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4/16/2024 New Zealand (International Christian Concern) — Pressure is mounting for churches in New Zealand to lose their tax exemption status.  

The country’s current charities law allows churches to obtain tax exemption status if they meet one of four charitable purposes: helping relieve poverty, advancing religion, advancing education, or “other purposes beneficial to the community.” This tax exemption status for New Zealand churches has existed since the 1600s. 

Recently elected Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, an active member of the New Zealand Baptist Church, stated on April 13 that his government would explore removing churches’ tax exemption status. This follows increasing rhetoric in the media about the so-called “free ride” that churches, especially megachurches, enjoy in terms of not paying taxes on the income they generate. In 2021, a petition calling for all churches to pay income tax circulated. The petition has garnered more than 50,000 signatures.

Many Christian groups and churches have pushed back at this narrative, citing churches’ positive role in society with food banks, addiction treatment, parenting programs, prisoner reintegration services, schools, retirement homes, spiritual support, and other spiritual and social services. One pastor whose church runs a major gang intervention and social support program that receives no government funding stated that when he heard Prime Minister Luxon’s desire to investigate removing this income tax exemption status, he would send Luxon “a big bill at the end of every year charging all the cost that we’re doing for free.” 

New Zealand is an increasingly secular society, with Christianity steadily declining during the last 20 years. The most recent census shows that about 37% of the population claims to be Christian. More than half of the population now claims “No Religion,” which has increased steadily.

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