For release: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Australian Christian Lobby said this morning it has been misrepresented in today’s article in The Australian, “Support grows for tax reform in not-for-profits”.

Managing Director of the Australian Christian Lobby Jim Wallace said, “ACL reiterated that while we understand the position of the Community Council for Australia that fringe benefits tax concessions have greatest benefit for the higher paid employees in charities, we believe that current FBT concessions for religious practitioners should remain.”

Mr Wallace continued, “With regards to churches, it is only 'religious practitioners' who are able to benefit from FBT concessions, and not other employees like the rest of the sector. These workers are generally not paid anywhere nearly as well as equivalents in the broader not-for-profit sector, and therefore the view of the Community Council does not apply to the great majority of churches.

“Importantly, the 2010 Productivity Commission report, ‘Contribution of the Not-For-Profit Sector’, did not recommend any changes to the current FBT arrangements for religious practitioners, but it did highlight concerns in other areas of the sector which clearly the Community Council was referring to,” said Mr Wallace.

“ACL further pointed out that any changes to the tax treatment of churches and charities must acknowledge the diverse nature of the sector and particularly the effect on the charitable activities of smaller churches and organisations caused by any increased administrative overheads,” said Mr Wallace.

“Therefore, ACL believes churches should be given the choice of opting into DGR or retaining their basic religious charity status with only income tax exemption, but fewer overheads.

“This is a complex issue, and what applies to one part of the sector does not necessarily apply to the other. These nuances need to be recognised,” Mr Wallace concluded.