As a church leader you’ll find that you are often responsible for the financial management of your church. Even if you’re blessed to have a treasurer as part of your team, you’ll still need to be aware of your financial obligations.

Our finance team is here to provide guidance on where you can start.

Planting a church – Financial foundations

Wherever you are along your journey, be it planting your church or expanding your ministry, you need to set solid financial foundations.

Step1. Apply for an Australian Business Number (ABN)
An ABN is a unique number that identifies your church to government agencies. The benefits of having an ABN allow you to:

  • Pay and claim GST
  • Pay PAYG amounts for church employees and other workers
  • Access government rebates and contracts.

Applying for an ABN is easy and free. Visit the ATO website to apply for an ABN

Step 2. Register for GST
If your church will be claiming back GST for goods and services, you will need to register for GST. Visit the ATO website to register for GST.

Step 3. Open a church bank account
Opening a bank account will allow you to make church payments and receive funds. Most banks will have low-fee business accounts and some might offer the option to link your bank account directly to accounting tools e.g. MYOB or Xero.

Step 4. Apply to register your church as a charity with ACNC
It’s important to register your church as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). The ACNC is the national regulator of charities.

Registration benefits include:

  • Access to charity tax concessions and other benefits
  • Public confirmation of your church as a charity
  • Access to helpful resources and step-by-step guides.

Visit ACNC to register your church.

Financial reporting

As a registered ABN organisation and a charity you’ll need to report regularly to the ATO, government agencies and the ACNC. The reports you will need to provide include:

Business Activity Statement (BAS)
A BAS helps you to report and pay your:

  • GST
  • Pay as you go (PAYG) installments
  • PAYG withholding tax (employees and staff).

You can choose to lodge your BAS through the ATO portal monthly, quarterly or annually. If you are using Xero or MYOB, you can lodge directly to the ATO – see ATO BAS statements.

Single Touch Payroll (STP)
Single Touch Payroll is how you report PAYG tax and superannuation information to the ATO. How you send the information to the ATO will depend on the number of church staff you have. Visit Single Touch Payroll to see what options are available to you.

Other financial reports
Simple budget and monthly reports of your incoming funds and outgoing expenses can help you keep your church on track.

As a registered charity you must report back to the ACNC. The type of report you need to submit will depend on the size of your charity. Visit ACNC reporting.

Check with relevant government agencies and your financial advisor about other reports that might apply to you.

Financial records

As a charity your church will need to keep good financial records to meet the requirements of the ACNC and government agencies such as the ATO.

Your obligations will be different depending on the size and activities of your church however, all churches are expected to:

  • Correctly record how your church is spending and receiving money
  • Accurately record the church financial position
  • Regularly prepare financial statements for audit and review.

How to keep financial records
If you are a small ministry you might decide to keep written and manual records – if you do they must be:

  • Accurate and up-to-date
  • Easy to find
  • Written in English (or easily translated to English).

If you’re a busy ministry you might use an online accounting tool such as Xero or MYOB to manage and record your church’s financial transactions such as ATO lodgements, expenses, bank reconciliation, bill payments and staff payroll.

Church financial records must be kept for seven years to meet your ACNC obligations.

Financial advice

If you find yourself managing your church finances it’s important to get advice from an accountant or financial manager. They can help you to understand what you need to do, and how you can meet your financial obligations.

Our finance team can also provide some guidance on where to start and where you can find help.

Resources downloads

ATO – Starting a NFP organisation

ATO – Tax concessions available to NFPS

ATO – Register for GST

ATO – Lodge a BAS

ATO – Record keeping

ACNC – Why register your charity

ACNC – Apply for registration

ACNC – Obligations of charities

ACNC – Annual financial reporting