27110

Registered Charities

General FAQs

What is the difference between being a charity and a not-for-profit organisation?

To put it simply, all charities are not-for-profit organisations (NFPs) but not all NFPs qualify as charities.

An NFP organisation is any organisation that is not carried out for the profit or gain of any member, and whose rules prevent money, property or any other benefits being distributed to any of its members. It may be a society, association or organisation (incorporated or not).

However, not all NFP organisations have charitable purposes, or are qualified for registration under the Charities Act.

As at 2005, Statistics New Zealand estimated there were around 97,000 non-profit organisations in New Zealand. Their (internationally agreed) definition of a "non-profit" organisation is that it is:

However, even if they are "non profit", not all these organisations meet the charitable purposes test set out in the Charities Act (that is: relieving poverty, advancing education or religion, or another purpose beneficial to the community). Some might also fail the test because they do not provide a public benefit (that is, a benefit that is available to an appreciable sector of the community).

Of the 97,000 NFP organisations in New Zealand, around 25,000 have chosen to apply to the Charities Commission, met the Charities Act's criteria, and have been registered.

Return to top

Where can we find a list of information sheets that we can browse?

A full list of information sheets in printable PDF format are available in our information sheet library.

These documents require Adobe reader. Installs or updates of Adobe reader can be done from the Adobe download page.

Return to top

What is the purpose of the Charities Commission and how can it help us?

The function of the Commission is to promote public trust and confidence in the charitable sector. The Commission will do this by encouraging good governance and management practices, by providing educational material and other help to enable organisations to be more effective.

You can see more detailed information on our webpage, Role of the Commission.

Return to top

We have forgotten our password, how can we retrieve our login details?

After recieving your application for registration, your charity's User ID and password is sent (by email or post) as an acknowledgement email or letter to the person who was named as the primary contact on your charity's registration application.

If you were named as the contact person, but have simply forgotten your password, please enter your User ID and follow the Forgotten password instructions on the login screen. The password will be emailed (or posted) to the email or postal address provided in the registration application form.

If you are not the original primary contact person (whose contact details were provided to us in the application form), and don't know the User ID and password you have the following options

  1. Locate the acknowledgement letter sent during the registration process or contact the person named in the registration application form.
  2. Have another certificated officer from your charity contact us requesting the details

If no previously certified officers exist in your organisation, you will need to complete a Notification of Change form to advise of resignation of those previous officers and complete an Officer Certification form to certify the new officer.

Return to top

How can we report uncharitable activity and what can the Commission do?

The Commission will inquire into any person who is engaged in conduct in breach of the Charities Act or where there is serious wrongdoing in connection with a registered charity.

These include the powers to issue warnings and publish details of possible breaches of the Act or serious wrongdoing and to deregister a charity.

Your complaint must be submitted to the Commission in writing. This may be by:

E-mail - info@charities.govt.nz

Letter - Monitoring & Investigations, Department of Internal Affairs - Charities, PO Box 30112, Lower Hutt 5040.

Return to top

Where can we find help with searching the register?

The register search page is an advanced form that will allow the general public to search on one or many fields and can be filtered by various sector types and areas:.

By organisation name - To search for a charity by its name, simply type the name or part of the name into the name search field - click search. In the results table, select the charity you wish to view. A summary of the charity you selected will be displayed.
See it done

'Begins with' means you must enter at least the first three letters of the charity's name.

'Contains' means you can enter any words that the charity contains.

'Equal to' means you must enter the actual name of the charity.

For example, if you want to find a charity called Masterton Trees Association, you could search in any of these three ways:

If you choose 'Begins with' or 'Contains' to search, you will get a list of charities to choose from.

By registration number - To search for a charity by its charity number, simply type the CC number into the registration number search field - click search. In the results table, select the charity you wish to view. A summary of the charity you selected will be displayed
See it done

By street address - To search for a charity by street address, enter the street into the Address Line 1 field. You will also need to enter an area in the Town/City search field - click search. In the results table, select the charity you wish to view. A summary of the charity you selected will be displayed.
See it done

By sector - To search for charities in a particular sector, select the desired sector from the sector drop down list. You will also need to enter an area in the Town/City search field - Click search. In the results table, select the charity you wish to view. A summary of the charity you selected will be displayed
See it done

Return to top

What was the situation before the Commission was established by the Charities Act 2005?

Before the Charities ActAfter the Charities Act
Anyone could establish a charity, call it a charity, and operate as a charity
  • Anyone can establish a charity, call it a charity, and operate as a charity.
  • Only charities registered with the Commission may call themselves "registered charitable entities"
  • If asked by a member of the public, a registered charitable entity (or anyone fundraising for it online or by telephone) must disclose the charity’s unique registration number
If they wished, they could choose their legal "form" and register with the Companies Office as a company or incorporated society - or the trustees of a charitable trust could incorporate as a Board under the Charitable Trusts Act No change
  • Companies and incorporated societies had to file annual returns with the Companies Office each year.
  • Charitable trusts did not have to file annual returns with any agency
  • ALL charities registered with the Charities Commission must file an Annual Return every year with the Charities Commission, and provide a copy of their financial statements.
  • Companies registered under the Charities Act must still file annual returns with the Companies Office.
  • Incorporated societies registered under the Charities Act only need to file Annual Returns with the Commission. They no longer need to file returns with the Companies Office
Organisations whose income was exclusively for charitable purposes were exempt from income tax and donors to them were exempt from gift duty
  • Charities must be registered with the Charities Commission to be eligible for a charitable income tax and gift duty exemption
  • Registration with the Commission is voluntary
  • A change to the tax law came into effect on 1 July 2008. From that date, a charity must be a "tax charity" to be eligible for tax exemptions on charitable grounds The key way to be a "tax charity" is to be registered under the Charities Act
Charities "self-assessed" their tax situation
  • Charities continue to self-assess their tax status, but must be registered with the Commission to be eligible for charitable tax exemptions
  • The Commission advises Inland Revenue when it registers (or deregisters) a charity
If they wanted some more "formal" recognition of their tax status, charities could approach Inland Revenue for a 'letter of comfort' that acknowledged their charitable purpose (and therefore their eligibility for exemption from income tax)
  • Inland Revenue no longer provides 'letters of comfort', and any letters issued before tax laws changed on 1 July 2008 are now void
  • Charities must be registered with the Commission to be eligible for charitable income tax exemptions
Organisations could apply to Inland Revenue for "donee status", so people making donations to them could claim a tax rebate
  • Inland Revenue continues to administer donee status.
  • Charities which confirm they receive donations in their application to the Charities Commission are likely to have their donee status confirmed by Inland Revenue after registration with the Commission
  • Organisations that are not registered with the Charities Commission can still apply directly to Inland Revenue to get donee status
No formal list or public register of Charities available. (No process for regular review of charitable status) The Charities Register contains the details of all registered charities, including their rules, officers, contact details, and financial information, and is open for scrutiny by members of the public.
No scrutiny of charities' officers Officers must meet the criteria set out in the Charities Act
No monitoring of charities' activities or charitable status, and no education or support provided Monitoring and investigation of registered charities, and governance and management education and support provided to charities by the Commission
Limited information available about the charitable sector The registration and monitoring process collects data about charities (for example: the services they provide, who their beneficiaries are, where they operate, their annual accounts, and how many hours of voluntary or paid work they undertake). This substantially increases the amount of information available about the sector
No specific agency for dealing with complaints from or about charities The Charities Commission receives and responds to complaints from and about charities

Return to top

Where can we find statistical information on the size of the charitable sector?

In the twelve months to March 2009, the charitable sector bought in more than $9 billion dollars of income - See in graphical form, what sectors charities are involved in, the levels of income they attract and who they are helping in terms of funding on our statistics page.

Return to top