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Editorial: A tax-free Destiny?

Sun 27 Feb 2005 In: Comment

The question over the anti-gay Destiny Church's status as a charitable organisation continues to be raised, following comments on radio last week from former Auckland mayor John Banks that Destiny is a "global business"; and on the eve of its political-style march through Auckland streets against what it says is moral decay legislated by Parliament's passing of the Civil Unions legislation. Speaking to his breakfast audience on Radio Pacific, Banks also applauded Brian Tamaki's self-promotion to Bishop last week. "It's a global business that he's taking to the world, it's an export business, the Destiny Church, and I see nothing wrong with that, the same as I see absolutely nothing wrong with Chinese women coming across here, setting up as dentists, charging people ten dollars for root canals and making some money, as long as they're paying taxes." During an interview with Kim Hill on TV One's "Face To Face" programme lastyear, Hill told Tamaki he was a successful businessman, to which the political church leader did not respond. Tamaki has been unashamedly outspoken about his political ambitions, declaring in another interview with TV One's "Sunday" programme that within five years his church would be running the country. In interviews leading up to Destiny's uninvited gatecrashing of official church celebrations at Waitangi this year, Tamaki admitted that his motives for attending were political. The Destiny Church, which is becoming increasingly political in the public arena, is registered as a charitable trust which makes it exempt from taxes. Under our tax laws, this also means donations made to the church are tax-deductible. Each Destiny branch is run as a franchise of the original, with its own articles of association. However, there is a clause giving Brian Tamaki or his "appointed apostolic successor" ultimate power of veto over any decision the church makes. According to Inland Revenue's website, charitable organisations whether incorporated or not should "carry out charitable activities or exist exclusively for charitable purposes. They are exempt from income tax, and individuals or companies who donate property to the charity are given relief from gift duty. For an organisation's purposes to be charitable, its activities or aims must be for public purposes. The benefit must be available to a large part of the community. In addition, it must not be carried on for the benefit or profit of any individual." The New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists think its time the church started to pay its way. "Brian Tamaki is running a business and his congregation are his customers," says spokesman Paul Litterick. "They pledge to pay at least ten percent of their income in exchange for Brian's promise that God will make them rich. We are all subsidising him through the income taxes we pay. Destiny is making Tamaki rich and should be taxed like any other business." Speaking to earlier this month, Prime Minister Helen Clark suggested that any organisations finding themselves in potential conflict with Inland Revenue requirements need to be careful. "People have to be very clear about what Inland Revenue Department rules are," she said. "Don't ask me for a dissertation on them [Destiny], because I don't follow them. Suffice it to say that Destiny does whip up a lot of hate, which we don't like." Destiny has not responded to's enquiries regarding its charitable status. Chris Banks - 27th February 2005    

Credit: Chris Banks

First published: Sunday, 27th February 2005 - 12:00pm

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