What are non profit organisations?
Non Profit Organisations are organisations that provide a public benefit such as furthering cultural, educational, religious, and professional or public service objectives.
There are three (3) main elements of a Non-Profit Organization;
- A mission that focuses on activities that benefit society and whose primary goal is not profit. It is to be noted that these organizations are usually profitable, once revenue exceeds expenses. But instead of re distributing profit to owners/staff/investors, the Non-Profit pursues public benefit purposes recognized and approved by the Ministry of Finance in Trinidad bad Tobago.
- No particular person owns shares of the company or interests in the company. The organization is not controlled by one person it is owned by the public.
- The income must never be distributed to any directors but is recycled back into the Non Profit’s mission. Non-profits typically depend primarily on grants and mission-related earned income to fund its socially oriented activities.
DISTINCTIVE FEATURES OF NON-PROFITS
Staff in a NPO consists of volunteers and paid staff, the former usually out numbers the latter. Accounting for a Non Profit;
Non-Profits are focused on ensuring revenue is greater than costs;
Non-profits do not use balance sheets; they will compile a “statement of financial position”, which focuses only on assets and liabilities. Non Profits do not use income statements but prepare a statement of activities each quarter. This document lists the organization’s revenues minus expenses, plus net assets Exemption from taxes;
Non-profit organizations may be exempt from taxation once they are designated as charitable organizations by the Ministry of finance.
Filing of Annual Returns: Non-profits must file annual returns with MLA Opening a bank account- By-laws are extremely important to create here.
What is available on public record ?
The Articles of Incorporation discloses certain information such as the Name of the Non Profit, number of directors and intended employees, general nature of activities, the address of the principal office, name occupations and addresses of the first directors of the company.
The Mutual Evaluation Report 2016 and NPOs
Although NPOs are required to register with the Registrar General’s Department, there is no proper AML/CFT policy in relation to the management, supervision and monitoring of these entities. There is no targeted risk assessment for these entities nor are there adequate laws to address this which results in insufficient regulation of the sector.
The Assessors in the Mutual Evaluation Report 2016 considered NPOs to be Non Compliant for the following reasons:
- There are no laws requiring NPOs Sector to be subject to an AML/CFT regime;
- There is a lack of proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for violations of the standards of NPOs;
- No evidence of outreach to the NPO Sector concerning Terrorist Financing issues;
- There have been no adequate policies articulated concerning NPOs;
The non regulation of Non-Profit Organizations is cause for concern since these organizations could be used to facilitate ML/TF activity. Since the last mutual evaluation, the Assessors found that there were no AML/CFT measures in place to deal with NPOs. To date, there are still no measures in place to address AML/CFT.
NPOs traditionally enjoy an elevated level of trust by society at large. In light of this, NPOs must take precautions to avoid potential money laundering and terrorist financing abuse of the charitable donation process.2
Money Laundering , Terrorist Financing and Non Profits Organizations
Non profits can be used to launder corporate money. “The lack of transparency around NPOs provides the donors with unfettered funding opportunities while letting them hide their identities …”3
Why are Non Profit Organisations susceptible to being used by Money Launderers?
Non-profit organisations (NPOs) are defined by their purpose, their reliance on contributions from supporters and the trust placed in them by the wider community. They often process large amounts of cash and regularly transmit funds between jurisdictions. NPOs have also traditionally operated under less formal regulatory control and generally, a less rigorous form of administrative and financial management. It is argued that the combination of these factors exposes the sector to an elevated risk of criminal and terrorist abuse (Charity Commission 2009a; FATF 2004a, 2004b).4
Misuse of NPO funding to launder money
The misuse of NPO-generated funds may take any one of the following forms;
Funds may be collected in the name of a legitimate NPO but disbursed for terrorist rather than altruistic means;
NPOs may be used to launder money or provide legitimate means for the transmission of funds between multiple locations.5
NPOs may provide financial support to an organisation that provides humanitarian aid, for example, but that organisation may also provide succour to terrorist activities.
Alternatively, NPOs may raise funds for a particular cause but have those funds dispensed or support provided through a terrorist group.
Misuse of the notion of charitable status Criminal or terrorist entities may elect to establish a sham NPO (in this case, a charity) but one which is registered and engages in requisite regulatory requirements. The purpose of the NPO is ostensibly to collect and distribute charitable giving but it is in reality a front for the laundering of money, appropriation of terrorism funds or for the rallying support for terrorist activities.
Gurulé (2008) has suggested a general modus operandi for non-profit exploitation, based on sham NPOs in the United States. Such sham agencies were found to:
- incorporate under state law;
- apply for tax-exempt status as a charity or other type of NPO;
- undertake fundraising activities;
- open domestic bank accounts into which proceeds and donations are deposited; and
- transfer funds to overseas financial institutions, diverting all or some of the funds to terrorist activity.7
FATF recommends the following best practices for non profits to prevent abuse relating to terrorist financing and money laundering 8:
Ensure good governance practices and strong financial management , including robust internal controls and risk management procedures;
Carry out proper due diligence on individuals and organizations that give money to, receive money from or work closely with your organization;
Enter into written agreements to outline expectations and responsibilities of grantors and grantees;
Undertake internal risk analysis to help better understand the risk you face in your operations and design appropriate risk mitigation and due diligence measures;
Establish strong financial controls and procedures and keep adequate and complete financial records of income expenses, and financial transactions;
Clearly state program goals when collecting funds and ensure funds are applied as intended;
Ensure information about the activities carried out by grantors and grantees is publicly available;
Ensure you are informed as to the sources of your income and establish criteria to determine whether donations should be accepted or refused.
Non Profit Organisations must be closely monitored in Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere because of the abuse of same by money launderers and terrorist financiers.
About the Author: Antoinette Sydney LLB LEC CAMLFC CFRMP, Bar No. SYA2015211, Attorney at Law. The author is the first Online Lawyer based in Trinidad and Tobago. Her entire Law Practice is based Online using technology. Client meetings are conducted at mutually convenient meeting points. She has clients in Guyana, St Vincent, Barbados, the British Virgin Islands and North America. She specializes in Corporate Law and Anti-Money Laundering Compliance. She helps clients to start their Online Business Empire.
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