Registered Charities

How the Charities Act affects charitable trusts, incorporated societies and companies

Updated June 2009

If your organisation is currently a registered charitable trust or an incorporated society or a company, you will still need to consider registration under the Charities Act if you wish to access certain tax benefits on the grounds of charitable purpose.


The Charities Act 2005 relates to charitable organisations. It does not replace the Charitable Trusts Act 1957, or the Incorporated Societies Act 1908 or provisions of the Companies Act 1993. They are separate Acts for separate purposes, and they continue to apply.

Being a registered charitable trust, incorporated society or a company is not the same as being registered under the Charities Act.

The Charities Act set up Charities Services. Part of Charities Services's role is to establish and maintain a registration and monitoring system for charitable organisations in New Zealand.

The Charities Register opened on 1 February 2007, and is accessible to the public at www.charities.govt.nz

As well as maintaining the Charities Register, Charities Services provides education and support to charitable organisations in the areas of good governance and management.

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Why should we register under the Charities Act?

Registration under the Charities Act is voluntary. However, if an organisation is already a registered charitable trust, incorporated society or a company, it will still need to register with Charities Services if it wishes to have exemptions from income tax and estate and gift duty and become a ‘registered charitable entity'.

Charitable organisations had until 1 July 2008 to register with Charities Services before the tax laws changed.

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Why do we have to register twice?

The Charitable Trusts Act, the Incorporated Societies Act and the Companies Act set up organisations as legal entities. The Charities Act has no impact on an organisation's legal entity status, so organisations registered with Charities Services will still need to comply with these other Acts if they wish to keep their legal status.

The Charities Act does require Charities Services's close inspection of an organisation's charitable purpose, as well as the certification of its officers.

Organisations registered under the Charities Act have their details made publicly available to help promote public confidence in the charitable sector. For instance, registered charitable entities must file an Annual Return with Charities Services, outlining their activities, income and expenditure and other information. Applications for registration, annual returns and any notices of change will be publicly available on the Charities Register.

However, Charities Services may restrict public access to certain information and documents if it considers it is in the public interest to do so. You can ask for information to be restricted from public access if you believe it is not appropriate for it to appear on the public Register.

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Do we still need to comply with all the requirements of the Charitable Trusts Act, Incorporated Societies Act and the Companies Act?

Yes, if your organisation is registered under those Acts. Charities Services will not take over the running of the charitable trusts register, the incorporated societies register or the companies register.

This is because not all charitable trusts, incorporated societies or companies will choose to register under the Charities Act.

Incorporated Societies that register with Charities Services:

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Are we eligible for registration under the Charities Act?

Yes, if your organisation has a genuine charitable purpose that is directed towards the public benefit and your officers are qualified to be officers under the Charities Act. (See our information sheet Officer certification for more details.)

Charities Services will use the wellestablished common law test for charitable purposes, which requires the rules of an organisation to clearly state that its purposes are for one or more of the following:

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What do we do if we want to change our rules, trust deed or constitution?

If you are a registered charitable trust, an incorporated society, or a company, you must continue to send changes to your rules to the Companies Office for their approval. Once they have been approved, you must then notify Charities Services of the change within three months of the date of the change. It is important to check first that any changes you make will meet both the Companies Office and Charities Services's criteria.

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