The New Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission – What Is It??

ACNC’s role

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) is the independent national regulator of charities.

It sets out the following objectives:

  • Maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the sector through increased accountability and transparency.
  • Support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative NFP sector
  • Promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the sector

In order to achieve these objectives, the ACNC:

  • Registers organisations as charities
  • Helps charities understand and meet their obligations through information, guidance, advice and other support
  • Maintains a free and searchable public register so that anyone can look up information about registered charities
  • Is working with state and territory governments (as well as individual federal, state and territory government agencies) to develop a ‘report-once, use-often’ reporting framework for charities.

ACNC’s relationship with other regulators

ACNC and the ATO

Since 3 December 2012, the ACNC now has responsibility for deciding which organisations are charities, leaving the ATO only responsible for administering tax law (including determining the organisation’s eligibility for tax concessions). Hence, a charitable organisation cannot receive tax concessions from the ATO unless it is first registered with the ACNC.


ASIC organisations may also be registered with the ACNC as charities. As a result, while a charity is registered with the ACNC, some of the most common notification and reporting obligations that were required by ASIC do not apply. These registered charities will have to comply with the obligations to report to and notify the ACNC.

The ACNC and ASIC are working together to continue to define their respective roles.

ACNC and the Office of Registrar of Indigenous Corporations (ORIC)

The establishment of the ACNC only affects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander corporations registered with ORIC that are charities and also registered with the ACNC.

Despite being registered with ACNC, an organisation will still be subject to ORIC’s regulation which means it will still be required to meet its obligations under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006 (CATSI Act). In response to this, the ACNC and ORIC are currently working towards creating a framework which reduces the quantitative amount of reporting that relevant organisations must do.

ACNC and the Department of Health and Ageing (DHA)

Approved aged care providers that are charities registered with the ACNC are no longer required to report any changes to their key personnel to DHA. Instead, the ACNC will pass on any information regarding changes to the DHA once they are notified by the provider.

ACNC and the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR)

Large day care centre operators that are charities registered with the ACNC are no longer required to submit a notice for financial information to DEEWR if they have been required to provide that financial information. The ACNC will pass on this information to the DEEWR.

Non-government schools that are charities registered with the ACNC can continue to submit information about their financial operations to DEEWR.

ACNC Legislation

The ACNC was established under the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission Act 2012 (Cth) (ACNC Act) (s 105-5 in particular) and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (Consequential and Transitional) Act 2012 (Cth) (ACNC Consequential and Transitional Act).

The objects and functions of the ACNC are set out under s 105-15 of the ACNC Act.

The ACNC’s regulatory approach

The ACNC has the following regulatory powers:

  • Register charities
  • Collect information about charities
  • Respond to charities that may not be meeting their responsibilities

It uses these powers in accordance with its regulatory approach; however the details of this are still subject to consultation with the NFP sector. For more information, please refer to the ACNC Taskforce Implementation Report which is published on the ACNC website.

Reviews and Appeals

The ACNC is currently finalising its policy on how charities can apply for a review, and appeal of its decision-making.

Freedom of Information

In accordance with freedom of information laws, organisations have a right (subject to limited exceptions) to access documents held by the ACNC. Accordingly they may submit an FOI request with the ACNC in order to obtain such documents. If an organisation is dissatisfied with the ACNC’s decision regarding its request, it may seek an internal review or a review from the Information Commissioner.

As a Commonwealth agency which is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), the ACNC has established an Information Publications Scheme (IPS) to accord with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Amendment (Reform) Act 2010. The scheme requires the ACNC to publish a broad range of information and make it available for downloading where possible.

Moreover, the ACNC has an IPS Agency Plan which has been prepared in accordance with s 8(1) of the FOI Act, and describes how the ACNC intends to comply with the IPS. As part of the Agency Plan, the Commission is:

  • Committed to building a pro-disclosure culture in keeping with the objects of the FOI Act
  • Committed to increasing public participation in  government processes
  • Aiming to demonstrate the transparency and accountability that it expects from charities and NFPs it works with

For a more detailed explanation of the Agency Plan, please refer to the ACNC website.

The ACNC will also have a Freedom of Information Disclosure Log which publishes information released through the Commission.

Peter Gell

Peter was admitted as a solicitor in 1981 and holds qualifications in law and a Masters degree in taxation conferred by the University of NSW. Peter practises in taxation advisory, estate planning and wills, probate and commercial law.