How the Charities Registration Board makes decisions

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Posted on 6 December 2016

Charities Services was established in 2012 when the functions of the Charities Commission became the responsibility of the Department of Internal Affairs. To retain independence in the decision making process, the amended Charities Act established a Charities Registration Board to make all decisions regarding registration and deregistration of charities. The Board ensures that charities on the Register qualify under New Zealand’s charities’ law.

All the Board members are very experienced in the charities sector, and bring extensive knowledge and skills from legal and accounting backgrounds. In making decisions, the members of the Board apply their professional judgment, and are completely independent of Ministerial direction and government policy.

In practice, the Charities Registration Board delegates most of its decision making to Charities Services; when we act under delegation, we act independently on the Board’s behalf.

Almost 90% of applicants will be registered, usually making a few minor changes to their application. Where this is in established areas of charitable purpose, this is completed by Charities Services and reported to the Board monthly. If the issue is novel or controversial or the Board has made a decision about the organisation before, and we consider an applicant should be registered, we still will take a recommendation to the Board for its consideration.

If we think an organisation shouldn’t be registered, we’ll let them know why. Over 95% of decline decisions are because an organisation doesn’t respond to our request for further information or notice on requirements for registration, for example: because they have not provided formal rules or certified their officers. Over 95% of deregistration decisions are because of an organisation’s failure to file annual returns. The Board has delegated the decision to decline or deregister in these circumstances to Charities Services.

If an organisation doesn’t agree with Charities Services’ position, we’ll take a recommendation to the Charities Registration Board.

How this happens can differ in practice but usually follows these steps:

  1. We talk to the organisation about the issues with the application, especially if we can see an opportunity for the organisation to change something in order to be registered.
  2. If the organisation disagrees or we don’t think it can qualify, we send the organisation a notice that explains why we consider that it doesn’t qualify.
  3. The organisation can then provide submissions detailing why they disagree.
  4. We respond to those submissions, and give the organisation a further opportunity to respond before taking a recommendation to the Board. We let the organisation know of any information we have relied on, so they can understand our perspective before providing a response. 
  5. We prepare a recommendation for the Board. The Board may take some time to decide. They may ask for more information, or disagree with Charities Services entirely. This is not an oral hearing – this is a decision made “on the papers”, but the Board will consider any submissions and information the organisation has provided, as well as all information Charities Services has assessed in making its decision.

If the organisation disagrees with the Charities Registration Board, they can then appeal to the High Court. There is also nothing stopping organisations making changes to their application (or providing fresh submissions) and applying again.

The process is different for a deregistration decision; and we’ll explain what usually happens with these in a future blog post. Where an organisation is deregistered, there may be tax consequences. Inland Revenue has published information (external link) on this, and we recommend organisations talk to Inland Revenue about the consequences before making any decision on how they respond to our reviews.

You can find most of the final decisions of the Charities Registration Board and the previous decisions of the Charities Commission on our website, as well all the court decisions.

Remember, we’re always happy to answer any questions on the process so please don’t hesitate to contact us on info@charities.govt.nz or 0508 CHARITIES (0508 242 748).

Andrew Phillips profile

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