Australian disasters – setting up a tax-deductible appeal
Collecting for an established DGR offers advantages as the existing fund will already have systems in place to handle funds and get assistance to the disaster victims quickly.
However, if you decide you want to start a DGR to provide for disaster relief in Australia, your options include setting up:
- a necessitous circumstances fund
- a public benevolent institution
- an Australian disaster relief fund
- a public ancillary fund.
In response to large-scale disasters, the government may also specifically list funds that can receive tax-deductible donations from the public (see Listed by name in tax law).
Necessitous circumstances funds
A necessitous circumstances fund is a public fund established and maintained for the purposes of relieving the necessitous circumstances of people in Australia.
The expression 'necessitous circumstances' refers to financial necessity. It does not extend to needs generally. The particular circumstances giving rise to financial necessity might not be permanent. For example, cyclones, floods and other disasters can cause people to be in short-term financial need.
The common method of relieving necessitous circumstances is by giving money or goods directly to the person.
Necessitous circumstances funds and tax deductible gifts
Public benevolent institutions
If the relief provided goes beyond distributions of money or goods, the organisation is more likely to be a public benevolent institution.
A public benevolent institution is a nor-for-profit organisation established and maintained for the direct relief of poverty, sickness, suffering, distress, misfortune, disability or helplessness.
Is your organisation a public benevolent institution?
Australian disaster relief funds
An Australian disaster relief fund is a public fund that is established and maintained solely to provide funds for the relief of people in Australia in distress as a result of a disaster. The disaster must be declared and must meet the relevant criteria. Australian disaster relief funds can include funds providing relief by way of assistance to re-establish a community.
To qualify, the disaster must:
- be declared
- have developed rapidly
- have resulted in widespread damage or physical suffering.
One of the following must apply to the disaster:
- it is declared to be a disaster by a Treasury Minister
- it is declared to be a disaster by, or with the approval of, a Minister of a state or territory under the law of the state or territory
- it gives rise to a declaration of a state of emergency by, or with the approval of, a Minister of a state or territory under the law of the state or territory.
Many disasters that are declared in government media releases and websites as disasters do not meet the declaration requirements of this DGR category. We maintain a list of disasters that have met these requirements.
This type of fund may provide money for a broad range of activities. These include providing emergency shelter, health care and food supplies, and relief for people through trauma counselling and through work on buildings, amenities, locations and infrastructure.
Australian disaster relief funds and tax deductible gifts
Public ancillary funds
Public ancillary funds are ancillary funds established and maintained under a will or instrument of trust solely for one of the following purposes:
- providing money, property or benefits to other DGRs
- establishing DGRs.
A public ancillary fund must not carry on any other activities or make distributions to another public ancillary fund.
A public ancillary fund may provide disaster relief by providing money, property or benefits to DGRs that:
- provide disaster relief such as necessitous circumstances funds, public benevolent institutions or Australian disaster relief funds
- require money to restore their own facilities after damage in a disaster.
Public ancillary funds
Other organisations that are DGRs may also seek donations for assistance in relation to damage to their own facilities. For example, a school that is a DGR for its school building fund may seek donations for the repair of the school's buildings damaged in a disaster.
Types of DGRs
If you want to establish a tax deductible appeal fund, the types of funds you can set up for Australian disasters are necessitous circumstances funds, public benevolent institutions, Australian disaster relief funds and public ancillary funds.