International charities and activities

This page outlines our position regarding registering charities that are based overseas or entities based in New Zealand that carry out activities overseas.

The Charities Act does not specifically deal with international charities and activities. We assess each application we receive on a case-by-case basis, based on the criteria set out in the Act.

New Zealand entities will not fail the charitable purpose test simply because they have an overseas purpose or their public benefit is directed overseas (for example, a New Zealand charity established with the purpose of relieving poverty in another country).

However, to be eligible for registration under the Charities Act, overseas charities must either be established in New Zealand or have a very strong connection to New Zealand so that we are able to monitor the charity and carry out our compliance functions. 

Can we use our funds on a charitable purpose outside New Zealand?

You can use your funds for overseas charitable purposes if your rules permit funds to be spent overseas. 

If you intend to change the proportion of income expended overseas, you should contact us.  However, a charity with mainly overseas purposes may not qualify for donee status under the Income Tax Act 2007.  You should refer to Inland Revenue for information about how this may affect your tax liability. 

What does 'established in New Zealand' mean?

To be registered under the Charities Act, charities do not have to be incorporated. However, if an overseas organisation is an incorporated body, it must be incorporated under New Zealand law to be considered 'established in New Zealand'.

For example,  an overseas company must be incorporated here under the Companies Act 1993.

If an overseas charity is not incorporated in New Zealand, Charities Services will have to decide whether it has a 'very strong connection' with New Zealand.

What does 'very strong connection' mean?

If an overseas charity is not incorporated under New Zealand law, it can still be registered under the Charities Act if it has a very strong connection to New Zealand so that Charities Services is able to exercise its monitoring and enforcement powers in relation to it.

In reviewing the connection an overseas charity has with New Zealand, we will consider matters including:

  • whether it has a centre of administration here
  • how many of its officers are resident here
  • how much of its property is held here
  • if it has any other strong connection with New Zealand.

Matters that could help us to decide whether any other strong connection exists for the purposes of monitoring and enforcement include:

  • being able to exchange information easily between New Zealand and the overseas charities home country
  • being able to easily get information about the overseas charity, including whether an officer or the charity itself has been found guilty of "serious wrongdoing"
  • whether the overseas charity has a purpose aimed at the public of New Zealand or carries out activities in New Zealand.