What are the changes to Basic Religious Charities?


Recent changes in December to definitions of Basic Religious Charity have been enshrined in law. Not meeting the new criteria means affected charities will lose benefits and have increased regulatory scrutiny.

As a result of the enactment of the Treasury Laws Amendment (2020 Measures No. 6) Act 2020 the definition of ‘basic religious charity’ under s 205-35 of the Australian Charities and Not for-profits Commission Act 2012 will be changed commencing 17 March 2021. See more here.

Gilbert & Tobin lawyers warn that under the new definition, a religious institution is not entitled to be a ‘basic religious charity’ if certain activities occur. They said that Basic Religious Charities will lose their status if:

  • “the religious institution has been identified as being involved in the abuse of a person (either in an application for redress or in response to a request for information by the Operator);
  • the redress application has not been withdrawn; and
  • the religious institution fails to join the Redress Scheme.”

Where a charity loses its status as a Basic Religious Charity it brings other significant ramifications. This means these organisations will no longer be exempt from:

  • answering  financial information questions on its Annual Information Statement to the ACNC;
  • submitting annual financial reports to the ACNC; and
  • complying with all of the ACNC governance standards.

A great number of charities that have previously enjoyed the benefits of being classified as a Basic Religious Charity now face the risk of higher reporting and compliance standards if the above criteria are satisfied. The flow on effect then brings greater risks to the directors, councillors or other office holders of these organisations and may affect operations and insurance arrangements.

For more information, see Darren Fittler, Elizabeth Lathlean & Kate Pipe of Gilbert & Tobin Lawyers.

Here are the ACNC’s resources for BRCs