Defining Regulation and Taxing the Not-for-Profit Sector in Australia: Law and Policy for the 21st Century

ARC Discovery Project

Project Overview

The not-for-profit sector is crucial to the economy and social inclusion in Australia. The sector's role and significance is growing but it struggles with complex and disparate taxation requirements and piecemeal supervision by state and federal governments.

This project addresses both the needs of the sector and public expectations of it by comprehensively researching legal definition, regulation and tax rules and recommending appropriate reform, thereby making a significant contribution to National Priority Research area, Promoting and Maintaining Good Health and Well Being, Priority Goal 4, 'understanding and strengthening key elements of Australia's social and economic fabric'.

The project will address the following key issues:

  • whether there is a need for a legislative definition of charities and other not-for-profit organisations, and if so, what this should include and what form it should take;
  • how to simplify the complex taxation arrangements for not-for-profit organisations;
  • how to simplify the complex regulatory framework for not-for-profit organisations.


See list of publications


Defining, Taxing and Regulating the Not-for-Profit Sector in the 21st Century Conference (19-20 July 2012, Melbourne)

The Not-for-Profit Project hosted a major international conference on 19-20 July 2012 at the Melbourne Law School.

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Forum on Aid/Watch: Implications for the not-for-profit sector

The Not-for-Profit Project held an open forum on the decision in 2010 of the High Court on Aid/Watch Incorporated v Commissioner of Taxation [2010] HCA 42 on 10 February 2011, in partnership with PilchConnect and Changemakers Australia. The two-hour event included speakers from the Not-for-Profit Project, Associate Professors Ann O'Connell and Matthew Harding, as well as an excellent range of speakers from the legal, academic and not-for-profit sector: Associate Professor James Goodman (Aid/Watch and University of Technology Sydney), Elizabeth O'Shea (Maurice Blackburn), Libby Klein (Moores Legal), Alexandra Richards QC, Alice Macdougall (Freehills) and Esther Abrams (Changemakers Australia). The event was ably chaired by Associate Professor Miranda Stewart, a member of the Not-for-Profit Project. The forum was enthusiastically received, attracting over 100 guests from the federal and State government, the legal sector, other not-for-profit advisers, and of course the not-for-profit sector itself.

The following speaking notes for the presentations were kindly supplied:


The Not-for-Profit Project hosted a workshop on Wednesday 18 August 2010 at Melbourne Law School with representatives from government, not-for-profit organisations and peak bodies, and advisers to not-for-profits. The outcomes of the workshop, workshop program and reference paper for attendees are available below. As the workshop was conducted under the Chatham House Rule, individual participants are not identified.

Australian Charity Law Association Conference

The Not-for-Profit Project presented papers at the Australian Charity Law Association's 2011 Conference, held in Melbourne on 23 September 2011. The papers presented are available below.

Australian Charity Law Association workshop on statutory definition

Dr Joyce Chia conducted a workshop on the statutory definition on behalf of the Australian Charity Law Association in Sydney on 6 December 2011. The presentations for the workshop are available below.

Australian Charity Law Association seminar on not-for-profit reform

The Not-for-Profit Project conducted a seminar on the state of not-for-profit reform on 23 March 2012. The presentations for the seminar are available below.

Project team

Chief Investigators

  • Professor Ann O'Connell, (Melbourne Law School)
  • Professor Miranda Stewart, (Melbourne Law School)
  • Associate Professor Matthew Harding, (Melbourne Law School)

Research Fellow

  • Dr Joyce Chia

Research Assistants

  • Ms Anna Dziedzic
  • Ms Julia Wang

Professors Ann O'Connell and Miranda Stewart were appointed as members of the Not-for-Profit Sector Tax Concession Working Group.

Project details

Type of grant

Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Project grant

Funds Received