Charity wins in the High Court

The National Council of Women of New Zealand (NCWNZ) is delighted that the High Court has found in its favour in its case against Inland Revenue and the Charities Registration Board.

National President Rae Duff said the just released decision brought closure to the council’s protracted fight for justice since it was deregistered as a charity in August 2010.

In its 2010 deregistration decision, the Charities Registration Board said the council’s work was political and therefore not charitable. The council works for gender equality for women both nationally and at the community level through its 21 branches.

The council reapplied and was reregistered from September 2012. Rae Duff said nothing had changed in the council’s purposes, activities or constitution during the intervening period.

“Our problems worsened when IRD imposed tax on us for the 25 months we were off the charities register. The charities regulator said it couldn’t backdate our reregistration to August 2010, which would have cleared up our income tax situation.

“The impact was severe. We lost funding due to the wrongful deregistration and stigma, we had to pay tax, and our time and resources were consumed with associated issues. It brought our organisation to its knees temporarily and we had to lay off our two paid staff. The situation felt wrong and unfair.

“At this stage, the only option available to the council under the Charities Act was to file proceedings in the High Court against the Charities Registration Board’s refusal to backdate the registration and Inland Revenue’s income tax decision.

“It was a big step for a volunteer-led and run organisation to take court action – but we felt there were important principles with wider implications for the charitable sector.

Rae Duff said key aspects of the High Court decision are that the council’s registration should be backdated and the tax refunded.

Justice Dobson said in his decision that the council was entitled to be registered at all times during the period of deregistration. He acknowledged the council’s long and proud history. Justice Dobson said the Charities Act should be applied to facilitate charitable works, not frustrate them.

Rae Duff said the council appreciated the support it had received from
NCWNZ members and the wider charitable sector.

“I would like to acknowledge the council’s volunteer Board members from 2010 to today who found themselves rapidly becoming expert in what is a very complicated area – particularly past national presidents, Elizabeth Bang and Barbara Arnold.

“We would also like to thank Sue Barker Charities Law for their tireless determination to help us fight for justice.”

Rae Duff said the council would now take time to fully digest the decision. “ Once we can move this out of the court arena, we want to talk with relevant Minsters and government agencies to see what changes can be made as a result of what we’ve learnt.

“We do support regulation to promote public trust and confidence in charities and to support effective use of charitable resources. But we agree with the High Court that the regulation needs to facilitate charitable work, not frustrate it.”

ENDS

For further information contact Sue McCabe, Chief Executive, 021 263 9639.

Find a copy of the High Court decision here.

About the council:
The National Council of Women of New Zealand was established by suffragists including Kate Sheppard in 1896. It has 288 organisations that are members and about 260 individual members. It has 21 branches around the country. It employs two full-time-equivalent staff in its national office with volunteers undertaking the rest of its activity. It works to progress gender equality for women through a range of educational, awareness raising and advocacy activity.

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