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Australian Charity Regulator Steps Up

Dominique Hogan-Doran SC

During 2016, the ACNC matured in its role as the national charity regulator. Increasingly, people running charities are keen to work with it to resolve any issues found during investigations. In many cases, concerns raised can be resolved by the ACNC providing regulatory guidance and advice.

However, where the ACNC finds serious misconduct and mismanagement, the ACNC has signalled it will take firm action, including revocation of charity status. Revocation is the most serious enforcement action taken by the ACNC and results in the loss of Commonwealth charity tax concessions.

In its latest report, the national charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), examines its compliance and enforcement activities between 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2016, and set out its areas of focus for charity compliance in 2017: Charity Compliance Report 2015/2016 (15/03/2017).

During 2016, the ACNC matured in its role as the national charity regulator. Increasingly, people running charities are keen to work with it to resolve any issues found during investigations. In many cases, concerns raised can be resolved by the ACNC providing regulatory guidance and advice.

However, where the ACNC finds serious misconduct and mismanagement, the ACNC has signalled it will take firm action, including revocation of charity status. Revocation is the most serious enforcement action taken by the ACNC and results in the loss of Commonwealth charity tax concessions.

In its latest report, the national charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), examines its compliance and enforcement activities between 1 January 2015 and 31 December 2016, and set out its areas of focus for charity compliance in 2017: Charity Compliance Report 2015/2016 (15/03/2017).

Over the two year period of the report, the ACNC reveals it revoked the charity status of 28 charities. A further 9 charities had their registration revoked following a review of their entitlement to charity status by the ACNC's Registration team.

The report also sets out the ACNC’s areas of focus for the next 12 months:

  • fraud & financial mismanagement
  • terrorism
  • harm to beneficiaries
  • political activities of Australia’s charities
  • lodgement and accuracy of Annual Information Statements.

The selection of these themes indicates that the ACNC will focus its investigations where misconduct could significantly impact on public trust and confidence in the not-for-profit sector.

Dominique Hogan-Doran SC is a senior counsel of the Australian Bar specialising in regulatory investigations and enforcement action and has advised registered charities and their boards in relation to ACNC investigations.