Australian Nonprofit Laws: What You Need to Know

Jon Tyrell

Jon Tyrell

Having a good understanding and adhering to nonprofit laws is crucial for NGOs in Australia. The nation’s nonprofit sector is a vibrant and growing part of the economy, with over 600,000 charities as of 2021. These organizations play a vital role in delivering health and social services, education, environmental conservation, and arts and culture programs, among others.


Nonprofit laws
Nonprofit laws


  • The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) oversees the operations of Australian nonprofits.
  • Several governance requirements by the ACNC must be followed by charities in Australia.

Overview of Nonprofit Laws in Australia

Australian nonprofits are subject to an elaborate set of laws and regulations, overseen by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).

In this article, we will provide an overview of nonprofit laws in Australia. These include the requirements for registering as a charity, ongoing regulatory requirements, and the concept of deductible gift recipient status.

Registering as a Charity in Australia

To be recognized as a charity in Australia, an organization must satisfy certain criteria set out in the Charities Act 2013. These include having a charitable purpose, being not-for-profit, and having an appropriate governance structure. In addition, the organization must not engage in activities that are illegal or contrary to public policy, such as advocating violence or promoting racism.

The ACNC is responsible for registering charities in Australia and ensuring that they meet these criteria. Upon registration, charities are granted various benefits. This includes tax exemptions and the ability to receive tax-deductible donations. However, with these benefits come certain obligations and responsibilities, including ongoing regulatory reporting requirements.

Ongoing Regulatory Requirements

Charities in Australia are subject to a range of ongoing regulatory requirements, designed to promote transparency, accountability, and good governance in the sector. These requirements include annual financial reporting, maintaining accurate records, and complying with various regulatory standards.

Also, one of the key reporting requirements for charities in Australia is the Annual Information Statement (AIS). This statement provides information about the organization’s activities, finances, and governance and must be submitted to the ACNC each year. The ACNC then uses this information to monitor the sector and ensure that charities are complying with regulatory requirements.

In addition to the AIS, charities in Australia must comply with various governance standards set out by the ACNC. These standards cover areas such as board composition, conflicts of interest, and financial management. The design of this is to promote good governance practices in the sector.

  • Deductible Gift Recipient Status

One of the most significant benefits of registering as a charity in Australia is the ability to apply for deductible gift recipient (DGR) status. DGR status allows eligible charities to receive tax-deductible donations from individuals and corporations. This can be a significant source of funding for many organizations.

To be eligible for DGR status, charities must meet certain criteria in the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997. These criteria include having a charitable purpose that falls within one of the categories of DGRs set out in the Act. Such purpose can be the relief of poverty, the advancement of education, or the promotion of health.

Once a charity has been granted DGR status, it can receive tax-deductible donations from individuals and corporations. This can be a powerful tool for fundraising. However, with this status comes certain obligations, including the need to maintain accurate records of donations and comply with various reporting requirements.


Overall, Australian nonprofit laws are designed to promote transparency, accountability, and public trust in the sector. Organizations that comply with these nonprofit laws are more likely to be successful in achieving their charitable purposes. They also stand a higher chance of attracting support from donors and volunteers.

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