Tax the church! So read the sign for one aspiring party in the recent Territory elections. Sounds almost fair doesn’t it? Why shouldn’t the churches pay tax? Surely that would be a vote catcher? Well, interestingly enough, Hugh MacKay in his research found that 88% of non churchgoers would like a church in their local neighbourhood. In other words, they see the church as an agent of social good.
More to the point, religious organisations do pay appropriate taxes. Fringe benefits tax, land tax, rates, local government charges are among those. As well, and this is a point I would make around the water cooler, church moneys are already taxed. The church survives on gifts from its members (not from the government as many seem to believe) and gifts to the church are not tax deductible. This money is already taxed. To tax the church would be to tax this money twice.
As well, governments know what the average punter doesn’t. Without the churches, the government would be in trouble. For instance 23 of the 25 largest charities are faith based. This sector has nearly 5 million volunteers who contribute $14.6 billion in unpaid work (2010). Faith based charities have a significantly larger ratio of volunteers to paid workers. Ann Robinson, a leading expert on charities and tax law says “ if the church closed up shop and didn’t provide the schools hospitals and social welfare infrastructure-society would go bankrupt”. *
So, if this topic comes up around the water cooler in your office, use it to positively show what churches do and even better why they do it. Don’t aim to win an argument, aim to honour Jesus.
* (sourced from Centre for Public Christianity website)