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NZ charity sector urges government to exclude religious groups from tax break

Review of New Zealand Charities Act underway following calls to revise decade-old legislation

New Zealand has announced a review into the Charities Act 2005 following petitions from the sector to revise tax treatment for religious organisations.

The Minister for Community and Voluntary Sector, Peeni Henare, launched the review to encourage discussion among the sector and the public about what policies in the existing legislation no longer works for those operating within Charity foundations.

“This review will cover many substantive issues,” Henare said in a statement. “The extent to which Charities can advocate for their causes, and ways to appeal the regulators decisions, all need looking at.”

The New Zealand Charities Act 2005 currently regulates more than 27,000 Charities. Henare said that after a decade of policy “it is now time to see if it’s fit for purpose”.

“This is a great opportunity to take a look at the legislation that guides Charities.”

A review of the Act was promised in 2010 but was shut down in 2012 by the former Minister for Charities, Jo Goodhew, who cited that the environment made it too risky to conduct the review and argued the definition would be open to compromise.

“The government considered narrowing the review to look only at the definition of Charitable purposes in the Act,” Goodhew said in a 2012 statement. “However, it is likely that the current tight fiscal environment would limit the scope of such a review, due to the probable tax implications of any widening of the definition.”

This review comes as a petition called on the government to revise the current law that a religious organisation can register as an income-tax exempt Charity by using “the advancement of religion” as their Charitable purpose.

In a newsletter for Charity services, Henare said the review would be “top priority” and he hoped “to make good progress on the review during this parliamentary term.”

“[Charity] engagement and feedback on issues faced will be critical to ensure an effective and fit for purpose Act.”

The Department of Internal Affairs will be leading the review process. They will work closely with a Core Reference Group of representatives from the Charity sector.

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