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Democrat-initiated inquiry calls for broadening of charities' concessions.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Leader of the Australian Democrats &Treasury spokesperson

Senator John Cherry Community Services spokesperson

24 August 2001 MEDIA RELEASE 01/499

Democrat-initiated Inquiry calls for broadening of charities’ concessions Tax concessions for charities could be made available to a wider group of community organisations following recommendations of an Inquiry initiated by the Australian Democrats.

The Charities Definition Inquiry, headed by Justice Ian Sheppard and including former ACOSS head Robert Fitzgerald and Business-Community Partnership leader David Gonski, was established as a direct result of an agreement between the Democrats and the Federal Treasurer.

The Inquiry, which received 373 submissions, has recommended the repealing of the current 400-year old definition of charities used in Federal tax law, and replacing it with a broader test based on the purpose of the organisation.

Democrats Leader Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said the Democrats played a key role in getting the Inquiry established.

“The Democrats look forward to hearing the community sector’s view on these recommendations. We will continue to push for the fairest possible deal for charities,” said Senator Stott Despoja.

Democrats Community Services spokesperson, Senator John Cherry, welcomed the inquiry report as a long overdue updating of an outmoded law.

“The notion of what is charitable and what is public benefit has moved on since the time of Elizabeth the First, and this review is important in getting that recognised in law,” said Senator Cherry.

“Importantly, the Inquiry has recommended that many community organisations not recognised as charities by the Tax Office should be given charitable status.

“These include advocacy groups, self help and neighbourhood centres, childcare, community development, assistance to migrants, refugees and indigenous people, human rights, environment and animal welfare groups.

“The proposal to establish a UK-style Charities Commission to oversee the charitable sector was long advocated by former Democrat Senator John Woodley and reflects long standing Democrat policy.

“However, such a Commission needs to be adequately resourced and, like its UK counterpart, also assist charities in meeting their legal obligations,” said Senator Cherry.

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Senator Natasha Stott Despoja Leader of the Australian Democrats &Treasury spokesperson

Senator John Cherry Community Services spokesperson

24 August 2001 MEDIA RELEASE 01/499

“The Inquiry’s approach overcomes serious difficulties with the current legal definition of charity which, in the Tax Acts, has five overlapping categories,” said Senator Cherry.

“It proposes a three stage definition of altruistic community service organisations, charities and ‘benevolent’ charities.

“This simplifying of the legal categories offers scope for simplifying the tax treatment of charities and reducing compliance costs accordingly.

“Inevitably, the devil will be in the detail, and the community sector needs time to respond to the report before any law is changed.

“The Federal Government also needs to consult with the States with a view of establishing a single national legal framework within which charities could operate,” Senator Cherry concluded.

For further information: Senator John Cherry 07 3252 9129 or 0408 066 105