How do we Regulate Activities within a Charity Law Framework Focussed on Purposes?

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The law regarding when an entity is or is not a charity focuses on that entity’s purposes, not its activities. Yet, much of the current civil society debate centres on particular charity activities: election campaigning, the discriminatory provision of goods and services, or carrying on large-scale commercial activities. The issue arises in many jurisdictions around the world. This article focuses on examples drawn primarily from Australasia to argue that there are alternative sources of regulation of relevance to Australasian charity activities and that evaluation and reform efforts would be best spent in focussing on these alternatives. In particular, broadly-applicable regulatory rules that apply to all entities engaging in activities such as anti-discrimination legislation; as well as charity-specific rules that might be justified as guarding against the charity/government or charity/business boundaries, or as rectifying charity deficiencies such as difficulties in raising equity capital. While the discussion focuses on how Australia and New Zealand might better regulate charity activities, the article informs that discussion by considering regulatory approaches to particular issues in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-86
JournalThird Sector Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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