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On 1 January 2014, a statutory definition of 'charity' came into effect. The Federal Government sought to delay the implementation of the definition, but did not pass required changes in time at the end of the 2013 sitting period.
Previously, the definition of charity was contained in case law (judge made law) and was hard to identify and apply. The statutory definition is intended to make the definition more accessible.
Government agencies have yet to release their detailed interpretation of the new definition. The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission has released some guidance, available here.
The statutory definition is not intended to affect existing charities. It will be applied by the ACNC and other regulators when the question of whether an organisation is "charitable" needs to be assessed.
For a summary of recent changes to laws for charities, go to Not-for-profit Law's information portal.