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Charities Services won’t be taking action on late returns during lockdown

16 April 2020

Pandemic-related preventions to meeting shortly-due annual returns may be cause for an extension for charities, Charities Services says.

The regulator for Charities has listed answers to frequently asked questions to assist charities with practical impacts of their operations.

Among general compliance, Charities Services announced they will not be taking action on any late returns during lockdown, but encourage those at risk of filing late to contact them about late returns or requesting an extension.

Other frequently asked questions for charities include:

Does the Government's economic support package extend to registered charities?

Yes. More information on the qualification criteria, and how to apply is on the Work and Income New Zealand website.

The government has also announced a targeted support package for social sector and community groups, especially those supporting at risk communities and families.

A specific page on the Government’s COVID-19 website has dedicated information for community groups, faith-based groups, clubs and societies.

What if I have to cancel or postpone my Annual General Meeting (AGM) or other key events/meetings?

If your charity’s rules do not allow for this flexibility, your charity must not hold an AGM during the Level 4 lockdown period, and charities may have made a decision not to hold an AGM before this time for safety reasons.

Your charity’s rules may be flexible enough to allow you to postpone your AGM, or hold your AGM remotely, through platforms such as Skype or Zoom. You may be also able to present your performance report electronically for approval.

If your charity’s rules do not allow for this flexibility, your charity must not hold an AGM during the Level 4 lockdown period, and charities may have made a decision not to hold an AGM before this time for safety reasons.

Under the Charities Act, annual returns and performance reports are due to be filed with Charities Services six months after the end of the charity’s financial year.

A copy of Charities’ rules are available on the online Charities Register.

Is there support/guidance for those registered with the Companies Office?

The Government will be introducing legislation to make changes to the Companies Act to help businesses and not for profit organisations affected by COVID-19 and the Level 4 Alert period.

What if I need an extension to file my Annual Return, or need to be urgently re-registered?

Charities Services will not send out regular reminders about filing annual returns within the six month deadline in recognition this may cause extra stress.

Extensions can be sought by emailing info@charities .govt.nz.

What if my auditor/reviewer can’t do an on-site visit?

All charities with operating expenditure of over $500,000 (review) or $1,000,000 (audit) must get their performance report/financial statement audited or reviewed.

With social distancing in place, auditors/accountants will not be able to complete onsite visits. It is advisable to scan relevant documents in electronic form to allow audits/reviews to be completed remotely if required.

Extensions can be requested where remote audits incur delays.

What can charities do to help?

In a time of need, charities are essential to meeting need in communities, but it’s important that charities follow their rules document and are acting within their charitable purpose.

Last updated on the 16th April 2020