Cultural organisations

A cultural organisation is a not-for-profit (NFP) society, association or club established for the encouragement of art, literature, music, or for musical purposes.

Income tax exemption checklist – Cultural organisations

Your organisation will be exempt from income tax, and can self-assess its exemption, if it meets all of the following requirements:

  • it is a not-for-profit society, association or club
  • it is established for either of the following purposes
    • the encouragement of art, literature or music
    • musical purposes
  • it is not a charity
  • it meets one of the three following tests:
    • physical presence in Australia test
    • DGR test
    • prescribed by law test
  • it complies with all the substantive requirements in its governing rules
  • it applies its income and assets solely for the purpose for which it is established.


The main purpose of your organisation must be the encouragement of art, literature, music, or for musical purposes. To work out your organisation's main purpose, look at your organisation's constituent documents, activities, use of funds and its history. Any other purpose of the organisation must be incidental, ancillary or secondary to the musical purposes or encouragement of art, literature or music.

For income tax exemption, art includes drama and ballet as well as painting, architecture and sculpture. It does not include exhibition of stamps by philatelic clubs and associations.

Literature includes a wide range of written or printed works. It includes works in different languages, on particular subjects or by particular authors.

Music includes the performance of vocal or instrumental works, and covers various styles (for example, classical, jazz, popular and liturgical).

Encouragement can include training, performing, displaying, providing information, studying, judging and critiquing. Professional associations set up to advance the common interests of their members (for example, artists or performers) do not have the required purpose.

Example 1 – Cultural organisation to encourage literature

A not-for-profit society is set up to give people access to the writings of John Dennis. It lends books to members, runs a reading circle and helps people doing tertiary study on the author.

The society is established to encourage literature.

Example 2 – Cultural organisation established for musical purposes

A not-for-profit association is set up to perform Indian music written by contemporary Queensland composers. It liaises with composers, gets instruments and performs the music.

The association is established for musical purposes.

End of example

If your organisation's main purpose is providing social and recreational facilities and activities it will not be exempt. This is the case even if your organisation also gives money to encourage the arts, literature or music.

Example – Not an exempt organisation

A not-for-profit club's main operations are providing dining, gaming and leisure facilities at its clubhouse. It gives a yearly grant to an associated singing club, but is not involved with the singing itself.

It is not exempt.

End of example

See also:

If your organisation does not meet all the requirements for exemption for this category, you should check the other exemption categories in the Types of income tax exempt organisations.

Last modified: 20 Jul 2015QC 46313