Alice Snedden’s Bad News: How come churches don’t have to pay any tax?

Summer reissue: In the fourth episode of Alice Snedden’s Bad News, Alice makes some inquiries upstairs about the charitable status of churches after finding out the makers of Weet-Bix have an exemption from paying tax.

First published August 20, 2020.

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New Zealand is a secular society, but “advancement of religion” is still one of the main things that define a charity. That charitable status means that churches – even the big rich ones – don’t have to pay any tax. And that exemption also extends to breakfast cereal tycoons Sanitarium, which is an arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Does that seem right? Why is “advancement of religion” still considered a cornerstone of charity? And is it true what they say about Kellogg’s and masturbating? Joined by comedian Eli Mathewson and a giant pile of Weet-Bix, Alice tries to take a charitable view as she hears different perspectives on the issue. Head of the Interchurch Bureau Chris Bethwaite argues the case for churches as a social service, and lets Alice have a go on the church drum kit. Meanwhile, tax advisor Andrea Black explains the origins of the exemption and whether or not it’s still relevant today.

Commissioned by RNZ and made possible by the RNZ/NZ On Air Innovation Fund.

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