Lobby groups and charities

The Herald reports:

Family First NZ says it will be deregistered as a charity because of its views on gay marriage.

National director of Family First Bob McCoskrie said the group has received notification the Charities Commission intends to deregister the organisation.

He said the decision was highly politicised and showed groups that think differently to the politically correct view will be targeted.

I was actually surprised that either Family First or the Sensible Sentencing Trust were registered charities. Likewise I was surprised that Greenpeace was also (and they are no more – for now).

This is nothing to do with my degree of agreement with any of those groups. All of them have some views I agree with and disagree with.

But if you run campaigns calling on people to vote a certain way, then I think you cross the line from being a charity to a lobby group.

I’m all for lobby groups. We need more of them. And people should donate to the ones they agree with. But they should not get a tax rebate for doing so.

Now there are some groups that do some stuff that is charitable and some stuff that is lobbying. One solution is to structurally separate the two. For example the SST does some amazing support networks for victims of serious crimes such as murders. Donations to support that work should be tax deductible. But donations to fund their lobbying on law and order issues should not be.

The same goes for Forest & Bird. Donations for their actual conservation projects should be tax deductible. But donations for their political advocacy in favour of certain political parties should not be. Under their current structure I think Forest & Bird should not be registered either.

That is not to say no charity should be unable to express views on political issues. But when almost everything you do is around political issues (as was the National Council of Women), then I’d say you are not charitable.


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