What is going on? The SA Liberals seem determined to undermine the rights of faith-based organisations. Last month, Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman proposed removing exemptions which allowed faith-based organisations to run their schools, hospitals and other services in accordance with their beliefs. Now Liberal Treasurer Rob Lucas wants to deny a Christian college its payroll tax exemption.
Tabor College launches Supreme Court action against Commissioner of Taxation over more than $360,000 in payroll tax
Mitch Mott December 26, 2020 Sunday Mail (SA)
An Adelaide religious college is taking the tax man to the state’s highest court over a decision to make them pay more than $360,000 in payroll tax.
The majority of the students who attend Tabor College are studying to the join the ministry, but Treasurer Rob Lucas decided the school was acting as a tertiary institution and should be taxed accordingly.
In an application for review of an administrative decision lodged in the Supreme Court, and seen by The Advertiser, Tabor College argues their main purpose is the advancement of religion, a recognised category of charitable pursuit.
Tabor’s application is the latest in a series of cases challenging decisions of the Commissioner of Taxation to remove tax-free exemptions.
In March this year the High Court refused to hear an appeal from South Australian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc, known as Business SA, in an attempt to wrest back $2.6m in payroll tax.
The refusal bought to an end a five-year legal saga between the lobby group, who claimed they should have charity status, and the Commissioner for Taxation, who disagreed.
In February this year Trinity College Gawler took the Commissioner to court over the refusal to grant staff at their sports centre Starplex tax-free status.
That case has since moved to mediation.
The court actions have implications for other charities offering registered education courses.
In January 2018, Tabor College wrote to Mr Lucas seeking clarification on its charity status.
They were told in a letter a few months later they were not eligible for a payroll exemption, prompting the school to launch an administrative objection.
The matter was not resolved and Tabor College began action in the Supreme Court.
In court documents Tabor said the purpose of the school as enshrined in their constitution was to “promote and provide quality Christian education”.
The school was founded in 1978 with the goal of preparing students for ministry.
Over the years the school broadened it approach until it described itself as a “multi-denominational, dual-sector Christian tertiary institution” offering government-accredited qualifications from vocational certificates to research doctorates.
Accredited degrees offered at the school include arts, social science, teaching and counselling.
Figures provided in Tabor’s court documents show 79 per cent of all courses are ministry-based with 70 per cent of students enrolled in those courses.
The school argues its focus is the “advancement of religion” by the “advancement of education”.
In their response to Tabor’s application, the Commissioner responded the school’s principal purpose was not religion, pointing to their receipt of Federal Government funding as a higher-education provider.
The documents show the Commissioner will argue that if Tabor’s efforts were divided between education and religion they should not be able to claim charitable status based on the advancement of religion.
The case continues before the Supreme Court.
Article reproduced with permission.