Tax Religion? — “Yes” say 64% of the public:
“As a revenue-starved budget looms next Tuesday only 7% of Australians think religion should be tax-free — costing Treasurer Scott Morrison over $20 billion a year,” says Brian Morris, Director of Plain Reason.
“Even the Parliamentary Budget Office says there’d be an annual saving of $500 million simply on scrapping the fringe benefits tax for church employees — just one of a dozen loopholes enjoyed by all churches.
“With a public majority now ‘religion-neutral’ a full 64% of the community think churches should start paying tax — and their exemptions stem only from the historical anomaly of ‘advancing religion’, in a secular society.
“Religions run hundreds of private enterprises in schools, hospitals, aged care, and a variety of other private businesses — none of which pay income tax, GST, rates, car registration and a raft of other taxes.
“It’s a massive revenue short-fall that is now met the nation’s honest tax-payers who are mostly non-religious.
Mr Morris said “genuine charities” should indeed be tax-free, “but we have no idea of just how much of the vast revenue collected by churches is actually spent on bona fide services to people actually in need.”
Religious institutions are not legally required to keep financial records, unlike non-religious charities.
The Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC) administers over 60,000 charities with almost 60% being secular organisations — household names like Oxfam Australia and the Smith Family.
“There’s no transparency with religious organisations, and in a secular country where only 8% of the public go to regular church services, it’s high time this religious rort is finally stopped.
“There is absolutely no reason why federal politicians continue to live in fear of what they see as a powerful ‘Christian influence’ — it’s noisy vestige from the 1950s, with self-appointed and self-servicing lobby groups.”
Mr Morris said the April poll showed 64% of people disapproved of religions being tax-exempt — only 7% approved, and another 13% didn’t know.
“In this period of budgetary crisis the Turnbull government should think more seriously about the ‘secular’ public good — the revenue short-fall for public hospitals, public schools, and infrastructure — and start to collect tax from a plethora of private and very lucrative church businesses.
“In the 21st century it’s also unacceptable that religions are exempt from anti-discrimination laws and from workplace legislation that allows them to pay below-award wages and enforce unfair working conditions.”
Mr Morris said that all these factor are compounded as religions become more politicised — endorsing conservative candidates and launching aggressive and often dishonest media campaigns on social issues such as same-sex marriage and voluntary euthanasia.
“If religions wish to become politicised, under the guise of ‘religious freedom’, then they must be financially transparent, factually honest, and pay their fair share of tax — as do all hard-working Australian,” he said.
Director, Plain Reason
Plain Reason: Promoting science, reason and critical thinking.