Peter Costello

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Draft Legislation on the Definition of Charities



Claims that the tax status of charities has been threatened by draft legislation on the definition of a charity are false.

Charities have never been penalised for speaking out on public policy. To suggest that the Government has proposed this is false.

The Charities Bill 2003 Exposure Draft, which is in the public domain for the purpose of consultation and discussion, does not attempt to restrict criticism of public policy by recognised charities. There is no change from existing practice.

The draft legislation replicates the present law. The Exposure Draft definition follows the existing common law definition which requires that to be a charity, an organisation must have a dominant purpose that is charitable.

The Government announced this policy in August 2002, eleven months ago. Draft legislation was released last week. This draft provides, as is the current situation, that a charity must be not for profit, have a dominant purpose or purposes that are charitable and be for the public benefit.

While this definition follows the definition that has been determined by more than 400 years of common law precedent, the draft legislation would widen the definition of charity to include not-for-profit child care available to the public, self-help bodies that have open and non-discriminatory membership and closed or contemplative religious orders that offer prayerful intervention for the public.

Mr E.W Exell, Business Manager, Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and Chair of the Australian Catholic Church Tax Working Group, is involved in consultation on this legislation. The Government understands that Mr Exell represents all Catholic Church Agencies, including Catholic Health in the consultation process.

30 July 2003

Contact: David Alexander
Ph: 02 6277 7340

30 Jul 2003

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