Charity regulation is a matter of balance. While there is a benefit in ensuring only worthy organisations receive tax concessions, it is important not to over-regulate and thus stultify the sector. The proposals in the current review of the Tax Deductible Gift Reform (DGR) framework do not achieve this balance. While they include some sensible recommendations to streamline and simply compliance processes, they also seek to police and prevent advocacy by not-for-profit (NFP) organisations, as well as creating additional red tape.
The Society are deeply concerned by proposals to constrain advocacy. Taxation law should not be used to suppress advocacy and silence dissent, nor should governments dictate to charities how they should pursue their charitable purposes. For the Society, advocacy has always been a key means of creating a more just and compassionate society: addressing the causes of poverty, and not just the consequences, is a crucial aspect of our mission and values. The Society – like many other charities – has a proud history of standing up for the people we support by speaking out against policies that contribute to inequality and injustice.
We believe several proposals in the Discussion Paper set a dangerous precedent, with the Government attempting to weaken and silence critics using financial and regulatory levers. We do not believe it is appropriate for the Government to single out the parts of the NFP sector that challenge their political agenda, and to marginalise and stifle critical voices through muscular regulation. Existing law already imposes appropriate limits on advocacy activities and charitable purpose. Further changes are unjustified and unnecessary, and represent a disturbing incursion into democratic rights and the independence of the NFP sector.