XENOPHON INTRODUCES BILL FOR PUBLIC BENEFIT TEST FOR CHARITIES

13 May 2010

Independent Senator for South Australia Nick Xenophon is calling on the Government and the Opposition to support today's Private Senators Bill which will insert a Public Benefit Test into the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.

The Bill will require religious and charitable institutions seeking tax exemption to demonstrate public benefit through its aims and activities.

"This amendment is no threat to real charities or legitimate religions," Nick said. "It is simply designed to ensure that people who derive benefit from Australia actually provide benefit to the Australian people through good works."

A similar public benefit test has operated in the UK since 2006, and crucially, under the UK model, any identifiable benefit is balanced against any detriment or harm.

"For more than six months we have heard devastating allegations of abuse within the Church of Scientology," Nick said.

"We have heard allegations of coerced abortions, false imprisonment, stalking, harassment, extortion, obstruction of justice, and serious labour violations," Nick said. "This test would ensure that these harms would be taken into account when deciding whether an organisation receives tax exempt status."

"Right now, it is effectively open slather," Nick said. "If you call yourself a religion you can get tax exemption. This situation should be unacceptable to all Australian taxpayers and everyone in parliament."

Under the Bill a Public Benefit Test would include the following principles:
• There must be an identifiable benefit arising from an organisations aims and activities;
• The benefit must be balanced against any detriment or harm; and,
• The benefit must be to the public or a significant section of the public and not merely to individuals with a material connection to the entity.

This approach is also supported by the finding of the Henry Review into taxation.

"When cults pretend to be like established religions, established religions suffer," Nick said.
"This amendment will ensure taxpayer support goes only to deserving groups and organisations."

Independent Senator for South Australia Nick Xenophon is calling on the Government and the Opposition to support today's Private Senators Bill which will insert a Public Benefit Test into the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.

 

The Bill will require religious and charitable institutions seeking tax exemption to demonstrate public benefit through its aims and activities.

 

"This amendment is no threat to real charities or legitimate religions," Nick said. "It is simply designed to ensure that people who derive benefit from Australia actually provide benefit to the Australian people through good works."

 

A similar public benefit test has operated in the UK since 2006, and crucially, under the UK model, any identifiable benefit is balanced against any detriment or harm.

 

"For more than six months we have heard devastating allegations of abuse within the Church of Scientology," Nick said.

 

"We have heard allegations of coerced abortions, false imprisonment, stalking, harassment, extortion, obstruction of justice, and serious labour violations," Nick said. "This test would ensure that these harms would be taken into account when deciding whether an organisation receives tax exempt status."

 

"Right now, it is effectively open slather," Nick said. "If you call yourself a religion you can get tax exemption.  This situation should be unacceptable to all Australian taxpayers and everyone in parliament."

 

Under the Bill a Public Benefit Test would include the following principles:

·       There must be an identifiable benefit arising from an organisations aims and activities;

·       The benefit must be balanced against any detriment or harm; and,

·       The benefit must be to the public or a significant section of the public and not merely to individuals with a material connection to the entity. 

 

This approach is also supported by the finding of the Henry Review into taxation.

 

"When cults pretend to be like established religions, established religions suffer," Nick said.

"This amendment will ensure taxpayer support goes only to deserving groups and organisations."

 

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