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Cabinet considering appeals body under Charities Act

Published:Tuesday | January 27, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Cabinet is considering the appointment of an appeals body under the Charities Act, says Minister of Industry Investment & Commerce Anthony Hylton.

Speaking at the opening of the two-day social enterprise summit in New Kingston on Monday, Hylton said the move to appoint the body was driven by calls from non-governmental organisations and the not-for-profit sector.

"As minister of investment and commerce, I am acutely aware of the challenges that businesses face. Social enterprises face the same challenges as the MSME sector," he said.

Hylton said he named the committee in consultation with the Ministry of Finance and Planning.

The Charities Act came into force in November 2013 as part of tax reform, which effectively removed ministerial discretion for the granting of waivers under a number of laws ranging from the Customs Act to the Property Tax Act and The Transfer Tax Act.

The imposition of the Charities Act has drawn protest from the social enterprise sector as they are now required to register as charitable organisations, effective April 2014. Since then, however, several organisations that previously enjoyed tax-exempt status have been left in the lurch, finding that registration does not automatically confer charitable status. Many are now required to hand over funds, which could be otherwise used for their social work.

The appeals body under consideration will give them an avenue to rectify their status.

Hylton also says in recognition of the good coming out of social enterprises and the similarities to MSMEs, he is considering their incorporation into the policy that protects micro businesses.

"The implementation of the MSME policy for which my ministry has oversight will serve to improve the business environment for all types of businesses ... . Social enterprises must be incorporated if they have business plans, if they operate with budgets, and they must demonstrate sustainability", the industry and commerce minister said.

Over 350 representatives, local and overseas, including social entrepreneurs and academics, have gathered for the social enterprise summit, which is the first of its kind and is being hosted by the Social Enterprise Boost Initiative - SEBI. The confab wraps up today.