The Australian Council of Social Service today welcomed the decision by the High Court of Australia confirming the charitable status of Aid/Watch for taxation purposes, whilst preserving the right to freely comment on Government aid policy.
The Australian Taxation Office had previously ruled that Aid/Watch’s lobbying activities meant its main purpose was political and that it could not be categorised as a charitable institution.
“This ruling by the High Court today is a sensible one, confirming what is already known by groups working in the non-government sector: namely, that advocacy in support of people experiencing poverty and disadvantage is indeed charitable work,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
“The advocacy role Aid/Watch plays in the sector is in the public good as it raises awareness of inequality and highlights ways to address it. It is part of the everyday work of most community service and aid delivery organisations in Australia.
“This case shows that Australia’s taxation law does not reflect the reality of operations of charitable organisations.
“We share the view of groups like Australian Council for International Development that there is a pressing need for law reform in this area.
“The Compact with the Third Sector signed by the Federal Government and the non-for-profit sector in 2009 recognises the right of NGO’s to conduct advocacy activities. It is time this was reflected in taxation law.
“The taxation treatment of NGO’s should be one of the first priorities for the new Non-Profit Sector Reform Council about to be established, in light of this ruling,” Dr Goldie said.
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