Not-for-profits: You still need to lodge your Annual Information Statements

The Federal Coalition was one of the harshest critics of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) when in Opposition.

But two months since winning office, the Coalition is yet to provide an indication of when (or if) it is going to follow through with its election pledge to “abolish” the ACNC.

That means charities registered with the ACNC are still required to lodge their first significant piece of paperwork – or “red tape” as the Federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews would call it.

Undeterred by reports in the Australian newspaper last weekend about confusion and stalled investigations within the Commission, the ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe made  a fresh call for Annual Information Statements this week.

Not-for-profits should now be well on their way in preparing their 2013 Annual Information Statements, which are due within six months of the end of year reporting period. The statement is the only reporting obligation charities registered with the ACNC have for the 2013 reporting period.

According to the ACNC, around 50% of the 58,039 charities registered with it have a regular financial year and therefore will be required to lodge their statement by December 31. And already more than 4000 charities have lodged their statements according to the Commission.

Charities are not required to provide any financial information in their Annual Information Statements but they are required to answer 17 mandatory questions (mainly relating to the activity of a charity), which will be made public on the ACNC website. However, there is scope for some organisations not to have their activities publicised.

The three optional questions in the Statement relate to a charity’s other reporting obligations and the time they spent fulfilling their reporting obligations.

Charities need to visit the ACNC website to fill-out the forms, and can log-in with the ABN numbers and passwords that were recently mailed to them by the Commission.

The 2014 Annual Information Statements, not due until July 1, 2014 at the earliest, will require ACNC registered charities to disclose financial information.

It remains to be seen whether the Federal Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews will do away with this obligation.

“The ACNC is another level of regulatory burden that hasn’t replaced any regulatory burden elsewhere at this stage. What we need is actual practical things that are going to reduce red tape,’’ said Mr Andrews during the Federal election.

A YouTube step-by-step guide on filling out the 2013 Annual Information Statement posted by the ACNC lasts for 12 minutes.  Presumably it should not take much longer for a charity to fill it out.

It remains to be seen if the Federal Government thinks even that amount of time represents too much “red tape”.

Before winning office, the Coalition pledged to “abolish” the ACNC and “replace” it with a “Centre for Excellence”.

Maybe the  “abolition” of the ACNC may only involve a name change and some tinkering around the sides.

The ACNC meanwhile released its 2013 Annual Report this week where it disclosed it had received 245 complaints in its first seven months of operations, of which 199 were “resolved” and 46 were still in progress on June 30.

The Commission was obliging enough in its Annual Report to disclose that it had received 156 written compliments in that time.

“This feedback is greatly encouraging as
 the ACNC has endeavoured to position itself as approachable and helpful to the sector,” says the Annual Report.

It is still doubtful the Commission will get any birthday wishes from the Federal Government if it manages to make it to its first anniversary on December 3.

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