At the Australian Charity Law Association (ACLA) Annual Conference in Melbourne, Susan Pascoe AM, Chair of the implementation task force of the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profit Commission (ACNC) provided further details about issues currently being discussed and items on the agenda for the development of the ACNC by 1 July 2012.
It became clear from the presentation that the ACNC would be moving the sector into faster, more efficient modern-day processes that should help charities and Not-For-Profit organisations interact better with the public. The ACNC will have its head office in Melbourne, with a small office in Canberra, and most of its $53.6 million budget will be devoted to the IT rollout between 2011 and 2014. Applications for endorsements will be made on “smart forms” which will be used for all types of endorsements. Consultation with the sector will occur through the ACNC’s website and on YouTube.
By 1 July 2012 the ACNC will be ready to accept new applications for registration as a charitable entity and by 1 July 2013 the statutory definition of charity will be activated and applied. On the same date an information portal will be fully operational through ACNC’s website and applications for charitable status will be able to be made online. The database of charitable endorsements will also be accessible online.
Ms Pascoe confirmed that the role of the ACNC as a regulator will involve:
- The ACNC registering charities (while the ATO continue to apply tax concessions);
- The ACNC maintaining an up-to-date, publicly accessible and searchable register of charities;
- The ACNC developing a one-stop-shop for charities which would enable them to apply for their ABNs, access commonwealth tax concessions, access state and territory tax concessions and potentially other services;
- The ACNC developing a “report once, use often” service for charities to allow them to avoid the red tape;
- The ACNC in providing information and guidance for the sector;
- The resulting promotion of trust and confidence in the charity sector; and
- Importantly for maintaining such trust and confidence in the sector, the ACNC in monitoring compliance and investigating regulatory breaches.
Ms Pascoe confirmed that the ACNC will not have a heavy compliance monitoring and investigating agenda. It will focus on areas of greatest risk when deciding who to investigate.
Relevance, proportionality, consistency, transparency and timeliness are the ACNC’s key priorities in this area.
To assist it with its monitoring and investigative role, the ACNC have been given access to the ATO’s guidelines for monitoring compliance. In this way, the ACNC are not completely reinventing the wheel when it comes to its regulatory role. It recognises that customers of the ACNC definitely move along a spectrum which looks something like the following:
Lack of Knowledge
Deliberate Wrong Doing
One of the members of ACLA correctly pointed out that there is a conflict between the intended roles of the ACNC as an educator and as a regulator. Ms Pascoe confirmed that the ACNC would not be taking as proactive a role as the New Zealand Charities Commission had (prior to the recent decision to disband that Commission) in developing a myriad of fact sheets. Rather, it would aim to assist charities who fell into the categories at the beginning of the spectrum toward improvement, while undertaking investigative procedures in relation to clients at the other end of the spectrum.
Approximately 60 jobs at the ACNC will be advertised toward the end of this year and it is expected that, due to its intended head office location, many of the roles will be filled by specialists from the ATO. It is hoped that the adoption of ATO staff will not discourage the fresh approach that the sector needs.