be withheld.
Charities identified as low-risk will have additional details (including their addresses) published on the ACNC Register, unless they have applied to have them withheld. The details are being published in a phased approach, to allow identified high-risk charities additional time to apply for their information to be withheld.
The ACNC wants to make sure that charities who work with people at risk (and any others that meet the criteria) apply to withhold their information before this process begins. There are limited circumstances where the ACNC may withhold information from the Register, for example where this presents a risk to public safety, or is commercially sensitive and harmful. The decision to publish or withhold this information is based on how likely the information meets the criteria for withholding it. This is consistent with the requirements of the ACNC Act. For charities that have already verified their details with the ACNC, the information is published on the Register.
'Public benevolent institution' Federal Court decision
The Full Federal Court handed down its decision in the appeal against the decision of Perram J in "The Hunger Project Australia v Commissioner of Taxation"  FCA 693, clarifying the meaning of "public benevolent institution" (PBI), and what is required for a charity to be classified as a public benevolent institution.
The ACNC will update its Commissioners Interpretation Statement (CIS) on this case once the 28 day period to apply for special leave to appeal has expired. The CIS operates to provide guidance to the public and ACNC staff on the meaning of this decision, and is binding on ACNC staff when making ACNC decisions.
Changes to "Income Tax Exempt Fund" status
More than 600 income tax exempt funds (ITEFs) should have received a letter reminding them that their organisation will be listed on the ACNC Register after 30 June, unless the ACNC is advised otherwise.
The organisations were all endorsed as ITEFs by the ATO as at 31 December 2013. The Charities Act 2013 provided that these funds be registered with the ACNC as charities from 1 January 2014. This change means that these entities are registered with the ACNC, and will now be endorsed by the ATO to access tax concessions as a registered charity, rather than as an income tax exempt fund.
The ACNC is delaying publishing information about ITEFs on the Register until after 30 June to enable these funds time to request information about their organisation or responsible persons to be withheld.
ITEFs that do not want to remain registered with the ACNC can opt out of registration up until 31 December 2014 by completing Form AF Income Tax Exempt Funds Opt Out. If the fund chooses to opt out, it will not be eligible for income tax exemption as a registered charity. It will also not be able to access income tax exemption as an income tax exempt fund, since this category no longer exists.