A charity is an entity established for altruistic purposes that the law regards as charitable. Having charitable status can entitle an entity to certain tax benefits.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) currently sets the criteria it uses to decide whether or not an organisation is a charity in Taxation Ruling TR 2011/4 ( available at the ATO webpage). Most criteria for deciding what is a charity have been established by case law but the Extension of Charitable Purpose Act 2004(Cth) adjusts the concept for the purposes of Commonwealth law. Charities include most religious institutions, aged persons homes, homeless hostels, organisations relieving the special needs of people with disabilities and organisations that promote culture or environment protection.
The characteristics of a charity are:
- It is an entity (corporation, unincorporated association, trust or partnership) that is also a trust fund or an institution
- It exists for the public benefit or the relief of poverty
- Its sole purposes are charitable within the legal sense of that term, and
- It is non-profit
If you think that you might qualify or wish to qualify as a charity check out the Australian Tax Office website or contact the ATO on 1300 130 248.