The Australian federal government has established a consultation paper and is seeking submissions regarding the definition of charity for use in legislation and its application. This has big potential ramifications with reference to tax breaks for religions in my nation.
Charitable organisations qualify for tax exemptions in Australia.
The Tax Act, based on common law extending back to an Elizabethan mandate in 1601 England, includes the propagation of a religion as a charitable endeavour.
Therefore, even those religions which do nowt but spread their word operate tax free, both in their church and their business enterprises. This gives religiously owned businesses a competitive advantage and requires that tax paying entities and individuals pick up the bill for the government services provided to those religious organisations.
Max Wallace's well researched book, "The Purple Economy" offers a full appraisal of how dire this situation was as of 2007. I have yet to finish it and it is a hard read, but eye opening stuff. I will finish scouring it and the documentation regarding the consultation process for details, but if I recall correctly, the average Australian PAYG (income tax) contributor is being stung around 2 % of their income to support religious endeavours. Fine for those religious tax payers whose churches are being buoyed by the financial helping hand, but a form of involuntary tithing on those who aren't religious.
The Defence of Government Schools case in the mid 1980s saw section 116 of our constitution, modeled on the establishment clause of the US constitution, interpreted as meaning that there is no legal barrier between churches and the state, so we have no legal recourse to dispute the unfair nature of the current arrangement, and it is only because of the efforts of people seeking a fair go by bugging their representatives that this process is underway. I am happy to pay my taxes because I like having schools and hospitals and clean drinking water, but I resent being taxed more than is necessary in order to support the supernatural beliefs of others. The existing system has allowed the Catholic Church to become the fifth largest financial entity in Australia, and the largest single land owner. Tax breaks are given to any religious body with a meeting place, regular meetings, and beliefs in a supernatural entity, so everyone* from the Anglicans to the Scientologists is in on the scam, and no-one can audit their books because they are deemed private organisations. They apply for and often receive education and social programme funding but no-one can assess how efficiently the taxes are used because their books are closed.
I will be making my submission as soon as I have read the relevant documents and settled on my wording.
I would be grateful if this could get a mention on the NP, as I know I am not the only Australian listener. People have until the 9th of December to have their say.
* The Mormons forego tax breaks because they don't get them elsewhere. The Raelians didn't get them because their beliefs were deemed insufficiently supernatural, since they believe in aliens far away, and not beyond the natural world.