DEBATE HAS started in the House of Representatives on a bill to introduce regulations for charitable organisations and for the establishment of legal and institutional framework to achieve this objective.
The bill, titled the Charities Act, was tabled on September 17.
Industry Minister Anthony Hylton, who opened the debate on the bill last Tuesday, noted that it was not a part of the structural benchmarks in Jamaica's Extended Fund Facility with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
However, Hylton argued that it is important that the bill be passed into law.
Hylton told the House that there is currently no single legislation that provides regulation for the private voluntary sector.
"Currently, there is no single place at which to register a charitable organisation. Relevant information is stored at either the Companies Office of Jamaica, the Department of Cooperative and Friendly Societies, or at the Office of the Clerk of the House of Parliament," Hylton noted.
The bill, among other things, provides for the registration of all charitable organisations seeking to benefit from tax relief.
It provides for the establishment of a registrar of charitable organisations, which will store the particulars of all registered charitable organisations.
The registrar is, among other things, charged with taking steps to ensure that charitable organisations are not misused for criminal purposes.
The bill proposes that all persons desirous of obtaining relief under specified acts such as the Income Tax Act, the GCT Act, and the Property Tax Act must apply to the authority for charitable status.
Upon receipt of an application, the authority shall forward a copy to the Tax Administration Jamaica, and may invite comments from public bodies on whether the applicant should be accorded charitable organisation status.
The commissioner general has 14 days from the receipt of the application to indicate whether he objects to the registration of the charitable organisation.
"The authority shall not approve the application unless the commissioner general has indicated that he does not object to registration of the charitable organisation," the bill states.
In piloting the bill, Hylton noted that no application can be approved unless the commissioner general issues a no-objection note.
"Once the authority grants approval, the authority then directs the registrar to register to charitable organisation by noting their particulars in the register," Hylton said.
satisfy the board
The bill further states that the authority, before designating an entity as a charitable organisation, must satisfy itself that each member of the governing board of the organisation is of sound integrity.
The authority must also be satisfied that the entity is established for a charitable purpose exclusively and that it either operates or intends to operate for the public benefit.
In the meantime, the bill is proposing that organisations which perform an auxiliary charitable role should also qualify for charitable organisation status.
Parliament has already passed the Charitable Organisations (Tax Harmonisation) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, which will eliminate the need for the minister of finance to grant waivers of certain taxes to entities considered to be dedicated to charitable purposes.
An Omnibus Tax Incentive bill is due to be tabled this week as Jamaica has until October 30 to lay the bill in Parliament, based on the agreement with the IMF.
Both the the Charitable Organisations (Tax Harmonisation) (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act and the Omnibus Tax Incentive bill are structural benchmarks in the IMF programme.