Thursday, May 13, 2010

Xenophon Gets His Way. Scientology, Not So Much.

update: The aussie press finally got around to publishing a blurb (that was picked up by google) this afternoon.

Tax status of charities, religions under review ~ Well the Senate has agreed to hold inquiries in the laws regarding the tax exempt status of religions and charities. Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has proposed a test which asks groups to demonstrate whether their activities are of public benefit or cause harm before being granted tax exempt status.

The inquiry was sparked by allegations of serious abuses within the Church of Scientology. And we obviously have a problem with that piece, but Senator Nick Xenophon, in any case, says the Senate inquiry will not focus on a single group. He says any religious or charitable organizations found to have harmed individuals should lose their tax exempt status.

Xenophon Secures Inquiry Into Public Benefit Test For Charities and Religions
 xenophon we winWWP(tinydancer) ~ Independent Senator for South Australia Nick Xenophon has welcomed a Senate Committee Inquiry announced today into legislation on the need for charities and religious organizations to meet a Public Benefit Test before receiving tax exempt status.

The Inquiry, to be conducted by the Senate Economics Committee, results from a Private Senator’s Bill which would require religious and charitable institutions to demonstrate public benefit through their aims and activities before being granted tax exempt status.

The Private Senator’s Bill was sparked by allegations of serious abuses within the Church of Scientology in Australia and overseas.

"This proposed amendment is no threat to charities or religions acting in the public good," Nick said. "It is simply designed to ensure that people who derive benefit from the Australian taxpayer 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.

xenophon vs scientology"For more than six months we have heard devastating allegations of abuse within the Church of Scientology. 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 have to 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 exempt status. This situation should be unacceptable to all Australian taxpayers."

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. "This amendment will ensure taxpayer support goes only to groups and organisations that pass this basic and fair test," Nick said.

Also, the work has just begun for the anons over at WWP, as we can see from these two threads that started in the wee hours this morning:

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