Raising funds for CAHA's work - why no DGR?

CAHA has been working to raise awareness about the health risks from climate change and the health benefits from lowering emissions since 2010. Its' work during that time has largely been supported by pro bono and in-kind support, as well as some donations from individuals and philanthropic organisations. However an impediment to raising funds for CAHA as a charity has been its lack of 'tax deductible' status or 'deductible gift recipient (DGR)' status for donations. There is a bit of a story attached to CAHA's lack of tax deductibility.

We often get asked why we don't have DGR.

We decided we'd share the story.

Why doesn't the Climate and Health Alliance have tax deductible (known as ˜deductible gift recipient' or ˜DGR') status?

Well, it's very good question, and one the members and governing body of the Climate and Health Alliance have been puzzling over for some time. This document provides a timeline overview of the process pursued to date.

November 2010 When CAHA was formed in 2010, we applied for DGR as a Health Promotion Charity (HPC), one of the categories eligible for this status and applicable to organisations or institutions that promote the prevention or the control of diseases in human beings.

The response we received was from the Australian Tax Office that while CAHA was considered to have "charitable purposes", it was refused endorsement for DGR. The letter stated: "We do not consider the Alliance to be involved in the promotion of the prevention or control of disease in humans. The Alliance's principal activities involve propaganda in the community for action on climate change and the risks it may have on health. Whether its principal activity is to promote the prevention or control of disease in human beings "Climate change is a highly contentious issue among lawmakers and the community with both believers and skeptics putting forward their evidence to support their contentions. The potential health risks to human beings in the long terms as result of climate change are not yet established and are speculatory (sic), depending on which view one supports. "Where the possible risks to health are not real, tangible and current, activities that claim to promote the prevention and control of those risks cannot be considered valid enough to warrant HPC endorsement. "The Alliance's activities with regard to health are limited to creating awareness of and advocating for the development of policies to minimise potential adverse health consequences of climate change. "There is no valid nexus between the Alliance's activities and the promotion and control of disease in human beings. "Accordingly, endorsement as a HPC is not granted."

You can read the full letter to CAHA from the ATO here.

December 2010 There was a substantive objection to this refusal from the Climate and Health Alliance which asserted that the activities of the Climate and Health Alliance were indeed activities that constituted "health promotion", according to definitions of the term from the World Health Organisation, the Ottawa Charter (the international agreement on health promotion signed in 1986), as well as the Australian Health Promotion Association and the Public Health Association of Australia, both members of the Climate and Health Alliance.

You can read the letter from CAHA to the ATO here.

May 2011 The Climate and Health Alliance received a notice of objection decision from the ATO in May 2011, which stated: "The principal activity of a HPC must be directed towards the prevention or control of diseases. This is distinct from promoting health generally." "Climate change is not a disease." "The focus of the Alliance is the cause “ climate change “ not the diseases themselves." "As already established, the overall purpose of the Alliance is to promote the health of human beings and protect it from the effects of climate change. "As such, the principal activity of the Association (sic) is too remote from the promotion and control of diseases in human beings to be a HPC."

You can read the letter from the ATO to CAHA here.

June 2012 The Climate and Health Alliance obtained advice that it should be eligible for DGR as a registered environmental organisation. It applied to join the Register of Environmental Organisations (REO) by lodging an application with the Department of Environment.

September 2013 The Climate and Health Alliance received advice from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities that it was denied entry to the register, and thus denied DGR status as part of this register. The letter stated: "The Department¦. is not satisfied the Climate and Health Alliance meets the principal purpose test, as its principal purpose is to promote and protect health. The organisation's focus on environmental degradation and climate change is not its principal purpose, rather a means by which the organisation seeks to promote and protect health." The Department offered the opportunity to seek Ministerial consideration of the decision.

You can read the letter from the Department to CAHA here.

October 2013 The Climate and Health Alliance wrote to the Department requesting Ministerial consideration of the decision on the grounds that: "The objects of the Climate and Health Alliance as stated in its Rules and its application clearly demonstrate the principal purpose of the Alliance is "the restoration of a healthy and ecologically sustainable natural environment for all species, including humans." "The work of the Climate and Health Alliance centres on advocacy for policy and research on the impacts of climate change, and highlighting the benefits of climate action and environmental protection. "It does so through the lens of human health as a valid and effective method of highlighting environmental concerns. This approach is supported by peer reviewed climate and environmental communications literature, which demonstrates that by framing climate change and environmental harm in the context of health and wellbeing, it is possible to build support for policies to reduce climate and environmental risks more effectively than by using an environmental frame. "Given humans constitute the greatest threat to the natural environment; shaping the behaviour of humans in ways that reduce environmental harms is the most effective strategy available to us to reduce risks to the natural environment. Many scientists believe that building a greater awareness about the dependence of humans on fragile and vulnerable ecosystems is vital if we are to effectively halt the destruction of the natural world."

You can read the letter from CAHA to the Department here.

April 2014 The Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt MP, wrote to CAHA to say he was no satisfied CAHA was an environmental organisation for the purposes of the Income Tax Assessment Act. The letter states: "I found that the principal purpose of CAHA, as indicated in the purposes and objectives set out in the CAHA Rules, is the protection of human health and wellbeing, including through the protection of the natural environment, or though the provision of information or education about the natural environment." "I found that CAHA's activities of providing information and education, and conducting research, about climate change and environmental degradation are a means by which the organisation seeks to achieve its ultimate purpose which is to promote and protect human health and wellbeing."

You can read the letter from Minister Hunt to CAHA here.

February 2015 CAHA's latest advice is that, since our work occurs at the nexus of 'environment' and 'health', there is no classification in Australian tax law or regulations to recognise this. In this siloed approach to policy and tax revenue, we fall between the cracks.