Modernising the Charities Act: Questions and Answers

(updated 12 April 2021)

1. What happens next on work to modernise the Charities Act?

The next step is for government to carefully work through the issues submitters raised. This will ensure any proposals developed are well informed by what the Department heard during public consultation. The Department will continue to involve sector representatives in the policy process.

2. What issues will be considered as part of the work to modernise the Charities Act?

The Department will initially consider the following issues as part of the work to modernise the Charities Act:

  • The obligations of charities including annual reporting requirements for small charities
  • Whether the regulators powers, decision-making and accountability to the sector is appropriate, and the accessibility of appeals under the current structure.
  • Charitable business and accumulation of funds

These issues are likely to be addressed with legislative change.

3. Will the modernising work consider changing the four heads of charity?

The four heads of charity – relief of poverty, advancement of religion, advancement of education or any other matter beneficial to the community - will not be considered as part work to modernise the Act.

The definition of ‘charitable purpose’ is outside the scope of this work. Consideration of issues, such mechanisms to appeal the regulator's decisions, will better enable case law around 'charitable purpose' to develop.

4. Why have tax exemptions been excluded from the scope of the review?

Charities registered under the Charities Act 2005 are entitled to tax exemptions on most income under the Income Tax Act 2007.

The Income Tax Act governs tax exemptions, not the Charities Act. Tax exemptions are not a matter that is appropriate for this work to consider.

The Department of Internal Affairs will ensure the significance of the community and voluntary sector, and the difference that charities make every day in communities throughout New Zealand, is shared with those looking at the tax policy settings for charities.

5. Will advocacy matters be considered as part of the modernisation work?

Advocacy will not be considered at this stage of the review, but may be considered at a later date. The Department has consulted on the extent to which registered charities can advocate for their causes and points of view. Submitters provided significant views on improving certainty and clarity on the circumstances under which charities can advocate for causes.

6. Will the legal structure of social enterprises be considered as part of the modernisation work?

No. The Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) is undertaking other work on social enterprises, separate from this work.

7. What does modernisation of the Act mean for the charity I am involved in?

This work is about making sure the legislative settings work well for all charities. In the long term, we expect an easily understood and flexible Act that ensures public trust and confidence in charities, so charities can continue to make a significant difference every day throughout New Zealand. 

8. Will my submission from 2019 be considered?

Yes. The Department of Internal Affairs have analysed all submissions and feedback from the public consultation in 2019. The submissions are outlined in the summary of submissions report. The Department will carefully consider the points as policy options are developed.

9. Will you engage with the sector again on the options?

Yes. The Department will undertake targeted engagement with representatives from the sector to test policy options. If a Bill is introduced to amend the Charities Act, further public submissions would usually be called for by select committee during the legislative process.

10. Where can I find the submissions from the 2019 public consultation?

In February 2019, the Department released a discussion document titled Modernising the Charities Act 2005. We received 363 written submissions in response to the discussion document. These submissions are now published to the DIA website, here: Submissions.

The Department has now analysed all feedback from submissions, including comments on issues outside of the scope of the review. This feedback will inform our policy advice to the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector.

The summary of submissions report is intended to help the sector, government and public to understand key themes that came through in submissions. It does not summarise every submission but provides an overview of what submitters thought about each issue.

11. How will we stay informed about the progress of this work?

Up to date information will be available at: www.dia.govt.nz/charitiesact

The quarterly newsletter from Charities Services will also be used to share information at key points. Subscribe at: https://www.charities.govt.nz/

12. Who will carry out the modernisation of the Charities Act?

DIA’s Policy Group is leading the work to ensure that the Charities Act 2005 is fit for purpose.

While the regulator “Charities Services” is based in DIA, it is not leading this work.

13. Will any changes be made to the legislation?

The modernisation work might raise issues that are best addressed by changes to the Charities Act. If a Bill is introduced to amend the Charities Act, further public submissions would usually be called for by select committee during the legislative process.

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