Constitution and replaceable rules

A company’s internal management may be governed by:

  • provisions of the Corporations Act 2001 (the Corporations Act) that apply to the company - known as replaceable rules;
  • a Constitution; or
  • a combination of both (s135 and 136).

(Replaceable rules outlined contains a detailed listing of the text of the rules). Replaceable rules do not apply to proprietary companies where the one person is the sole director and sole member, although a constitution may be adopted.

If your company is registered as a charity with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) some of your reporting obligations to ASIC will no longer apply. See here for details.

The following companies must be governed by a constitution:

  • public companies 'Limited by Guarantee' who are applying to omit the word Limited from their name under section 150;
  • 'No Liability' public companies under s112;
  • 'special purpose companies' that want to obtain the reduced annual review fee under item 103 of the Corporations (Review Fees) Regulations 2003.

The Constitution for most companies is drawn up prior to the registration of the company. The Constitution has the effect of a contract between:

  • the company and each member;
  • the company and each director;
  • the company and the company secretary;
  • a member and each other member.

A company must provide an up-to-date copy of the Constitution (s139) to any member who requests it within 7 days (or within 7 days of the fee being paid if a fee up to the prescribed amount set out in the Corporations Regulations 2001 (the Regulations) (reg 1.1.01), is charged).

It is not necessary to lodge the Constitution of a proprietary company (not being an unlimited company) with the application for registration but they must be kept with the company's records and made available if required.

Constitution

A company adopts a Constitution either:

  • on registration, if each person specified in the registration application as a person who consents to become a member, agrees in writing to the terms of a constitution before the application is lodged; or
  • after registration, if the company passes a special resolution adopting a constitution.

A company may modify or repeal its constitution, or a provision of its constitution, by passing a special resolution A special resolution requires at least 21 days notice (28 days for public listed companies) and the agreement of a 75% majority of votes cast (refer s9, 136, 137, 140, 249H and 249L).

A proprietary company does not need to lodge a copy of its constitution. If a special resolution is passed affecting the company's name, share capital or type, then the appropriate document for that change should be lodged within the required lodgement period.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has specific clauses which the constitution of a non-profit company must contain to be eligible for tax concessions. (More information can be obtained by visiting their website at http://www.ato.gov.au.)

Replaceable rules

A table of replaceable rules can be found in the Corporations Act, s141. The following table indicates the subject of the rule and the relevant section of the Corporations Act that covers each rule. The content of each of those sections in the Corporations Act applies as the replaceable rule. Under s135(1), replaceable rules do not apply to a proprietary company while the same person is both its sole director and sole shareholder.

A company may include in its constitution (by reference or otherwise) a replaceable rule that does not otherwise apply to it. Also, a provision of a section or subsection that applies to a company as a replaceable rule can be displaced or modified by the company’s constitution.

Provisions that apply as replaceable rules

Officers and Employees

Section
1 Voting and completion of transactions-directors of proprietary companies
194
2 Powers of directors
198A
3 Negotiable instruments
198B
4 Managing director
198C
5 Company may appoint a director
201G
6 Directors may appoint other directors
201H
7 Appointment of managing directors
201J
8 Alternate directors
201K
9 Remuneration of directors
202A
10 Director may resign by giving written notice to company
203A
11 Removal by members-proprietary company
203C
12 Termination of appointment of managing director
203F
13 Terms and conditions of office for secretaries
204F

Inspection of books

Section
14 Company or directors may allow member to inspect books
247D

Director's Meetings

Section
15 Circulating resolutions of companies with more than 1 director
248A
16 Calling directors' meetings
248C
17 Chairing directors' meetings
248E
18 Quorum at directors' meetings
248F
19 Passing of directors' resolutions
248G

Meetings of members

Section
20 Calling of meetings of members by a director
249C
21 Notice to joint members
249J(2)
22 When notice by post or fax is given
249J(4)
23 Notice of adjourned meetings
249M
24 Quorum
249T
25 Chairing meetings of members
249U
26 Business at adjourned meetings
249W(2)
27 Who can appoint a proxy

[replaceable rule for proprietary companies only]

249X
28 Proxy vote valid even if member dies, revokes appointment etc.
250C(2)
29 How many votes a member has
250E
30 Jointly held shares
250F
31 Objections to right to vote
250G
32 How voting is carried out
250J
33 When and how polls must be taken
250M

Shares

Section
34 Pre-emption for existing shareholders on issue of shares in proprietary company
254D
35 Other provisions about paying dividends
254U
36 Dividend rights for shares in proprietary companies
254W(2)

Transfer of Shares

Section
37 Transmission of shares on death
1072A
38 Transmission of shares on bankruptcy
1072B
39 Transmission of shares on mental incapacity
1072D
40 Registration of transfers
1072F
41 Additional general discretion for directors of proprietary companies to refuse to register transfers
1072G

Requirements for proprietary company

A company must comply with s113 of the Corporations Act if it is to:

  • be registered as a proprietary company; or
    • convert to a proprietary company; or
      • remain registered as a proprietary company.

      Section 112 of the Corporations Act states that a proprietary company must be either:

      i. limited by shares; or

      ii. an unlimited company that has a share capital; and

      Section 113 of the Corporations Act states that a proprietary company:

      i. must have no more than 50 non-employee shareholders; and

      ii. must not engage in any activity that would require disclosure to investors under Chapter 6, except for an offer of its shares to existing shareholders of the company or employees of the company or of a subsidiary of the company.

      A no liability company cannot be a proprietary company.

      Note 1: If a proprietary company contravenes s113, one consequence is that ASIC may require it to convert to a public company (s165).

      This is Information Sheet 23 (INFO 23). Information sheets provide concise guidance on a specific process or compliance issue or an overview of detailed guidance.

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      Last updated: 16/10/2014 12:36