The deadline for submissions on the Charities Amendment Bill will close in one month.
The objective of the Bill is to make practical changes to support charities to continue their contribution to community well-being, while ensuring that that contribution is sufficiently transparent to interested parties and the public. The Bill seeks to change existing charities law by making practical improvements to reporting requirements for small charities, update governance requirements, and introduce a new appeals framework.
Who needs to read it?
All charities registered with Charities Services and their officers should read the Bill.
When does it apply?
The Bill had its first reading on 21 September 2022 and has now been referred to a Select Committee for further consideration. Submissions are currently being accepted, with a closing date of 9 December 2022.
What does it cover?
Proposed key changes to existing charities law include:
The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) will have the power to exempt very small charities from complying with the External Reporting Board’s reporting standards. The relevant qualifying financial threshold for such a class exemption will be determined by regulation in due course and may change over time.
The definition of ‘officer’ will be expanded to include people with significant influence over the management or administration of the charity. This is in line with the approach taken in other legislation, such as the Incorporated Societies Act 2022.
Disqualification of officers
The Charities Registration Board (Board) will have the power to disqualify an officer for ‘serious wrongdoing’ or a significant or persistent failure to meet their obligations, without having to de-register the charity itself.
Charities will be required to review their governance procedures annually, including whether such procedures assist with achieving their charitable objects.
There will now be an explicit requirement for charities to remain qualified for registration i.e. maintain charitable purposes, have qualified officers, and have a rules document.
Publication of decisions
The Board will be required to publish decisions on declining an application for registration and deregistering a charity.
A clear process and timeframes will be established for charities to object to decisions of the Board, providing charities with more certainty as to how objections will be dealt with.
The Taxation Review Authority (TRA) will now hear initial appeals under the Charities Act 2005. It is generally considered that the TRA is a better appeal forum (over the DIA) in the first instance, given its historical role in granting charitable tax status and understanding of charities law. Further appeals may be made to the High Court on questions of law.
Charities Services will be required to consult with the charitable sector when developing significant guidance materials for charities. This gives the charitable sector the ability to better participate in matters that affect it.
In conjunction with the changes proposed by the Bill, Charities Services will update the annual return form, to require larger charities to report on the reasons for their accumulated funds (including cash, assets, and other resources), with the aim of increasing transparency as to the need to hold such funds, which often include donations.
The changes recommended by the Charities Amendment Bill are positive for the efficient operation of charities and maintaining confidence in the charitable sector as a whole. The increased disclosure requirements may signal further changes in the future for the charitable sector.
The introduction of the Bill coincides with Inland Revenue’s release of its operational statements addressing charities and donee organisations, indicating increased government attention towards New Zealand’s charitable sector.
Interested have until 9 December 2022 to make make submissions on the Bill.
The Bill has been referred to a Select Committee for a period of six months.
If you have any questions in relation to the new recommended charities regime, please contact one of our experts.
This article was co-authored by Louise Meng, a solicitor in our Corporate and Commercial team.
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