Not-for-profit Law
Legal help for community organisations

Registering as a charity

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An organisation is a 'registered charity' if it is registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC). The ACNC is responsible for many regulatory functions relating to charities, which were formerly administered by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Registering as a charity is often required to access charitable tax concessions (discussed on the Tax page). There are other benefits to registering as a charity, such as being listed on the public register of charities (and using the 'Registered Charity Tick'), which can improve public trust in your organisation.

In general, being registered as a charity does come with extra reporting obligations. However, in some instances reporting will be reduced (for example, for Companies Limited by Guarantee registered as charities). See Charity Reporting for more information.

Definition of 'charity'

On 1 January 2014, a statutory definition of charity came into effect at a federal level. Previously, the definition of charity was contained in case law (judge made law) and was hard to identify and apply. The definition requires a group to have charitable purposes (defined in the statute) and operate for the public benefit. There are some exclusions as well.

The definition applies when the question of whether an organisation is "charitable" needs to be assessed at a federal level (ie. when a charity registers with the ACNC).

It is important to recognise that an organisation may meet the definition of 'charity' and not be registered as a charity with the ACNC. That organisation will still be a charity under common law, but is not a 'registered charity'. Further, some state-based laws refer to 'charities' and these references are to state-based, common law (case law) defintions of 'charity'. This definition commonly occurs at a state level in relation to fundraising laws and state tax concessions (such as stamp duty exemption).

Being a registered charity is a 'status' rather than a structure. It is also different to being not-for-profit.  All registered charities are not-for-profit, but there are many more not-for-profits than charities.

How to get registered

To register with the ACNC, your group will need:

  • to be a not-for-profit (including having "not-for-profit clauses" in its rules)
  • meet the definition of 'charity', and
  • have an ABN.

Not-for-profit Law has a fact sheet on Charities Law containing information about:

  • what is a registered charity and whether your organisation should become a registered charity
  • the regulation of charities and what charities are required to do, and
  • how to register as a charity and access associated tax concessions.

Extra Resources

Read more about the definition of charity and registering as a charity:

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