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Registered Charitable Trusts - Advantages & Disadvantages
23 Sep 2018 Post by: Steven Moe

What is a Charitable Trust?

In New Zealand a common form that a charity will take is a charitable trust. These are used where there is not a "profit" motive for private gain for an individual from the activities of the trust. The regulator is both Charities Services (which registers charities if they meet legal criteria under the Charities Act 2005) and the Registrar of Incorporated Societies (which approves the incorporation of the trust boards under the Charitable Trusts Act 1957).

A registered charitable trust has the following key features:

- it is a separate legal entity;
- the liability of trustees is limited if the trust board has been incorporated;
- there is some cost involved in establishing the trust as certain documents are required but there is no cost to registering it; and
- there are ongoing reporting and administrative requirements.

Some Advantages

1. Separate Legal Entity

A charitable trust board which has been incorporated is a separate legal entity which can contract with others. A settlor (sometimes called donor) is needed to provide the initial amount which is how the trust is created (this is often a nominal figure such as $10).

2. Limited Liability

The liability of trustees is limited if the trust board has been incorporated. It is also common for a trust to provide indemnities for its trustees and officers and to take out insurance. Note, however, that trustees will be personally jointly and severably liable for certain taxes (GST, ACC levies, PAYE).

3. National Registration

New Zealand does not have a state-based system like Australia, so when a charitable trust has been registered by Charities Services that is a national registration.

4. Purposes are Restrictive

A charity in New Zealand must act to further its purposes which are set out in a trust deed. To be accepted as a registered charity those purposes must be charitable as defined in New Zealand law (which includes advancing religion). The charity cannot distribute funds or assets for the private gain of any individuals.

5. Powers of Trustees

Trustees can have a wide range of powers depending on how they are written in the Trust Deed. They can include matters such as use of funds, purchasing property, accepting money and carrying on a business.

Some Disadvantages

1. Establishment Costs

A charitable trust has some costs involved to set it up (usually more than $2,000.00 NZD). A lawyer will likely be involved to make sure that the purposes are charitable according to New Zealand law. They can also provide ongoing advice on the trust's ongoing regulatory and filing requirements.

2. Disclosure and Reporting Requirements

A registered charity will have reporting requirements which can vary depending on their size (there are four tiers). There are financial reporting and auditing obligations on registered charities.

Every situation is unique so please discuss your situation with a professional advisor who can provide tailored solutions to you. We offer advice on all aspects of charitable trusts and are happy to answer any questions that you might have. Contact Steven Moe at stevenmoe@parryfield.com or 03-348-8480 for more information.

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