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ACNC called upon to investigate the Church of Scientology’s charity status


7 April 2021 at 4:23 pm
Nikki Stefanoff
An investigation by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald has found the Church of Scientology shifted millions of dollars into Australia


Nikki Stefanoff | 7 April 2021 at 4:23 pm


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ACNC called upon to investigate the Church of Scientology’s charity status
7 April 2021 at 4:23 pm

An investigation by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald has found the Church of Scientology shifted millions of dollars into Australia

Labor charities spokesman Andrew Leigh and Greens treasury spokesman Nick McKim have both called for a parliamentary review and for the ACNC to look into claims the Church of Scientology is using Australia as a tax haven.

It follows an investigation by The Age and Sydney Morning Herald that found the Church of Scientology had shifted millions into Australia from offshore and continues to make a significant amount of money in tax-free profits, despite the ever-declining numbers of its Australian members.

Australia, the investigation found, has become an international haven for the religion. 

“There is a very clear case for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) to review Scientology’s charity status,” McKim said in an interview with The Age. “They should investigate whether Australia is being used as a tax haven for the organisation’s international revenue.”

Leigh agreed that it would be appropriate for the ACNC to look into the religion’s activities and also flagged the potential for a federal parliamentary committee to conduct an investigation. 

“In the corporate tax space, we’ve been doing a lot of work over recent years on multinational tax avoidance and the practice that multinationals have engaged in, in moving resources into lower tax jurisdictions,” he told ABC Radio.

“I think it would be useful for Australians to be assured that the Church of Scientology isn’t practising something similar. Australia doesn’t want to be a tax haven for charities.”

McKim agreed and said The Greens party was open to a Senate inquiry “if the ACNC is unwilling to investigate or unable to get its hands on the information it needs”.

“There is a serious need for transparency around the movement of funds across the globe, and how Scientology is using its charity status in Australia,” he said.

When called on for comment an ACNC spokeswoman told the Herald that due to provision in the laws it was unable to comment on the “particular circumstances of a charity.”

She did, however, speak in general terms and stated that while charities can make a profit it must be used for charitable purposes such as “saving up for a new project, new infrastructure or a building, or to accumulate a reserve so it can continue to be sustainable.” 

“If an organisation continues to hold onto significant profits indefinitely, without using them for its charitable purpose, this may suggest that the organisation is not working solely towards its stated charitable purpose (and is not operating as a not for profit),” she said.


Nikki Stefanoff  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Nikki Stefanoff is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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