GUEST BLOG: The Lockdown With Bryan Bruce Day 21: A Taxing Problem


The nationwide shutdown has highlighted a number of anomalies in the way we run our economy. Our tax system is one of them .

Not- for- profit organisations such as churches do not pay tax but expect the taxpayer to pay a wage subsidy to their out -of- work employees at this time.

While mainstream media has enjoyed pointing up the Nelson and Whakatāne branches of Destiny Church receiving $60,436 collectively for nine staff, the fact is that mainstream churches have also been applying for the subsidy.

Why? Because they run things like Op shops for example and other services for which they pay employees .

The issue isn’t simple – after all the employees ,I assume, have being paying tax but not the Church itself.

OK – but what if the Church in question owns a huge business that makes lots of profit each year but pays no tax?

The 7th Day Adventist Church for instance owns Sanitarium yet pays no tax .

While it spends some of its profits in New Zealand arguably doing good works which are of benefit to the secular community , a lot of its money goes on missionary evangelism especially throughout the Pacific.

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Could we not clean this legalised tax evasion issue up by requiring all Churches to pay taxes on their incomes and then giving tax deductions for the particular good works they do in in our community for which they can prove they have legitimate expenses and costs ?

I really don’t see much difference between Big Business and Big Churches when it comes to wanting business-related bail outs.
Do you?

To me – if you pay tax you deserve our ungrudging support at this time. If you’re a big organisation and you don’t pay tax you ought not to qualify for a government hand out .

Meanwhile – people like small business owner Natasha whose story I featured yesterday reports the announcements made by the government today to support small and medium businesses is not going help her pay the rent on the premises she leases.

Go figure.

Bryan Bruce is one of NZs most respected documentary makers and public intellectuals who has tirelessly exposed NZs neoliberal economic settings as the main cause for social issues.


  1. Great examples also the rise of the ‘charity’ that seems to exist to promote certain views on everything from poverty to kids charities…. many skew the discourse and use their charity money to heavily promote themselves and their views, not actually give 100% to the poor.

    Apparently no rich lister is complete without their own charity to funnel their taxes into – knight hood often follows.

    Politicians love them, The Hillary foundation makes other governments like NZ pay into them with rumours that only a tiny fraction ever reach a real charity recipient at all.

    Many people donated to the Christchurch massacre but it seems that the funds may never have reached them in the way the donors expected… the funds are still stuck in the charities accounts or being argued over.

    I believe Peter Thiel gave John Key’s Christchurch rebuild foundation 1 million dollars in return for citizenship here even though he did not qualify for citizenship at all.

    Increasingly charities are not charities but tax havens and ways to reroute money.

    Charities in the 21 century is more like wage/tax theft when some workers and organisations pay taxes and others don’t follow the same rules.

  2. Totally agree. The tax exemption for churches encourages the business entrepreneurial side of the religious too much. Some actually teach financial capability as part of their Sunday school education. Then there are smart people who create a really good lifestyle for themselves running a church and passing off its various activities as good works or charity. They call many of these ‘prosperity churches’, and there is a big move for private entrepreneurs to set up not-for-profit businesses contracting to the government to do things it should be doing directly. Hearing politicians answer questions about poor services to the public with a flip ‘That’s not within my jurisdiction, it’s an organisational matter’ is just so much cowslush.

    Tax exemptions for churches, deemed churches, and various trusts, legal incorporated societies and not-for-profits are behind most of the rorts. It would be fairer if a reasonable limit for revenue, adjusted for inflation, was set, not too low, say $100,000 per annum, and tax over that at normal rates for small business. And they would have to follow normal business tax return requirements also with regular auditing. There might be special arrangements for charitable, helpful-to-society entities with brackets Under $100,000 first, second $100,000 to $300,000 next and over that full business tax.

    They could apply as suggested, for tax exemption on approved projects, but only one a year with limited spending or something like that. Loose wording of controls and laxness in auditing must be avoided. Certain religious groups, or cults, are very savvy at arguing their special case and very wealth-building as a result.

    If they get too big and powerful and wealthy, these cults, they can destroy an economy and ordinary society.
    Which is always embattled by some group seeking power. Scintology, Unification Church! Not everything (religious) that glisters, is gold.

    One example of a wealthy cult controlling its surrounds and nearby unconnected citizens. This from 1978 can be repeated.

  3. Well , each individual case needs to be looked into individually…

    My sister, ( ex nurse btw.. ) was the person in charge of the Salvation Army’s Bethany in Auckland. It looked after at risk women and their baby’s until birth. And I’m talking woman from outlaw gangs most often. The threat to them in facing down aggressive male gang members turning up was regular.

    So much so , I taught all these giggling , inoffensive young and middle aged female staff Japanese Jujitsu detainment (arm/ elbow / shoulder locks ) techniques,… I was that worried about their personal safety. And I taught them to mob any offender using certain other techniques to take them down if necessary until the Police arrived. How many people, – (esp vulnerable peaceful women),- would love to turn up to work in a place like that every morning and feel physically threatened, eh Bryan?

    Would you?

    That was the sort of thing the public NEVER heard about , eh Bryan.

    Did you?

    I doubt it.

    And the question is , Bryan,… just WHAT happened to these young mothers after they had their babies?… back to the gang? Most of them wanted to get away from them.

    Another thing I doubt you’ve even got the answers for Bryan.

    Where were YOU , Bryan?

    And so , ‘Bryan’,…after the Salvation Army were struggling to keep Bethany afloat and my sister appearing twice on TV3 appealing to the John Key govt to allow funding for Bethany and other ground zero social services ( and by implication the hundreds of other denominations who ‘pick up the tab’ such as the Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Catholics that the neo liberal govt’s want to wash their hands of ) , – Bethany after over 100 years of service to the people of New Zealand , – specifically Auckland , – was closed down.

    Cool eh, Bryan?

    A whole bunch of woman lost their jobs ( most of them retired nurses) and young women with newborn baby’s had to fall back on the state or go back to the gangs with limited state care and eventually costing the state even more?

    How much is a social workers salary’s per year , Bryan?

    Is a social worker a qualified medical worker as well, Bryan?

    See where this is heading, Bryan?

    You want to do a per year cost / spreadsheet of those secular govt combined services then compare that with often retired women who WERE NURSES , who WERE SOCIAL WORKERS in the church and chose to work for peanuts or voluntarily in Church based social programs??? And who had YEARS of experience to offer, – with the NZ govt and population getting that for a literal song?

    Are you really telling me to throw the ‘ baby ‘ literally out with he bathwater for the sake of ideological purity here because a few churches have raised your ire, Bryan?

    Maybe there are a few cases where churches need to be looked into. But they would only be a few compared to the MASSIVE, – almost always, – unseen and unsung good social works they do.

    Something that perhaps you would do well to do an article about to provide balance instead of joining the John Key brigade and shitting all over these marvelous and selfless unsung working people.

    • @Wild Katipo, but Bethany arguably should not have be a charity but funded by government.

      The problem is that the ‘original’ charities seem to have been overtaken by the new charities like Kids Can and John Key Christchurch Earthquake Foundation, while at the same time it’s coming out that churches have historic sexual abuse and have been turning a blind eye to sexual molestation by their churches…

      So do they deserved to pay no taxes and have no scrutiny…. nope!!!!!

      The post is not about what charities, churches should be funded or not, it is about why churches and charities are exempt from Taxes and how that anomaly is being misused.

      For example it is estimated that Gloriavale can be claiming 3.2 million a year in Working for Families payments. They can also qualify for payments for running their own school and curriculum.

      • And are we saying that secular institutions are washed clean of the taints of sexual abuse?- seems pretty damn selective to me – and with an agenda to boot.

        When the secular social institutions can prove they are claen from disgusting sexual abuse is the day I might conceded. Until then?- the onus is on the humanists to prove otherwise.

        And that STILL doesn’t answer the costs involved of ex nurses providing better state service for a veritable song as opposed to secular social workers who ARE NOT qualified nurses , AND ex nurses carrying out those duties.

        The fact that they are ex nurses and Christians means the state gets a free ride in comparison to running costs , wages and service as to their well payed secular counterparts.

        It would behoove any commentators to think carefully before they knock the churches for their social services.

        And if they are going to do that in future, – they’d better make damn sure they comment on specifics rather than making broad sweeping statements.

  4. Churches also pay no rates so are community parasites and often own large real estate portfolios.
    Charge them rates rather than me pay for their bludging off the community.

    If a church does genuine no holds bared community charity work for the needy than let the IRD evaluate what the have spent on that and give tax relief for that amount.

    Free loaders are parasites regardless of capturing souls and the associated wallets.

    • Ever had a relative that went through the Salvation Army Bridge program?

      I heard it first hand that they were second to none.

      Not some govt funded secular alcohol / drug program but from an ex alcoholic himself.

      This countrys Left wing should hold thier heads in shame attacking such as these. And that includes many other church denominations running similar programs, often underfunded, often operating on a shoestring, – and you people whine and bitch about that because you have a thing against the church?

      Because that’s the REAL reason for this anti church hate.

      So you support govts that under fund them ,support dissension and deliberate beat ups designed to cast them in a poor light ie : pedophilia, yet offer NO evidence barring your negative cherry picked , selective evidence such as the above and purposefully ignore the social good they do and are forced to do on a very , very basic budget.

      Well go ahead, – take the churches out of the mix. See how well you go. I would say that within 6 months OR LESS you will be whinging and bitching about pedophiles, gross misappropriation of funding , poor standards of service, garbage CEO’s opening it up to private concerns and raking in the profits while downgrading the ‘BUSINESS’. Because that’s what WILL happen if the secular departments are anything to go by.

      So there you go , – there’s the challenge. Lets just see if the humanists can do any better.

      I’ll guarantee they will do FAR , FAR WORSE.

  5. John W churches couldn’t capture your soul, it seems to have shrivelled and passed away some time ago.
    Peace brother, and try a course of looking for a positive thing to hold in mind till the next one is spotted. You just need practice in keeping those dark miserable thoughts starved of oxygen till they run away and reviving your human soul. Kia kaha.

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