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St Andrew’s College risks losing charity status after bungling financial reports

Daniel Ergas reports.

St Andrews

St Andrew’s College is at risk of losing its charity status and associated Commonwealth tax concessions after failing to submit its mandatory financial reporting to the Australian charities watchdog.

Honi can reveal the College is over nine months late in turning in its 2014 annual financial report, and has just weeks to file the documentation before it is designated for deregistration.

St Andrew’s College relies on its charity registration to be eligible for its status as a deductible gift recipient (the little accounting trick that allows its donors to deduct the sum of their donation to the College from their tax-assessable income each year).

Without that status, the College would be unable to access the already-donated assets that comprise its Foundation’s $8.8 million in funds earmarked for annual scholarships and irregular infrastructure development. In other words: without a current charity registration, no more scholarships, and no more building fund.

Micah Burch, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney Law School specialising in not-for-profit law, said that the College’s failure to report was “a little baffling”, and that the financial documentation was “information they should have readily available”.

While revocation of its registration is unlikely, the College’s failure to fulfil very basic reporting standards calls into question the governance practices of the College administration.

“This [overdue reporting] doesn’t appear to be best practice. This is not a good look for them, but it’s not catastrophic either. It can be easily fixed,” said Burch.

When asked if this possible revocation was a concern, the principal of St. Andrew’s College, Wayne Erickson, thanked Honi for “its note regarding the ACNC’s reporting requirements”.

“St Andrew’s College will meet its requirements under the legislation, lodging all necessary information in relation to 2014 and 2015 with the ACNC before the end of June 2016,” Erickson said.

If deregistered, the College would join the ranks of 14 other charities that have had their registration revoked in the past 24 months.

These include Help Save The Furry Ones, a South Australian charity deregistered last month after its founder improperly used donations on her online gambling addiction, and The First 24 Hrs Foundation, a charity established to promote disaster preparedness but notably made a $7,400 donation to the Liberal National Party before it was deregistered in March.

Nonetheless, Honi is happy to have reminded St. Andrew’s College of its, by all accounts, very standard obligations. We wish it luck in submitting its regular financial reporting. Hopefully it will not take nine months this time.