Key risk areas of the review, as identified by the researchers, include:
Scope – this is a comprehensive review, but it is not the full first-principles review that was originally promised. There is a risk that the review could result in Charities Services increasing their regulatory powers and charging charities to do that. It is vitally important that everyone with an interest in charities gets involved with the review so as to create the best framework of charity law for New Zealand that we can
Timing – the Minister wants to have the review completed within this term of Government, which means the timeframe to carry out this important work is very tight.
Appeals – providing for better access to justice for charities is perhaps the single most important change that could be made, but there is a risk that changes that are needed are not made; it is also possible that unhelpful changes could be made that make the position worse – we need to make sure that does not happen.
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Structure of the agency administering the Act – one of the biggest issues raised by submitters on the original Charities Bill was what type of agency would administer the new law. Originally a Charities Commission was established, recognising the importance and independence of the charitable sector, consistently with the vision and principles expressed in the Statement of Government Intentions for an Improved Community-Government relationship: “An independent and vibrant community sector is essential to a healthy civil society. Government and the community sector depend on each other to achieve shared goals of social participation, social equity and strengthened communities”. It is Labour Party policy to consult with the community and voluntary sector on whether the 2012 disestablishment of the Charities Commission and transfer of functions to the Department of Internal Affairs has resulted in effectiveness and improved services and information for the sector. This review is an opportunity to consider what would be the best structure for the agency administering the Charities Act.
Officers – one of the DIA’s “top 5 issues” is a potential widening of the criteria that would disqualify a person from being an officer of a charitable entity. The necessity to allow for rehabilitation and redemption was one of the biggest issues raised by submitters on the original Charities Bill. It is important to have your say.
Businesses – charities should be able to run businesses to raise funds for their charitable purposes, provided those funds are always destined for charitable purposes. However, there is a risk that charities’ ability to run businesses may be restricted by the review. For example, the terms of reference for the review include: “the extent to which businesses that solely raise funds for registered charities can register under the Act”. (Note also the latest tax bill and the Tax Working Group report)
There are many other issues – it is important to have your say.”
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