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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 13 Hansard (Tuesday, 17 November 2015) . . Page.. 4004 ..

They are some comments that I have received from some people in the community housing sector over the past few days.

I will keep my comments brief as well, but it is perplexing that we are introducing our own legislation rather than having a harmonised, nationally consistent approach, having, with much fanfare, adopted the ACNC approach a few years ago. I look forward to the Chief Minister’s comments; hopefully, he can allay my fears on those particular questions.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Chief Minister, Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development, Minister for Urban Renewal and Minister for Tourism and Events) (12.13), in reply: The Revenue (Charitable Organisations) Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 protects the status of charities in the ACT. Let me be very clear: this is not a bill about regulation; it is a bill about taxation. The bill provides certainty for all charities by restricting access to tax exemptions for organisations that have a commercial and political focus.

The bill addresses the uncertainty caused by a number of court cases that have broadened the definition of “charitable purpose” and brings the legal definition back to the more traditional definition of what makes an organisation a charity. What we are doing today is putting in place a measure to ensure the viability of important tax exemptions that are given to charities which provide certainty and protection for charities that meet the more traditional definition.

Let us be very clear: this bill does not affect organisations whose predominant activities are charitable. Charities will not be affected in any way by this legislative change. The contribution these organisations make to our community cannot be underestimated, and the territory government is committed to supporting the important work that they do in Canberra.

I repeat: this is not a bill about regulation; it is a bill about taxation. Specifically, it is about the entitlements of a narrow subset of organisations to benefit from ACT tax exemptions. The bill does not create any new red tape or compliance costs for genuinely charitable organisations. What the bill does, Madam Speaker, through you to the opposition members, is narrowly target four types of organisations named in the legislation as “excluded organisations”. These are: political parties; industrial organisations; organisations that promote trade, industry or commerce; and professional organisations. I do not think there is anywhere in the community where the common perception would be that these types of organisations are seen as charitable in the traditional sense of what a charity is or what it does. I have not heard many people argue that the Liberal Party is a charity.

For the vast majority of organisations, the process for seeking a taxation exemption—and let me remind members, this is about taxation exemptions—remains exactly the same. The difference will be for the excluded organisations. Whilst political parties and unions are excluded entirely, and rightly so, the bill does contain an important safeguard to ensure that other organisations can still apply for a tax exemption. They must first satisfy the commissioner that they meet the prerequisites to be recognised by a beneficial organisation determination.

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