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FAQ 

Control of Charitable Fund-raising Activities in Public Places

  1. Under what circumstances that a fund-raising organisation is required to apply for a Public Subscription Permit (PSP) from the Social Welfare Department (SWD)? Is the SWD responsible for regulating all kinds of fund-raising activities? 

  2. What are the eligibility criteria in applying for a PSP for flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities, and solicitation of signed authorisation forms?

  3. How does an organisation apply for a PSP for flag day? What are the processing timelines for flag days?

  4. How does an organisation apply for a PSP for solicitation of signed authorisation forms? What are the processing timelines for solicitation of signed authorisation forms?

  5. When should the applicant organisation submit its application for a PSP for flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities and solicitation of signed authorisation forms to the SWD?

  6. What are the required documents to be submitted for applying a PSP for flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities and solicitation of signed authorisation forms?

  7. For application for a PSP for general charitable fund-raising activities, does the applicant organisation need to apply to the LandsD for TOGL if the application involves fund-raising activities to be conducted on government land administered by the LandsD?

  8. For application for a PSP for general charitable fund-raising activities, does the applicant organisation need to apply to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) for temporary hawker licences if the proposed fund-raising activities would involve charity sales in public places?

  9. What are the requirements of the SWD for the audited income and expenditure account to be submitted by the Permittee of flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities and solicitation of signed authorisation forms upon completion of the approved fund-raising activities?

  10. What are the consequences if the Permittees of flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities and solicitation of signed authorisation forms failed to submit the income and expenditure account to the SWD?

  11. Are there any measures set up by the SWD to enhance transparency and accountability of charitable fund-raising activities?

  12. How do members of the public identify those charitable fund-raising activities issued with PSPs by the SWD?



Control of Charitable Fund-raising Activities in Public Places
 

Q1: Under what circumstances that a fund-raising organisation is required to apply for a Public Subscription Permit (PSP) from the Social Welfare Department (SWD)? Is the SWD responsible for regulating all kinds of fund-raising activities?
 
A1:
In Hong Kong, the regulation of different forms of fund-raising activities straddles across several government bureau/ departments. SWD is one of the departments issuing permit/ licence based on relevant Ordinance. Organisations have to apply to concerned government bureau/ departments according to the nature and format of the fund-raising activities. In accordance with Section 4(17)(i) of the Summary Offences Ordinance (Cap. 228 of Laws of Hong Kong), an organisation is required to apply for a PSP from the Director of Social Welfare (DSW) if its proposed fund-raising activity is under all of the following circumstances –
  • collection of money or sale or exchange for donations of badges, tokens or similar articles is involved;
  • the activity is to be held for charitable purposes; and
  • the activity is to be held in a public place.
PSPs issued by the SWD mainly cover three types of fund-raising activities in public places, namely flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities and solicitation of signed authorisation forms. For flag days, there are territory-wide flag days and regional flag days. For general charitable fund-raising activities, they mainly include activities like setting up donation boxes in stationed counters; moving around solicitation with money-collection boxes/ bags; door to door donation (especially in public housing estates); charity sale of badges, tokens or similar articles and charity ride etc. For solicitation of signed authorisation forms, it mainly involves face-to-face solicitation of signed authorisation forms, in paper form or electronic form, where the donation payment is on one-off and/ or regular basis, by autopay via credit card or bank account, etc.Please refer to the “General Guidelines on the Scope of Public Subscription Permits” uploaded to the SWD’s website for the circumstances required to apply for a public subscription permit.
 
Q2: What are the eligibility criteria in applying for a PSP for flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities, and solicitation of signed authorisation forms?
 
A2: An organisation applying for a PSP must be a charitable institution or trust of a public character exempt from tax under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance, Cap. 112. The applicant organisation and/ or the beneficiary organisation(s) (if applicable) must have organised charitable activities in each of the past three years after it was registered for tax exemption under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance, Cap.112 by the closing. date of application. Besides, the SWD must be satisfied that the applicant organisation and/ or the beneficiary organisation(s) (if applicable) is/ are suitable for organising the fund-raising activities, taking into consideration a number of factors, including but not limited to the integrity, management capability, track record of previous charitable activities, financial position, and any records of previous non-compliance with the conditions of a PSP (including flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities and solicitation of signed authorisation forms), etc. of the organisation(s) concerned. Apart from the above basic eligibility criteria, please refer to the application forms for the specific eligibility criteria set by the three types of PSPs.

 
Q3: How does an organisation apply for a PSP for flag day? What are the processing timelines for flag days?
 
A3: The allocation of flag days is an annual exercise conducted by the SWD upon the advice of the Lotteries Fund Advisory Committee (LFAC). Invitation for application for flag days in the coming financial year will normally be advertised in newspapers and announced in the SWD's website in April or May of each year with the closing date after a month. Eligibilities of flag day applications will be considered and endorsed by LFAC around September of the year. Applicant organisations will be informed around October of the results of their applications. Eligible applicant organisations will be invited to witness the lot-drawing, which determines their order of priority for selection of flag days. Subsequently, eligible organisations will be invited to select their flag days around November according to their priorities as determined by the lots-drawing. Flag Day Permits will be issued around December. The list of flag day organisers and copy of the Flag Day Permits are uploaded to the SWD’s website.

 
Q4: How does an organisation apply for a PSP for solicitation of signed authorisation forms? What are the processing timelines for solicitation of signed authorisation forms?
 
A4: Application for solicitation of signed authorisation forms is a half-yearly exercise. The two rounds of applications will be invited in January and July of each year. Applicant organisations will be informed of the result of application in March and September of the year. Eligible applicant organisations must attend the “District Selection Exercise” scheduled in April and October of the year which determines their selection of districts to conduct solicitation of signed authorisation forms on public streets. After that, applicant organisations have to submit the Fund-raising Activity Proforma according to the result of the “District Allocation Exercise” within 14 calendar days afterward. Permits will be issued in early June and December of the year. Each permit period lasts for half year, i.e. from 1st January to 30th June (application for former half year) or from 1st July to 31st December (application for latter half year). The applicant organisation can conduct solicitation of signed authorisation forms on public streets and/ or in public places other than public streets within the permit period.

 
Q5: When should the applicant organisation submit its application for a PSP for flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities and solicitation of signed authorisation forms to the SWD?
 
A5: For flag days, the application period is normally from April to May of each year.

For general charitable fund-raising activities, the application may be submitted throughout the year. For application not involving fund-raising activities to be conducted on government land administered by the Lands Department (LandsD), it should reach the SWD at least 4 weeks (but not more than 8 weeks) before the commencement of the proposed activity. For application involving fund-raising activities to be conducted partly or wholly on government land administered by the LandsD (for details, please refer to the “list of designated spots” provided by the LandsD), it should reach the SWD at least 10 weeks (but not more than 16 weeks) before the commencement of the proposed activity. The SWD will, on behalf of the applicant organisation, apply to the LandsD for temporary occupation of government land (TOGL) at the specific locations as proposed.

For solicitation of signed authorisation forms, the application should be submitted in July (application for former half year of next year) and January (application for latter half year of the year) of each year. If the applicant organisation intends to conduct solicitation of signed authorisation forms for the whole year, it only needs to submit the application form in the former half year and indicates its intention to apply for both former half year and latter half year on the form.

Applicant organisations should refer to the “Explanatory Notes for Application for Flag Days”/ “Explanatory Notes for Public Subscription Permit (General Charitable Fund-raising Activities)” / “Explanatory Notes for Application for Public Subscription Permit (Solicitation of Signed Authorisation Forms)” of the application forms for details of the application procedures, eligibility criteria, permit conditions and other points to observe. The application forms for three types of PSPs can be downloaded from this website or obtained upon request through the SWD’s Hotline (Tel. No. 2343 2255).

 
Q6: What are the required documents to be submitted for applying a PSP for flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities and solicitation of signed authorisation forms?
 
A6: The applicant organisation should submit the completed application form, together with required documents such as a copy of the latest valid approval letter to prove the organisation and beneficiary organisation (if applicable) is a charitable institution or trust exempt from tax under Section 88 of the Inland Revenue Ordinance; a copy of valid certificate of registration of the organisation and beneficiary organisation (if applicable); a copy of the Articles of Association or constitution of the organisation and beneficiary organisation (if applicable); a copy of valid proof of registered address of the organisation; copies of the organisation and beneficiary organisation’s (if applicable) annual reports published in the past three years or other documents showing the current objectives, setup, programme and charitable activities of the organisation; and copies of the organisation and beneficiary organisation’s (if applicable) audited annual financial statements published in the past three years. Apart from the above basic required documents, please refer to the application forms for the specific documents and information required set by the three types of PSPs.

 
Q7: For application for a PSP for general charitable fund-raising activities, does the applicant organisation need to apply to the LandsD for TOGL if the application involves fund-raising activities to be conducted on government land administered by the LandsD?
 
A7: The SWD, when processing the application for a PSP for general charitable fund-raising activities, will refer to the LandsD for the application for TOGL at the spots as specified on the “list of designated spots” provided by the LandsD simultaneously, on behalf of the applicant organisation. Applicant organisation should therefore submit the PSP application to the SWD at least 10 weeks (but not more than 16 weeks) before the commencement of the proposed activity.

 
Q8: For application for a PSP for general charitable fund-raising activities, does the applicant organisation need to apply to the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) for temporary hawker licences if the proposed fund-raising activities would involve charity sales in public places?
 
A8: The organisation should consult the FEHD on whether a temporary hawker licence would be required if the proposed fund-raising activities involve on-street hawking of goods in public places. Meanwhile, the SWD will forward the information in relation to the proposed charity sale (in particular, for sale or exchange for donations of badges, tokens or similar article) of the applicant organisation submitted via the PSP application form, to the FEHD for further processing of the application for “waiver of temporary hawker licence” and the organisation concerned will be notified of the result separately by the FEHD.
 
 
Q9: What are the requirements of the SWD for the audited income and expenditure account to be submitted by the Permittee of flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities and solicitation of signed authorisation forms upon completion of the approved fund-raising activities?
 
A9: The Permittee shall comply with the related conditions in the “Conditions for Public Subscription Permit for Holding Flag Days”, ”Conditions of Public Subscription Permit (General Charitable Fund-raising Activities” and “Conditions of Public Subscription Permit (Solicitation of Signed Authorisation Forms)”, including to prepare an income and expenditure account of the approved fund-raising activities on an accrual basis; to engage an accountant or an accounting firm or a corporate practice to review the income and expenditure account and prepare an independent practitioner’s assurance report in accordance with the latest Practice Note (PN) 850 “Reporting on Flag Days, General Charitable Fund-raising Activities and Solicitation of Signed Authorisation Forms Covered by Public Subscription Permits issued by the Social Welfare Department” issued by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants ; to submit the original copy and PDF file of the income and expenditure account of the fund-raising activity concerned, together with the independent practitioner’s assurance report thereon to the SWD within 90 days of the last event day for uploading onto the GovHK’s website for public inspection for 12 months; and to list separately, by respective Permit Number(s), the gross income raised, gross expenditure incurred, net proceeds, and purpose(s) of the fund-raising activities as shown on audited income and expenditure account, in the audited annual financial statements (AFS) of the Permittee after the last event date, with a copy of the AFS to be lodged with SWD for record purpose.

For flag days, in the notes to the income and expenditure account, the Permittee is required to state that all the flag day proceeds collected have been credited to the designated bank account of the Permittee before being used for payment of expenditures for flag days and/ or the purpose(s) specified in the permit. The Permittee is required to state the amount of flag day proceeds deposited and the date of which it has credited all the flag day proceeds. The deposit date should be within 60 days after the flag day or before the commencement of review for the flag day by the accountant/ accounting firm/ corporate practice, whichever is earlier.

For general charitable fund-raising activities, the Permittee, after deducting any expenses relating to the fund-raising activities (if applicable), should credit the balance of donations into the bank account concerned before spending on the purpose(s) specified in the permit within 60 days of the last event day or before the commencement of work by an accountant or an accounting firm or a corporate practice, whichever is earlier. The Permittee is also required to state the balance of donation and the relevant bank-in date in the notes to the income and expenditure account.

For solicitation of signed authorisation forms, the Permittee shall submit one I&E account for permits sharing the same PSP prefix number (with different suffix numbers, if applicable) by indicating the basic information of the PSP for SSAF, including the PSP number(s), registered name of the Permittee, approved validity period of the permit for SSAF, i.e. from 1 January to 30 June (former half year)/ from 1 July to 31 December (latter half year)]/ from 1 January to 31 December (including former half year and latter half year). The Permittee is required to submitted the income and expenditure account within 90 days after the end of the validity period of the permit.
 
 
Q10: What are the consequences if the Permittees of flag days, general charitable fund-raising activities and solicitation of signed authorisation forms failed to submit the income and expenditure account to the SWD?
 
A10: If the Permittees fail to submit the income and expenditure account by the prescribed deadline (i.e. 90 days after the last event day), the SWD will record the incidents of non-compliance and issue written warning of different levels to the organisation concerned; may suspend or process in phases its submitted/ subsequent PSP application for organising general charitable fund-raising activities and disqualify from applying for flag days and/ or solicitation of signed authorisation forms; may publish the name of the organisation concerned and the non-compliance incident on the SWD’s website for at least 6 months according to the respective levels of non-compliance until the organisation has taken appropriate action to rectify the non-compliance (e.g. by submitting the related income and expenditure accounts).
 
 
Q11: Are there any measures set up by the SWD to enhance transparency and accountability of charitable fund-raising activities?
 
A11: The SWD, the Home Affairs Department and the FEHD have jointly issued the “Good Practice Guide on Charitable Fund-raising (Good Practice Guide)” to replace the “Reference Guide on Best Practices for Charitable Fund-raising Activities” previously published by the SWD for voluntary adoption by the charitable organisations and the public’s reference. The Good Practice Guide covers areas on donors' rights, fund-raising practices and financial accountability issues. The public may make use of the Good Practice Guide to measure against the practice of a charity in fund-raising.
 
 
Q12: How do members of the public identify those charitable fund-raising activities issued with PSPs by the SWD?
 
A12: The SWD has stipulated a set of conditions for compliance by the organisations issued with PSPs so as to monitor charitable fund-raising activities in public places and facilitate the public to identify such activities. The Permittee must ensure that there is sufficient publicity for the approved fund-raising activities and conduct the activities at the date, time, location and by the method of donation collection as specified in the PSP. The public can scan the “QR Code” printed on the permit/ fund-raisers identification badges/ tag for donation collection tools/ flag days money collection bags to access directly to the concerned webpage of the GovHK, and make enquiries/ complaints to the dedicated hotline on charitable fund-raising activities 31422678 provided by 1823. A common logo, for charitable fund-raising activities, adopted by SWD, HAD and FEHD, is shown on the permit, badge, tag, and flag days money collection bags for easy identification by the public of those approved fund-raising activities.

Besides, for flag days, as required in the permit conditions, the money collection bags for flag sale should mark clearly and prominently the name of the Permittee and the statement “Approved by Social Welfare Department”. For general charitable fund-raising activities and solicitation of signed authorisation forms, the permit conditions require the Permittee to display the original copy of the permit prominently at the approved locations of the fund-raising activities or require the fund-raisers to present the original copy of the Permit for checking upon the public’s request. The Permittee must ensure that its fund-raisers wear identification badges in the format specified by the SWD and that a tag, if applicable, in the format specified by the SWD, must be prominently affixed on each of the donation boxes and/ or other donation collection tools for general charitable fund-raising activities, so as to inform the public that such activities has been approved by the SWD.
 
   

 

 


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