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Did you know that when it comes to accounting, balance sheets can vary significantly in their structure and content? In fact, for organisations that fall under the umbrella of not-for-profit entities, the rules of the financial game are quite distinct.

You might be thinking, “Why does this matter to me? Well, it matters more than you might imagine. You see, understanding the intricacies of not-for-profit (NFP) accounting is essential, especially if you’re involved with or support such organisations.

This article is here to shed light on what makes NFP accounting so special. So, let’s dive in and demystify the financial world of these unique organisations, and along the way, we’ll address the financial concerns and challenges that often go hand in hand.

What Makes Not-for-Profit Special

Let’s uncover the specifics of not-for-profit accounting, shedding light on the distinctive aspects that set it apart. In this section, we will explore the following key points:

  • Accounting Standards and Legal Structures
  • Tax Exemptions and Concessions
  • Charities vs. Non-Charities
  • Funding Sources and Income Streams
  • Dissolution and Asset Transfer
  • Utilisations of Profits
What’s So Special About Not-for-profit Accounting

Accounting Standards and Legal Structures

In Australia, not-for-profit organizations adhere to certain unique accounting standards tailored to their sector, such as AASB 1058. Let’s explore the specifics.

Accounting Standards: Not-for-profits (NFP) are required to adhere to accounting standards that cater to their unique financial reporting needs. These standards emphasise accountability, transparency, and the proper allocation of transaction to fulfil the organisation’s need. One such set of standards is the Australian Accounting Standard Board (AASB) specifically tailored for not-for-profit entities.

Legal Structures: Not-for-profit organisations come in various legal forms, including charities and non-charities. Charities, which are a subset of not-for-profits, operate with the primary goal of providing a public benefit. Non-charities encompass a broader spectrum of organisations, such as sporting clubs, incorporated association, and social societies. Each legal structure comes with its own governance and reporting requirements.

Tax Exemptions and Concessions

Not-for-profit organisations often enjoy tax advantages, which contribute to their financial sustainability. Here’s a closer look at these benefits:

Income Tax Exemption: Charities registered with relevant authorities, like the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), are exempt from income tax. This means that they are not required to pay income tax on the funds they receive, allowing them to allocate more resources to their mission. Even non-charity not-for-profits may be eligible for income tax exemptions.

GST Concessions: Not-for-profits typically have a higher threshold for Goods & Service Tax (GST) registration, which means they register for GST at a higher revenue level than for-profit businesses. Additionally, they can choose whether to report GST on a cash or accrual basis, providing them with more flexibility in managing their finances.

Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) Status: Some charities are eligible for DGR status. This status allows donors to claim a tax deduction for their contributions. For instance, if you donate more than a certain amount to organisations like Médecins Sans Frontières or the Heart Foundation, you can claim a tax deduction when you file your personal tax return.

Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT) Concessions: Charities may also benefit from FBT concessions, enabling them to offer tax-effective salary sacrificing to their staff, and enhancing employee benefits.

State Government Benefits: In addition to federal-level concessions, some state governments offer further benefits, including exemptions on stamp duty and state payroll tax. It’s worthwhile to explore the specific benefits offered in your state.

Charities vs. Non-Charities

It’s essential to distinguish between charities and non-charities in the not-for-profit sector. Charities operate with the sole aim of providing a public benefit and may hold DGR status. Non-charity not-for-profits encompass a wide range of organisations that may focus on social, recreational, or professional pursuits. Understanding this distinction helps in determining eligibility for certain tax benefits and concessions.

Funding Sources and Income Streams

Not-for-profit organisations rely on diverse income sources to sustain their operations. Here are some primary income streams unique to this sector:

Grants: Not-for-profits often receive grants from government entities, local councils, and philanthropic funds. These grants may come with specific guidelines and contractual obligations that the organisation must fulfil.

Fundraising: Many not-for-profits engage in fundraising activities to raise money. This can take various forms, including media campaigns, events, sponsorship, and selling tickets or merchandise. Fundraising is a fundamental source of income for these organisations.

Membership-Based Income: Unlike memberships in commercial entities, not-for-profit memberships are more about showing support for the organisation’s mission rather than receiving specific services. Memberships contribute to the financial stability of these organisations.

Income Diversification: To ensure financial stability, not-for-profits may explore different income-generating avenues, such as employing people, charging for services, selling or leasing property, and investing in shares.

Utilisations of Profits

Understanding how profits can be utilised in not-for-profit organisations is crucial. Here are some examples:

  • Investing in Growth: Not-for-profits can use surplus funds to expand their services, launch new projects, or employ additional staff. For example, a charity might use surplus funds to establish outreach programmes to serve more beneficiaries.
  • Reserve Funds: Maintaining reserve funds is essential for the long-term sustainability of not-for-profit organisations. These reserves act as a financial safety net for unexpected expenses or fluctuations in income.
  • Salary and Compensation: Not-for-profits can pay reasonable salaries to their employees, ensuring they attract and retain talented individuals dedicated to the organisation’s mission

Overview of the key points of Not-for-Profit Accounting:


Aspect of Not-for-Profit Accounting


Accounting Standards and Legal Structures

Not-for-profits follow special accounting rules Australian Accounting Standard Board (AASB) and operate as charities or non-charities, each with specific state Government .

Tax Exemptions and Concessions

Not-for-profits enjoy tax benefits like income tax exemptions, GST concessions, and charity status (DGR).

Charities vs. Non-Charities

Charities provide public benefit and may have DGR status, while non-charities have diverse missions.

Funding Sources and Income Streams

Not-for-profits rely on grants, fundraising, memberships, and diverse income sources to sustain their work.

Dissolution and Asset Transfer

Closing organisations transfer assets to similar not-for-profits, ensuring continued support for charitable causes.


Not-for-Profit Accounting stands as a unique and vital field, driven by a commitment to social good and community impact. The special considerations it entails, from distinct income sources to reinvesting profits in missions and ensuring proper asset transfers upon closure, make it an essential aspect of effective financial management for organisations dedicated to making a positive difference.

Embracing these principles and understanding the nuances of Not-for-Profit Accounting ensures that these organisations can continue their valuable work and contribute to a better, more compassionate world.

If you’re seeking professional assistance with managing your accounting and bookkeeping, Number Solutions Tax and Accounting is here to help. Our team of experts is dedicated to providing top-notch service tailored to your unique financial needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out and discuss how we can support your business. Give us a call at 02 9174 5327 or and take the first step towards streamlined and efficient financial management.

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