A story has surfaced (via eChurch blog) that some small Brethren churches were being “denied charitable status” on the grounds that the “2006 Act removed the presumption of public benefit from certain classes of charity including religious charities”. Another small church is having its charitable status “revoked”. But this rather hides what is happening here.
This means that these churches will now be treated as businesses for tax purposes. This in turn means that their income will be subject to corporation tax at 20%. It means that David Cameron will be taking one pound out of every five from the collection plate of these tiny west-country churches.
That’s quite a proposal. It has, as far as I can tell, attracted little press comment.
Julian Brazier MP comments here:
In particular, they feel that the Commission’s decision runs counter to the assurances given by both Government Ministers and the Commission itself, that established religions should not find themselves denied charitable status as a result of the provisions of the 2006 Act.
Some of us knew what would happen, even then. This Is Cornwall comments:
The Westcountry branch of an evangelical Christian movement is to become a test case for legislation which could strip thousands of religious groups of their charitable status.
Preston Down Trust, which runs meeting halls for the non-conformist Exclusive Brethren in Torquay, Paignton and Newton Abbot, is fighting exclusion under the Charities Act. …
Colin Hart, director of the Christian Institute, said it was “alarming” the commission was “getting involved in assessing whether they like a particular religious belief, whether they think it has a benefit or disbenefit”.
The Charities Commission has cynically “welcomed” the “chance to clarify the law” by putting this tiny and harmless group through the misery of a drawn-out court case.
Another report is here.