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  • Not-for-profit Advisory Group minutes 18 November 2015

    Meeting details






    18 November 2015








    Tony Poulakis



    Contact and secretariat

    Gess Sottile


    (02) 6216 2264



    Murray Baird, Assistant Commissioner and General Counsel

    Arts Law Centre

    Robyn Ayres, Executive Director

    Australian Catholic Bishops Conference

    Father Brian Lucas, General Secretary

    Australian Conservation Foundation

    Elizabeth McKinnon, General Counsel

    Herbert Smith Freehills

    John Emerson, Consultant

    Jobs Australia Ltd

    David Thompson AM, CEO
    Chair, National Roundtable of Nonprofit Organisations

    Minter Ellison representing
    The Tax Institute

    Paul Ingram, Partner

    Philanthropy Australia

    Krystian Seibert, Manager Policy & Research

    Salvation Army

    John McIntosh, Charities Tax Advisory Service

    Uniting Care Australia

    Joe Zabar, Director with Uniting Care


    Jodie Wearne, Senior Advisor, Revenue Group


    Tim Dyce, Deputy Commissioner, NFP Client Experience Owner

    Tony Poulakis, Assistant Commissioner,
    PGH, Policy and Corporate Risks and NFP Client Experience Lead

    Rod Walker, Director PGH NFP Hub

    Albert Beric, PGH NFP Risk Manager

    Mark Ferguson, PGH NFP Hub

    Ilana Millar, Assistant Commissioner (Senior Tax Counsel)
    Tax Counsel Network

    Robert Drummond, Assistant Commissioner, Business Reporting and Registrations, Operations

    Judy Attwood, Senior Director Technical Excellence

    Matthew Petersen, Operations Manager, Interpretive Guidance NFP


    Prof. Myles McGregor-Lowndes, Director, Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, QUT

    Richard Gelski , Partner, Johnson Winter & Slattery, representing Executive Council of Australian Jewry

    Next meeting 16 March 2016.

    Record of meeting

    Key messages

    • The ATO’s NFP Hub and Business Reporting and Registrations are meeting fortnightly to ensure that ABR and related issues raised by members are resolved quickly.
    • Treasury and the ATO are working together to consider and progress issues raised by members and other NFP representatives about the need for law changes to address problems with the special conditions governing rules in Division 50 of ITAA1997.
    • As part of the Reinventing the ATO program, the ATO will be working with members and other NFP representatives to improve services including the ATO’s public advice and communication products.


    Members were welcomed to the meeting with an opening statement from the ATO.

    Confirm record of previous meeting

    The record of the 15 July 2015 meeting was confirmed with a minor change and now is available on

    NFP perspective presentations

    Jobs Australia and Philanthropy Australia each gave presentations about how they operate and the issues that concern them and their clients, followed by general discussion.  

    Update from the ATO's NFP client experience owner and NFP client experience lead

    Due to time pressures, this item was not addressed separately.

    ABR issues updated

    The ATO’s Assistant Commissioner, Business Reporting and Registrations reported that substantial progress has been made on issues raised by members about the operation of the ABR and related issues but recognised that there are still some items that he and his team are working through. A summary was provided to members.

    The Chair advised that the key ATO officers involved in considering and resolving issues now meet fortnightly to ensure issues are resolved quickly.

    Members were encouraged to continue raising issues with the ATO and the ATO undertook to investigate and resolve issues quickly and to keep this group informed of progress.

    Action: Any new ABN related systemic issues identified by members should be submitted to the NFP Advisory Group mailbox


    • Fast track process – members asked how NFPs would find out about this new process. The ATO advised that this process is still a pilot and the intention is that the process will not be advertised but will be offered to clients that require ABNs urgently. The ATO advised that it would be difficult to outline every circumstance that would qualify and it is not intended to be prescriptive.
      Action: The ATO will monitor this new process and test that the changes are effective and report back to this group.
    • Systems fixes – members asked when systems changes will be made. ATO advised that there are no dates yet however, because the changes are small the expectation is early 2016.
    • Site locations on ABR – members asked if there is an update on concerns raised at previous meetings about carve outs to this rule for example, women’s refuges. The ATO advised that refuges would not need to publish their locations. Members asked for guidance about this requirement. It was suggested that the principles used by the ACNC to withhold certain information about charities should be looked at.
      Action: The ATO will consider publishing clearer guidance for NFPs about reporting site locations on ABR.

    Treasury update

    The Chair introduced the new Treasury representative who provided the following update:

    Deductible gift recipients –Treasury often get information and suggestions for improvement and are keen to know what is working and what needs to be looked at in the future. Consideration of any changes to the DGR registers would need to be mindful of the findings of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment which is currently underway. This inquiry includes the Register of Environmental OrganisationsExternal Link and is due to report in early 2016.


    Members noted that:

    • Arts organisations face difficulties accessing deductible gift recipient status through the Register of Cultural Organisations process. Any opportunity to simplify the registration process for the arts register would be welcomed. Members noted that a simple reform would be a good way to achieve red tape reduction.
    • The previous government undertook reviews which may be helpful, for example the Mitchell reportExternal Link.

    ACNC – The Government has noted that abolishing the ACNC is no longer a priority and in relation to the ongoing role of the ACNC Treasury noted that work is progressing, so far the government is supportive of the work of the ACNC.

    ‘In Australia’ – Treasury had no update on the timing for consideration of the ‘unenacted’ measure.

    Division 50 of ITAA1997 and special conditions governing rules – the ATO noted that the repeal of these rules would potentially reduce red tape and that the ATO has no strong objection to this law change. Members voiced their strong support for the repeal of these rules.

    Treasury was happy to discuss individual topics with members out of session and report back at the March 2016 meeting.


    ‘In Australia’ 

    • On 17 August 2015 an ATO 'in Australia' discussion paper issued to members of the NFP Advisory Group and other NFP representatives for comments and feedback.
    • A compendium of the feedback received in response to the discussion paper was drafted and provided to members of the working group.
    • The submissions indicate that there is some confusion about this issue – partly because of the different tests and also inconsistencies between material published by the ATO and ACNC.
    • Most submissions agreed that purposes and beneficiaries do not need to be in Australia in the case of public benevolent institutions and other deductible gift recipients (unless they have a specific requirement in their Item description in Income Tax Assessment Act 1997).
    • The perception is that the overseas aid gift deduction scheme (OAGDS) is undermined because deductible gift recipients can send money overseas outside this process.
    • Now looking at preparing new public guidance and will consult with the ‘in Australia’ working group on the best format.


    • Members commended the ATO on the process around this consultation.
    • Members suggested that the need for more guidance on ‘in Australia’ on the web should be a matter of priority as there are organisation that are encouraging the sending of funds overseas without going through the OAGDS.

    Action: reconvene ‘in Australia’ working group to meet before the end of December 2015.

    Action: ATO will work with ACNC to address inconsistencies in published material that includes content about ‘in Australia’ as a matter of priority.

    Review of public advice

    • The ATO is reviewing all public advice and guidance for NFPs and will be updating rulings progressively and withdrawing ACNC related material as ACNC material comes online.
    • The next products to be considered is ATO advice around cultural gifts and cultural institutions, the ATO will talk with the Ministry of the Arts as well as cultural institutions about how to improve the advice.

    Action: A workshop will be organised to commence discussions on the review of ATO public advice around cultural gifts and institutions.

    Disaster Response guidelines – The ATO is working with Attorney Generals to set up Frequently Asked Questions which are expected to be published December 2015. These have now been published, see Australian disaster relief funds Frequently Asked Questions.

    ATO general health of the system update

    ATO’s Health of the System report – the ATO noted that when this group was formed, the ATO’s Health of the System report was a focus because we want to improve the system. In summary:

    • Reinventing the ATO is a priority.
    • ATO is working to address emerging risks around ABR issues, ‘in Australia’, ancillary funds, and self-assessing income tax exempt entities.

    Feedback sought on proposed changes to ABN application questions – the ATO’s NFP Risk Manager explained the changes and asked the group if they had any comments.


    • Members were supportive of the proposed changes however; general consensus is that the order of the questions should be changed.
    • Members said that there is still a language gap, noting that they represent networks of chief financial officers and the like that need to understand the requirements and offered to help the ATO use words that NFPs will understand.
    • Members thanked the NFP Risk Manager for his help in finding solutions for issues they have raised.

    Action: The ATO will seek feedback from members on communication products when they are being updated or developed.

    Engaging with NFPs - Art Road Show, a collaboration between the Arts community and the ATO

    Arts Law talked about a recent Arts Road Show which was the result of collaboration between Arts Law, Creative Partnerships Australia and the ATO. In summary:

    • A roadshow visited every capital city and was promoted through arts organisations.
    • The presentation was designed to help arts organisations to navigate tax concessions and fundraising issues as these are really important issues for them.
    • The presentation, which took the form of a panel discussion with the audience able to participate throughout, was very well received and demonstrated how important it was to collaborate this way. There were around 20 participants at each session. The question is how do you replicate this collaborative effort for other sectors?
    • The audience included representatives of both large and small arts organisations.

    Outcome of the Reinventing the ATO Future Experience Workshop and developing a four year plan

    The following additional NFP representatives phoned in for this agenda item, these representatives (along with others that were not able to attend) were invited as a follow up to their attendance at the 30 September 2015 NFP Future Experience workshop:

    • Jane Meyer-Tucker, social engineer with NFP expertise
    • Glenn Mowbray, business manager, Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
    • Elizabeth Shalders, senior associate, Lew Holdway Lawyers, practicing in not-for-profit law and governance
    • Jae Yang, senior associate, Prolegis Lawyers, specialising in charity registration, establishment, corporate structuring and tax concessions and endorsements

    In summary, the ATO’s NFP Hub Director:

    • Provided an overview of the work to date on Reinventing the ATO and the NFP component of that work, reminding the group that the intention of the NFP Future Experience workshop, held on 30 September 2015, was to gather ideas from NFP representatives about what the ATO can do over the next four years to improve the NFP client experience with the ATO.
    • Noted that some key things that the ATO heard at the workshop were around fixing the basics, making dealing with government easier, and the need for the ATO to work more closely with the ACNC.
    • Explained that the 30 September workshop generated hundreds of ideas and the ATO is now going through a process of grouping and prioritising and finding links between these ideas to find tangible changes that can be made.
    • Stated that the ATO will be talking more with NFPs about their ATO experience because it has a genuine interest in hearing the NFP perspective.
    • Shared a document outlining five propose key focus areas and some priority changes, noting however, that these ideas are in the early stages and not yet final solutions.
    • Said the ATO wants to provide more tailored advice and support as part of a revised communication and engagement strategy, to be more visible and engaged for example, more NFP relevant webinars including one about how the ATO and ACNC work together. However, the ATO has limited resources so will be looking to be more creative about using technology to more accessible.
    • Noted that in the move to go digital the ATO recognises that NFP clients may not always be able to transact digitally and so will need to be offer support and alternatives.
    • Recognised that the ATO needs to communicate in a way that clients understand and gives the right messages.


    Members and the additional NFP representatives commented on the ATO priorities document as follows:

    • Change ‘fix the basics’ ‘fix the ATO basics’.
    • The phrase ‘continue to...’ doesn’t do it for people.
    • The order of the items under ‘fix the basics’ is good, on the right track.
    • Don’t express things as being ‘done to’ clients e.g. instead of ‘consult’ say ‘talk with’.
    • AUSkey and other portal type services should be listed as part of the online experience.
    • NFPs need a way to ask questions online, if they have tried to find the answers but can’t then an option to say, email in questions, would be useful.
    • All clients need to be provided the same service; don’t like the idea of a preferential or ‘elite’ service.
    • Good to be able to make anonymous inquiries online, just like on the phone when they ask you some questions to find out what you need to know, clients don’t always want to register and identify themselves.
    • An app about identifying key times when clients have tax questions.
    • In relation to joint training events, consider using ‘the academy’ approach such as sessions run by Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes in 2000.
    • Members noted that a lot more work needs to be done to improve generally for example, fixing broken links, writing in a language they understand, writing with the audience in mind. A suggestion was made to have shadow websites, one non-technical and the other technical (law).

    Action: ATO will look at wording taking into account feedback from members.

    Action: ATO to include an agenda item to discuss tailored service ideas such key client manager and concierge services in the agenda for the March 2016 meeting.

    Action: ATO to include AUSKey and portal type services as part of the online experience.

    ATO Reinvention - online decision support tool

    The group was shown a walk-through presentation of an online decision support tool being developed by the ATO.

    Action: Any comments or feedback on the online decision support tool can be emailed to the NFP Advisory Group inbox.

    ATO Reinvention - streamlining ancillary fund reporting

    The ATO explained that discussions are underway with the ACNC about options to streamline ancillary fund reporting including the possibility of the ACNC collecting information on behalf of the ATO as part of their Annual Information Statement (AIS) process. The ATO is exploring how other information can be sourced through existing, natural reporting systems.

    The ACNC explained that the questions seeking the information required specifically by the ATO would not form part of the AIS, and so would not be part of any AIS report, but clients could be asked a few additional questions in a drop down box, for example.

    Members asked that the confidentiality concerns of ancillary funds be kept in mind including concerns that a fund may have about information provided in confidence to the ACNC being passed on to the ATO.

    Action: ATO will provide an update on this work at the March 2016 meeting.

    ATO Reinvention - tailored FBT information for NFPs

    The ATO’s NFP Hub Director advised the group that the ATO is running a number of FBT webinars for NFPs and information about these events will be issued through the ATO’s Non-Profit News Service.

    Review of NFP Advisory Group membership

    The ATO advised that it is usual practice to review committee membership every two years and will consider undertaking a review in the first half of 2016.

    Other business

    Action: The ATO will email members with proposed meetings dates for the 2016 calendar year.

      Last modified: 06 Apr 2016QC 48664