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Overseas Aid Gift Deduction Scheme: Review

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is currently reviewing the Overseas Aid Gift Deduction Scheme Guidelines and Processes. It has taken written submissions and held round table discussions in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

Findings and Summary of Findings can be found at this link.

Feedback so far from many non government organisations working to improve life for people living in third world countries is that they find the regime imposed on them onerous and ineffective.

Common themes emerging from the discussion to date include that:

  • The process is disproportionate to the risk it is designed to prevent: that there is too much red tape: with the advent of the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission (ACNC) and the ongoing roles of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), there are suggestions that both of those regulators could take a more relevant role in the Scheme.
  • The Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) Code of Conduct could be part of the endorsement process, rather than an additional standard which overseas aid DGR’s seek separately.
  • Mentors could be engaged to train overseas aid charities to higher governance standards.
  • “Relief” guidelines do not presently take into account long term humanitarian situations. Relief for communities must still have priority over that for individuals. Interestingly there has been a debate over whether “educational expenses” should remain classified as “welfare”, bearing in mind that education can increase a person’s participation in economic and social life and build a nation’s skills base. Interesting discussions have also related to orphanages and that distribution of aid not be prejudiced on the basis of religion.
  • Child protection standards and implementation of child protection practices have general support.
  • Better guidance is required on counter terrorism criteria.

Some interesting broader reform issues included:

  • one approval body to oversee all DGR endorsements and DGR endorsement based on charity registration
  • all DGR categories relating to overseas aid and development to be streamlined
  • considering whether PBI’s working overseas should be subject to the same requirements as OAGDS
  • track record and how it is measured if a charity has partnered with another
  • allowing Australian funders to give directly to organisations overseas (cross border philanthropy)
  • allowing volunteers to claim tax deductions for out of pocket expenses such as air fares, accommodation and other in country expenses

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