In her reply to the Budget and Tony Abbott’s reply, Fiona Patten, President of the Australian Sex Party, has called on both sides of politics to immediately take action to relieve the tax burden on families by immediately overhauling the tax concessions provided to churches and religious organisations.
“ At a time when the latest figures are showing that less than 8% of Australians are regular church-goers it would come as a shock to many Australians that churches are managing to avoid taxes by some billions of dollars”, Patten said.
“A conservative estimate is that income tax exemptions alone to churches and religious organisations cost taxpayers nearly $ 20 billion a year. Add to that GST concessions, exemptions from capital gains tax (on property and share trading) and the Fringe Benefits Tax Exemption and the cost to tax payers is staggering.”
She said that churches owned billions of dollars worth of real estate and companies turning over hundreds of millions of dollars a year and all were getting a free ride, care of the Australian tax payer. “We are one of the few remaining countries in the world which allow these sorts of tax breaks for Churches”, she said.
Sanitarium, owned by the Seventh Day Adventists, is said to have nearly 25% of the cereal market valued at over $ 300 million dollars but it is not subject to company tax. The market share that they have been able to achieve is testimony to the unfair advantage they have been given over their tax-paying competitors.
Ms Patten said it was difficult to put an exact figure on the amount of tax forgone because churches report to no one. “After years of lobbying against a charities commission, the churches finally acquiesced leading to the newly formed Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) but alas buried deep in the legislation is an exemption for churches from the reporting requirements placed on other charities”, she said.
“The Churches argue that the profits of these enterprises go back into their “good works”. This may be the case but the total lack of transparency is cold comfort. If all the profits are indeed going back into charitable works well they can be accounted for (and receive a tax deduction) just as a regular company would do”.
Under the ATO rules to qualify as a charity an organisation will qualify even if its sole purpose is for “the advancement of religion”. This means that we are effectively subsidising everyone from the local priest right through to powerful groups such as the Australian Christian Lobby who argue against many things that the bulk of Australians belief in, such as same sex marriage, ethics classes, adding RU486 to the PBS and voluntary euthanasia.
“I will campaign to remove the “advancement of religion” clause from the ATO definition of charity”, Patten said. “ Furthermore I am totally committed to abolishing tax concessions for all religions. If their profits are directed to truly charitable causes they should have no fear being accountable just like all other organisations”

Fiona Patten
Australian Sex Party
PO Box 1131 Carlton
VIC 3053 Australia
Head off. -+61 3 9347 2332
0413 734 613

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