Greens want political advocacy to be charitable

August 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

blogs:

 In Australia political advocacy is recognised as a charitable purpose in its own right”.

It is time we modernised our system and included advocacy in the Charities Act. I have a members bill in my name that would do just that

I’m absolutely opposed to this. You should not get a tax deduction because you donate to do political advocacy. Should Kim Dotcom get a $1.3 million tax deduction because he gave $4 million to the Internet Party?

This law change would allow every lobby group in New Zealand to claim they are a .

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42 Responses to “Greens want political advocacy to be charitable”

  1. jp_1983 (213 comments) says:

    This is the greens remember.

    “Approved lobby groups”

    poverty action group – approved

    Family first – not approved

    Etc…

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  2. Harriet (4,972 comments) says:

    “…This law change would allow every lobby group in New Zealand to claim they are a charity….”

    Every group in the country lobbies for something-a-rather from government – be it kindys or sports clubs or the chambers of commerce.

    So too do ‘groups of businesses’ under the same owners – like Fletchers. Well it’s not too bad a idea I suppose……having next to no tax to pay. :cool:

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  3. Manolo (13,780 comments) says:

    Whatever needs to be done to save Gaia. The end justifies the means, say this bunch of communists.

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  4. mjw (396 comments) says:

    I dunno, how else would you describe advocating for somebody like the Greens? They certainly seem like a charity case to me. :-)

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  5. flipper (4,067 comments) says:

    But hang on David.

    If that red melon green idea ever becomes law, would that not mean my subscription to National would be tax deductible?

    A bit late for Cyril Smith to claim a deduction. But the silly melons cannot understand that 70,000 plus subscription paying members of the National Party would most certainly take advantage of a benne that was handed to them without asking – rather like the benne CminusT is trying to bribe 65+s with totally free for health care.

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  6. Yogibear (366 comments) says:

    How to double the size of the bureaucracy in one easy step. How do you monitor and track and apportion? Surely one Vice Chancellor speech with a Minister in attendance at a Graduation could not render a University tax exempt in its entirety, so the bureaucrat would have to apportion.

    Similarly the AA’s insurance operation could not surely be granted a competitive advantage over other insurers because of its advocacy arm.

    But I’m all for this, if for nothing else than to see the Greens recognise Straterra (oil and mining lobby group) has an equal voice

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  7. Brian Marshall (202 comments) says:

    Steven Franks was writing about the confusing greenpeace court case to determine their charitable status the other day. I think any pretending that greens and greenpeace are separate is now done and buried.

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  8. mikenmild (11,247 comments) says:

    Unlike DPF’s example, this is not a proposal to make political parties registered charities, just to include advocacy as one of the legitimate roles of a charitable organisation.
    I’m happy to see Forest and Bird, for example, doing advocacy work alongside its other conservation work. Makes sense to me.

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  9. flipper (4,067 comments) says:

    Thumb down 0
    Brian Marshall (192 comments) says:

    August 13th, 2014 at 7:51 am

    Steven Franks was writing

    *****

    Sounds interesting. Can you direct to a ref, please?

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  10. Brian Marshall (202 comments) says:

    Flipper, I am on my mobile phone so it’s hard to link, but while checking Lindsay Mitchell’s blog, she has links to other blogs. I think it was linked to it from there. Steven is quite a good read on legal cases and his short summary was the judges were not very clear.

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  11. flipper (4,067 comments) says:

    Brian Marshall..
    Thanks for steer.

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  12. smttc (752 comments) says:

    Ah Mikey, you are wrong.

    Read Denise Roche’s words. She isn’t proposing to legislate the Supreme Court’s decision in the Greenpeace case. She is proposing to enact a new and separate head of charity called political advocacy and if so then that is just plain wrong.

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  13. homepaddock (408 comments) says:

    If they get tax deductibility then they’ll go for full state funding.

    They think democracy should be of the people, for the people funded by taxpayers.

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  14. Daniel (208 comments) says:

    I think we should hear the Greens out on this. One aspect of course is that the IRD will lose out on tens (hundreds?) of millions of dollars each year in reduced revenue. What government services are the Greens looking to cut to fund this policy?

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  15. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    DPF: why? I think it is a charitable act to donate to a political party (even if someone’s selection of party might be one I disagree with). And so long as all parties get the deduction it wouldn’t change relativity. It would probably tidy up some of the treatment – it seems sort of unusual to me that political parties wouldn’t be considered charities.

    Having said that, the one that I think absolutely should not be changed is government funded organisations and advocacy. So Forest and Bird can’t be both performing a regulatory role for government using statutorily provided funds, and at the same time lobbying that government for policies that not everyone who compulsorily provided those funds agree with. Which was also one of the strong argument against compulsory student unionism.

    (Now there’s a blast from the past. Will Labour reintroduce compulsory student unionism? Haven’t heard anything about it)

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  16. All_on_Red (1,583 comments) says:

    The Greens really are the puppets of Greenpeace. It’s a disgrace that we now have overseas Corporations which have revenues of hundreds of millions now have their own paid for representatives and are actively interfering in our political processes. The Greens are the biggest hypocrites.
    Perhaps we should be looking at changing the rules so that unless you were born here, you can’t be an MP, ala the President of the US. That might stop carpetbaggers like Norman and Genter.

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  17. Paulus (2,627 comments) says:

    Isn’t Greenpeace now a registered Charity again, after a Supreme Court stupid ruling, so the Green Party will continue to use them as before for their political purposes ?

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  18. Ross12 (1,428 comments) says:

    Paulus

    No , Greenpeace is not a charity again as a result of the Court case. All it said was that they can apply again.

    georgeblowing gave a view on here the other day that suggested they would be wasting their time ( as a result of the what the Judges said. ( based on george’s comments I think he is a lawyer with good knowledge of this area of law)

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  19. Elaycee (4,392 comments) says:

    Is it a coincidence this private members bill would also allow the Problem Gambling Foundation (Denise Roche’s partner is a former CEO) to be taxpayer funded whilst they maintain their ‘advocacy’ (lobbying) role on behalf of the Gweens?

    In recent months, the PGF was (correctly) criticised for political lobbying / ‘advocacy’ at the same time they were receiving government and Industry funding for the provision of services to the 4% of New Zealanders who have a ‘problem’ with gambling. And by morphing from their ‘service provision’ function into a lobby group, the question was correctly asked why the PGF should be entitled to funding courtesy of the taxpayer or via Industry levies. (And that discussion is far from over…..)

    But Roche wants to clear this up – the long suffering taxpayer should fund ‘approved’ parties who (by coincidence) parrot Gween Party policy.

    Sheesh….

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  20. H (6 comments) says:

    She also accuses the National government reneging on a promise made by the Labour government to review the law in 2015. Because governments are apparently bound by the promises of their predecessors?

    Advocating for a political position is not a charitable activity. It may or may not result in something good being done, but on this reasoning you could have given $100,000 to the National Front and had it be tax free.

    While we’re talking about charitable status, isn’t it about time we reviewed the charitable status of religious organisations? I’m all for tax exemptions when they are actually doing something good, but when all they are doing is advocating ideology or paying enormous sums of money to execs at the expense of members (looking at you, Destiny) we should tax the bejesus out of them.

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  21. Concerned (41 comments) says:

    This is nutty.

    How do they rationalise it in Australia?

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  22. flipper (4,067 comments) says:

    PaulL (5,931 comments) says:

    August 13th, 2014 at 8:12 am
    ***

    Excellent observations.

    Apropos your later one re greenpeace. No.
    The Supreme Court sent it back to the Commission….and appears to have given both the Commission and greenpeace headaches.

    The best analysis is on Stephen Franks blog… a simple google will bring it up. Tks Brian Marshall

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  23. Maggy Wassilieff (394 comments) says:

    Here’s the link to stephen Frank’s blog entry

    http://www.stephenfranks.co.nz/political-advocacy-may-be-charitable/

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  24. ChardonnayGuy (1,207 comments) says:

    As far as I’m concerned, there should be a separate legislative regime that distinguishes lobby groups from legitimate charities. Greenpeace, Family First and the Sensible Sentencing Trust are pressure groups- they are not charities in any sense of the word, as they are not service providers.

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  25. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    >Should Kim Dotcom get a $1.3 million tax deduction because he gave $4 million to the Internet Party?

    Does anyone actually think that Dotcom currently pays taxes in NZ? The country’s chief narcissist business model is to set up an unsustainable company that is bound to crash eventually, then loot it while he can to fund his party-boy lifestyle. I can’t imagine that paying taxes would be part of this model.

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  26. georgebolwing (854 comments) says:

    Ross12: not lawyer, but used to a work on the policy around tax exemption for charities.

    This debate is about the so-called “forth head” of the definition of a charitable purpose, which was expounded in the English tax case of Pemsel in the 1890’s. That case said that a body had a charitable purpose if it was established exclusively for the benefit of the community. There is a long line of cases in England, Australia and New Zealand that said that advocacy of a change of laws could not be a charitable purpose, unless it was ancillary to the purpose of the body.

    The Australian law (based on the High Court’s decision in the Aid/watch case), now followed in New Zealand is that political advocacy does not automatically preclude registration as a charity.

    But the Supreme Court has not said that being purely involved in advocacy is automatically charitable. They have left in place the core test that the purposes have to be beneficial to the community and having a view that the world should be different from how it is now, regardless of how deeply held that view is, might not be enough.

    I will have to look at the Green’s proposal in detail, but it does sound like it is a radical extension of the definition of charity.

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  27. Nigel Kearney (1,013 comments) says:

    An in depth examination of the meaning and applications of the word ‘charitable’ is irrelevant except to philosophers. What matters is the purpose of the tax exemption and whether that purpose applies to advocacy.

    Parliament needs to clarify (as the court should have done) that the sole purpose of the exemption is to encourage private provision of social services and therefore political advocacy is not included.

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  28. OneTrack (3,107 comments) says:

    “Greens want political advocacy to be charitable”

    Of course those troughers do. How else can they pay for their little hobby horses when no one will voluntarily support them.

    How convenient.

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  29. OneTrack (3,107 comments) says:

    “Whatever needs to be done to save Gaia”

    Whatever needs to be done to usher in the brave new world, you mean.

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  30. georgebolwing (854 comments) says:

    @ Nigel Kearney

    It has never been the law in the UK, Australia or New Zealand that the sole purpose of the exemption is to encourage private provision of social services. That has been a large part of the reasoning, but not the sole part. The four heads of the traditional definition (which date back to the 1600’s), are: relief of poverty, promotion of education, promotion of religion and “other matters beneficial to the community”.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think that the definition should be changed and something like that proposed in a discussion document released by Michael Cullen in 2001 would be a good start: “A charitable purpose means a humanitarian purpose that, when viewed objectively, makes a direct positive contribution to the well-being of society as a whole.” (See http://taxpolicy.ird.govt.nz/news/2001-06-14-tax-and-charities-discussion-document-released).

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  31. OneTrack (3,107 comments) says:

    “Now there’s a blast from the past. Will Labour reintroduce compulsory student unionism”

    Yes, of course they will. The question is more, why wouldn’t they? Labour 2014, Leader chosen by the unions, Labour going berserk when it was made optional, etc., etc.

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  32. OneTrack (3,107 comments) says:

    “This is nutty.

    How do they rationalise it in Australia?

    Anything for the cause, Comrade!

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  33. ross411 (841 comments) says:

    This is probably where it started in the USA. First they let political entities be charitable, then next thing you know the vice president is profiting off the war through his part ownership of Haliburton.

    Money should be kept out of politics.

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  34. ChardonnayGuy (1,207 comments) says:

    Fascinating. None of the sock-con usual suspects are disagreeing with me about Family First and the Sensible Sentencing Trust’s actual status as pressure/lobby organisations as opposed to legitimate charities. While I think that there is a legitimate place for criticism of incumbent government policies (regardless of the composition of that incumbent, let it be noted), that criticism should be evidence-based and directly related to the organisation’s core mission and related service provision. If an organisation doesn’t engage in meaningful service provision to others, then it should not receive the benefits and advantages of charitable status.

    As far as I’m concerned, Greenpeace may provide environmental education services, but it doesn’t seem to be engaged in large-scale environmental relief and cleanup activities, for instance. Moreover, it engages in civil disobedience and direct action, however carefully it does so. If it wants to devolve its educational activities off into a charitable subsidiary that would qualify under the Charities Act, I wouldn’t object to that. Undoubtedly, many of you may disagree with me about the evidential basis of Greenpeace’s claims, but then I agreed with the Charities Registration Board and Commission when they struck off Family First and the SST for much the same reason.

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  35. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    Another reason to abolish the tax-exempt status of charities.

    A still further reason is the just-announced purchase by Ngai Tahu and Tainui of a big bus line (link below).

    Ngai Tahu is virtually exempt from tax because of its tax status. So is the food manufacturer Sanitarium, owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. (Ngai Tahu’s group charity status means the group, which includes big businesses in property, fishing, travel, pays only a fraction of 1 per cent in company tax).

    Tax baby Ngai Tahu’s latest expansion:

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/10375357/Ngai-Tahu-Tainui-team-to-buy-bus-firm

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  36. georgebolwing (854 comments) says:

    @ ChardonnayGuy

    In fact, Greenpeace hived their educational arm off into a separate trust (Greenpeace Educational Trust) that was registered as a charity in 2008. You can find out what they do by searching the charities register at https://www.charities.govt.nz/charities-in-new-zealand/the-charities-register/search-the-register/)

    It is their “core” group that was barred from registration. The Supreme Court’s decision gave a very, very clear steer that even if Greenpeace’s objectives are found to be charitable (not a certainty at all), the methods they use to promote those purposes (non-violent direct action) are unlikely to be of benefit to the community, thus meaning that they will again fail to be registerd.

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  37. georgebolwing (854 comments) says:

    @ Jack5

    It is a common misconception that the source of a charity’s earnings is in some how determinative of its charitable status.

    A charity is, at tax law, a profit-making body that uses those profits for a charitable purpose.

    Sanitarium is the best publicly known example. Sanitarium is the trading name of New Zealand Health Association Ltd. The source of the funds of New Zealand Health Association Ltd is the production and sale for profit of food stuffs. The purpose of the body undertaking those activities (the Seventh Day Adventist Church, via the registered charity the New Zealand Conference Association, which is the owner of New Zealand Health Association Lt), is the promotion of religion and the promotion of education (again, this information is publicly available via the charities register).

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  38. BR (81 comments) says:

    They partially got their wish when that gang of crooks, Greenpeace, was eligible to be registered as a charity.

    Bill.

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  39. Jack5 (5,137 comments) says:

    George Bolwing (2.28):

    Who gives a stuff what determines charitable status?

    The point is some charities exempt from company tax compete with companies and individuals who have to pay company tax. This is unjust.

    Apart from tax why do organisations need charity status? Don’t they get the corporate liability shield as an incorporated society? If they need to trade, why not pay tax then pass on their tax credits, as companies that pay tax can do to their shareholders? This would put the charity on an even footing with competing businesses.

    Let’s hope the widening of charity status to cover political lobby groups spells the end of the concept of tax exemptions for charities.

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  40. Ross12 (1,428 comments) says:

    georgebolwing

    I think Greenpeace may have “shot themselves in the foot” by separating off their educational arm . It could be argued what educational work they do but anything else they do clearly then has a much higher hurdle to jump to get charity status.

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  41. edward_l (17 comments) says:

    No way should political advocacy be charitable because you are not advocating for anything remotely charitable.
    You are advocating for someone else’s politics or their pressure group.
    I run a micro charity that reduces illiteracy in a handful of extremely remote villages overseas by helping out with materials and sometimes salaries.
    The purpose is clear, improving access to education, the by product is to alleviate poverty.
    Becoming a charity took a few weeks, getting tax rebate status took two years. As the money and materials go out of New Zealand, IRD investigates, and reviews your aims, literally spending a couple of hours on the phone, questioning your methods, motives and operations. You then need to change your trust deeds if there is anything which can be misconstrued. After that it has to be put to a tax select committee and passed into law by Parliament, but you have to wait to be tacked on to the end of some tax amendment.
    Real charities should be clearly and demonstrably charitable.

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  42. Scott1 (552 comments) says:

    Jack5 is right, Just make it simple.
    Tax exempt status for charities is the state taking GST off it’s green vegetables.

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