ShopLoginMy AccountSite Index

Our Community Training

Community Resources - for Community GroupsInstitute of Community Directors AustraliaGive Now - for IndividualsJoin In Join Up - for IndividualsCorporate Responsibility - for BusinessGrants Management - for Government

Incorporation in Western Australia

The information given below should be viewed as a guide only and should not be used as a substitute for professional legal advice. When in doubt, consult the Department of Commerce, which is responsible for Associations in this state. You can ring them on 1300 30 40 54 or e-mail them at consumer@commerce.wa.gov.au

What is incorporation?

Incorporation is a system of State Government or Territory registration that gives an association or community groups certain legal advantages in return for accepting certain legal responsibilities. An incorporated association receives recognition as a legal entity separate from its members and offers some protection for office holders from any debts or liabilities incurred by the group as long as the association doesn't make a profit for its members.

Incorporation is voluntary. Once incorporated groups have to abide by relevant legislation (Read on for details).

Why Incorporate?

Not-for-profit community groups can be unregistered and unrecognised bodies acting under their own rules, or they can be formally recognised bodies with a legal personality of their own.

If you're the honorary treasurer of an unregistered non-profit organisation called Better Community, for example, and you're renting premises for your organisation, you will have to make the lease in your own name (acting as a trustee for Better Community).

If your organisation has registered itself under the Associations Act and has a legal personality, you can have the lease in the name of Better Community Inc.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each approach. The advantages of being an informal group are that you don't have to pay the costs associated with incorporation and you don't have to comply with many of the requirements nor fill out the forms imposed on corporations.

This doesn't mean, of course, that you can deal with the business or the property of Better Communityas you like - you'll basically have the obligation to act as a trustee for the organisation's purposes - but you can be more flexible about what you do and how you do it. If you're organising a one-off or short-term activity this may be your best choice.

The disadvantage is that if anything goes wrong - if the Better Community office burns down, or if people fall over the mat and injure themselves and sue - it's possible that as the lessee and as a committee member you may be held personally liable. In that case if there isn't enough money in the Better Community cashbox to cover the payout you may have to pay for it yourself.

There can also be difficulties with opening bank accounts, problems with insurance, and confusions about who owns what property. If you stop being a member of Better Community but your name is still on the contracts there may be difficulties transferring your responsibilities to the new Treasurer.

Furthermore, most foundations and most government departments will only fund incorporated organisations.

If you're an incorporated association then the lease can be in the name of Better Community, and as an incorporated association Better Community will have limited liability; that is to say, if someone falls over in the office and sues and the cashbox doesn't have enough money to pay them then you are not personally liable.

Formal structures

If you want legal status, you have a number of options - you can become:

Co-operative societies are suitable only for some purposes, and most community groups don't fit the profile.

Some Aboriginal associations are able to gain legal status under different rules under the Federal Government's Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976. An incorporation kit and further information is available from:

For most organisations, the choice is between company status and incorporation.

Limited companies are highly regulated; incorporated associations are lightly regulated. Setting up a company is complicated and expensive; incorporating as an association is comparatively cheap and simple. Unless your organisation is very big indeed, your best option will probably be to become an incorporated association.

Incorporating is not the same thing as registering as a charity or getting entitlement to tax exemption. That has to be done separately. See http://www.commerce.wa.gov.au

Eligibility

In order to be eligible to be an incorporated association in WA you must have more than five members, you must be a not-for-profit organisation, and you must have as your objectives:

These are fairly broad headings and take in most things, and if you don't fit under them there is a catch-all provision that allows "any other purpose approved by the Commissioner". Remember, again, that these are requirements for incorporation, not charitable status. Political purposes, for example, are non-profit but not charitable.

How to incorporate in Western Australia

You need to prepare:

Incorporation - other duties

Once your application has been approved and you have received your certificate of incorporation, there are other duties to be done.

Forms and Fees

Forms are available to be downloaded from:

www.commerce.wa.gov.au/ConsumerProtection/Content/Business/Associations/Forms_and_Publications.html

or from:

Fees applicable to Incorporated Bodies are available at:

www.commerce.wa.gov.au/ConsumerProtection/Content/Business/Associations/Fees.html

Our Community Pty Ltd   www.ourcommunity.com.au   ABN 24 094 608 705
National Headquarters: 51 Stanley St, West Melbourne Victoria 3003 Australia
(PO Box 354 North Melbourne 3051 Victoria)
Telephone (03) 9320 6800   Fax (03) 9326 6859   Email service@ourcommunity.com.au

Tune out the Noise

Our free membership newsletter, Our Community Matters, keeps you up to date without filling your inbox with junk. Read the latest issue of Our Community Matters or sign up to get it delivered to your inbox.

Further Information