Addressing legal issues for Indigenous charities

Wednesday, 4 June 2014
Annie Keely
Victor Lovett

AIATSIS has asked the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) for guidance for PBCs wanting to be charities. Preliminary research shows that of the 118 RNTBCs and PBCs on the AIATSIS summary for December 2013, only 24 are charities and 13 have PBI tax status. While not all RNTBCs and PBCs may want to be charities, it is likely that more would consider applying for charity tax concessions if the legal requirements were better understood.

In December 2013 the ACNC released a Commissioner’s Interpretation Statement on Indigenous Charities (CIS)

This CIS provides guidance on how charity law applies to some particular issues facing Indigenous charities. For example, the CIS distinguishes the historic view that an Indigenous organisation providing benefits to members or beneficiaries who are blood related is not a charity. The Charities Act 2013 (Cth) also changes the public benefit test for native title and traditional owner organisations.

The CIS has a paper attached which sets out the reasoning for the ACNC view of the common law. This paper assists RNTBCs/PBCs and their advisors on how best to approach the legal issues they may encounter when applying for charity registration by the ACNC or endorsement by the ATO. We will present this reasoning for discussion to better equip RNTBCs/ PBCs into the future.