There are around 28,000 officially registered charities in New Zealand doing important work to make Aotearoa a better place. People donate around $1.5 billion annually to New Zealand charities to enable them to do their work.
When it comes to an organisation, the term ‘charity’ has special meaning. To call itself a registered charity, an organisation needs to go through a proper process, which is governed by the Charities Act 2005 (the Act).
This law exists to promote public trust and confidence in the charitable sector and to encourage and promote the effective use of charitable resources. In a nutshell, it is about ensuring good practice by charities, which is a great thing for everyone.
To obtain charitable status an entity must have legitimate charitable purposes, and these are set out in the Act as: relieving poverty; advancing education; advancing religion; or other purposes beneficial to the community. In other words a cause may be good but it may not be capable of registering as a charitable entity.
This doesn’t mean that a cause that falls outside of these categories is not worthy; it simply means that by law that cause is unlikely to be able to become a registered charity – it may still be a charity which is incorporated with Companies Office though.
We realise this area of law can be confusing so have written a free guide about this for those who want to set up charities which is available here
Does charitable status matter?
There are some advantages for organisations to be registered charities. Funders and donors often feel more comfortable giving to a registered charity because they know that registered charities are required to adhere to good practice. There may also be tax advantages for the organisation, and for donors, who may qualify for tax rebates and be able to claim back 1/3 of what they give to the charity.
To help ensure charities are operating well, registered charities must submit annual reports to Charities Services. The reports are all publicly accessible on the Charities Register, so anyone can see how the charity is performing.
It is an offence to even imply that you are a registered charitable entity if you are not registered, because it is misleading. Being a ‘charitable trust’ does not mean an entity is a registered charity. The term ‘charitable trust’ is simply the legal structure. A charitable trust still needs to be registered to have genuine legal charitable status which is done by applying to Charities Services.
Registered charity or not?
It’s easy to check if an organisation is a registered charity by doing a quick search using the Charities Register.
Dealing with bogus ‘charities’
If you discover that an entity is wrongfully describing themselves as a charity to seek an advantage, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Find out more about making a complaint on the Charities Services website.
We deal with charities and those who want to set them up a lot and have many free resources on our website here. Should you require assistance, please feel free to contact Steven Moe email@example.com, or Yang Su firstname.lastname@example.org or any of the team at Parry Field Lawyers.