Should the churches pay tax like everyone else?

Contributed by Glen Davis

I’ve raised this topic previously in The Pen. Most recently in November last year, when I penned a short article about the fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Catholic Church expected everybody but themselves to pay for repairs. This Church has an estimated 700 million Euros in France, in assets alone.

Yet it and all Churches don’t pay any tax.

Don’t forget. Churches also have tax-free status here in Australia.

The Charities Act of 2013 has perpetuated financial fraud, allowing wealthy churches to pay no tax, as they are deemed to be charities.

To my knowledge, the issue of Churches getting tax free status in the English-speaking world, goes back to 1601, when Queen Elizabeth the First, issued a 1601 Statute on Charities, grsnted the ‘advancement of religion’ the status of a charity.

This subsequently became part of the Australian reality.

Figures from 2017 show the total value of money the churches rake in is $30 billion a year. The Catholic Church takes over half of this amount.

Churches own/run hospitals, schools, aged care centres, and various other commercial enterprises bringing in lots of revenue, tax free.

Sanitarium (the cereal and health food company) is the best known religious corporation. It is owned by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, had a 2010 turnover of $550 million, and employed more than 1700 people in Australia in 2019. Sanitarium is tax exempt.

Only 8 percent of Australian are regular church attendees. In the 1966 census, 88 percent of Australians were Christians. Within 50 years, the figure had fallen to 52.1 percent.

In 1976, only 12 percent of us identified as having no religion. In the 2016 Australian census, 30.1 percent of Australians identified as having no religion.

So, if less of us claim to have a special friend in the sky, why do the Churches still not pay any tax? I must be missing something.

Section 116 of the Australian Constitution precludes the Commonwealth of Australia (i.e., the Federal Parliament) from making laws for establishing any religion, imposing any religious observance, or prohibiting the free exercise of any religion. it also provides that no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.

I can’t really see how it exempts churches from paying any tax. Are we really a secular nation? It’s a question we need answering.

There are places where this nonsense of churches paying no tax has been tackled.

Back in 2010 the Greek government legislated for the Greek Orthodox church to pay a range of taxes. These included a 20 percent tax from their real estates, with a 3 percent tax on leased lands, stamp duty on the sale of its properties, as well a small tax on bequests, and inheritances.

In the Scandinavian countries, where churches are audited, they also pay the required tax rates.

It makes me think of the wonderful saying. “Be a realist. Demand the impossible”.

In a so-called secular society, should the churches pay taxes?

7 Comments on "Should the churches pay tax like everyone else?"

  1. I think they should be taxed. It is another case of take from the poor to give to the rich, and anyway, if a church owns a business, then profits should be taxed, likewise with other investments.

  2. Neville Manners | October 30, 2020 at 11:02 am | Reply

    It has always been my opinion churches are a business and must pay taxes Maybe we need a public partition carried out,the same as K Rudds re Murdoch medi which I agree on

  3. Yes they should, it was obscene that the Churches collected Jobkeeper Allowance, double the amount paid to the public. What has breakfast cereal got to do with GOD, same for REAL ESTATE.
    NON payment of compensation to victims of sexual abuse. TAXPAYERS pick up the tab for their victims.
    YES, PAY TAX.

  4. Jeannie Marshall | October 31, 2020 at 7:00 am | Reply

    I agree, churches should pay tax… land tax, tax on its profit making entities, tax on interest paid by banks on church investments etc. If the Australian government can make more and more taxpayer funds available to private, independent and religious schools on the basis that more parents are enrolling children in these non-government education institutions, then using that same logic…the government should start taxing religious institutions because there are less of us who identify as religious, as per statistics from the ABS.

  5. Trevor Anderson | October 31, 2020 at 8:16 am | Reply

    You are perfectly right. The money making model you describe with churches is rife with many other “charities” that are operating courtesy of the ACNC. one I’m investigating now is a conglomerate of 10 charities all having one team of directors. Like the churches they are running revenue earning training and employment centres and looting public funds to the tune of $12M per year tax free with a massive percentage going to the elite board members. The revenue and grants are NOT going to the needy. A Royal commission is needed.

  6. It annoys the hell out of me that the Salvation Army charges 70% of the income of unemployed to live in one of their rooms/boxes & buy new cars annually. They also only hand out a $30 food voucher every 6 months & that comes from Wesfarmers or Coles/Meyer. They also own billions in property in Australia alone, then they pull the heart strings for Red Shield Appeal, & they don’t do anything but make cash off the most destitute in society. I reckon confiscate their assets and lock them up in cells they get the homeless to pay $200 to live in!

  7. Yes. Of course churches should pay taxes. The fact that they don’t and are against paying demonstrates how morally bankrupt they are.

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