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Charitable purpose and the need for a public benefit: A comparison of the tax treatment of Australian and New Zealand charities for indigenous peoples


In both Australia and New Zealand various tax concession are granted to entities that are considered “charitable” or “charities”. For example, in Australia s 50-5 item 1.1 of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 (Cth) provides that the income of Australian charitable entities is exempt from income tax. In New Zealand there are similar provisions in the Income Tax Act 2007 (NZ). This article undertakes an analysis of the development of the “public benefit” restriction on charities. It looks at the historical and political underpinnings of this test, including how it came about and the fiscal relevance. The paper then examines how the common law development of the concept of charity has been applied in Australia and in particular to charities established for Australian indigenous people and whether this creates a problem in Australia. The article then compares the Australian position with the New Zealand experience where several legislative changes including amendments to the New Zealand Income Tax Act have
been introduced in order to benefit Maori charities.

Author profiles

Dr Fiona Martin CTA
Fiona is a solicitor, academic and chartered tax adviser with The Taxation Institute. She commenced working as an academic after several years as a lawyer, both with the government (including the Attorney-General's Department) and in private practice. Her expertise and research are in the taxation law area and in particular how it relates to charities and interacts with issues relating to human rights and traditional land owners. Fiona has published many articles in highly regarded international and Australian law journals, including the Australian Tax Forum and Common Law World Review. She has presented at conferences on issues relating to taxation concessions applying to charities, the application of the GST particularly as it relates to charities and income tax and property development generally. She has also published a number of book chapters and a textbook in the revenue law area. In 2013, she was awarded her doctorate on the application of income tax principles to resource agreements with Indigenous Australians, with particular emphasis on the use of Indigenous charities as a tax-exempt structure. She has also received several research awards. - Current at 01 April 2016
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Audrey SHARP
Audrey is a Senior Tutor at the Faculty of Business, University of Auckland.


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