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60 Minutes Australia: "Cooking the Book of Mormon"


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Why are Austrialian latter-day saints more generous in their tithing then the rest of the world? Comment from the video. Just started watching and it's silly how they use scary music, please!

 

Edited by Tacenda
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14 hours ago, 2BizE said:

Just because something is legal doesn’t make it right.

And just because a disliked (in some circles) religious group is doing that legal something doesn't make it wrong.

Thanks,

Smac

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So, NOBODY mentioned the Fifth Estate show today at church. We had a mayoral election this week and that was mentioned once or twice and someone confessed to adultery in Sunday School-he had told the Bishop, SP all this but felt the need to share in class. So, Canadian tax laws wasn't even hinted at!

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I think legal and moral labels miss the point a little bit. 

 

Citizen A lives in Australia. She lives a comfortable life earning an income of an even $100k. Since she lives so comfortably she gives a generous 10% to charity. This gives her a taxable income of $90k and a tax bill of $27k (30 percent!). 

 

Citizen B lives next door to Citizen A. She also lives a comfortable life earning an income of an even $100k. Unlike Citizen A, Citizen B has an overseas income of $900k that she earns tax free. Since she lives so comfortably she gives a generous 10% to charity. Since money is fungible, she donates her entire Australian salary and ends up paying zero taxes overall. 

 

Is it legal? Yes. Moral? What does that mean in this situation? Is it fair? It doesn’t seem like it? Rich people, and organizations are able to manipulate tax loop holes and exceptions to a degree not available to lower, and middle class citizens avoiding tax liability and in turn, lower and middle class people end up with higher tax burdens. 

 

So yes, go church! Good job being smart with your money! But please do expect to live with the negative reaction from the general public. I personally feel the same way about this as when I hear of any multi billionaire or multi billion dollar corporation finding neat ways to avoid paying for roads, public education, and infrastructure. 

Edited by SeekingUnderstanding
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On 10/28/2022 at 9:55 PM, bluebell said:

I think that Stormin' Mormon has a point though.  Lying to get an advantage, and following the laws to get an advantage, are not the same thing, right? (If that's what's actually going on.  These reporters don't give journalism a very good name.)

Not all laws are great laws are they?

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27 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

Is it legal? Yes. Moral? What does that mean in this situation? Is it fair? It doesn’t seem like it?

Depends on if there is a significant benefit to balance out the cost to other Australians for a citizen to donate to charity.  If the government allows a full deductible on charity as opposed to taxing on 25% of all donations, it seems they do so to promote such charity and therefore the government could see it as sufficiently beneficial to it or the country so as not to bother to close the loophole.  The deduction is not happening in a vacuum.  It needs to be explained why, when it must be obvious to the ATO that the Church has decided to take advantage of the loophole since 2014, the loophole hasn’t been closed.  Also why Leigh hasn’t continued his crusade now he is elected and likely more informed about the process, when it could still help his public image to be seen going after slackers….perhaps because it doesn’t really amount to slacking?

Edited by Calm
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1 hour ago, Calm said:

Depends on if there is a significant benefit to balance out the cost to other Australians for a citizen to donate to charity.  If the government allows a full deductible on charity as opposed to taxing on 25% of all donations, it seems they do so to promote such charity and therefore the government could see it as sufficiently beneficial to it or the country so as not to bother to close the loophole.  The deduction is not happening in a vacuum.  It needs to be explained why, when it must be obvious to the ATO that the Church has decided to take advantage of the loophole since 2014, the loophole hasn’t been closed.  Also why Leigh hasn’t continued his crusade now he is elected and likely more informed about the process, when it could still help his public image to be seen going after slackers….perhaps because it doesn’t really amount to slacking?

Loopholes are hard to close. 
 

From my perspective, the church’s overarching goal is to bring people unto Christ through the church and it’s ordinances. This is firmly inline with “Advancement of religion for the public benefit“. Donors to organizations with this as their primary goal are not eligible for tax deductions. 
 

In order to get around this and provide tax deductions for its members the church has increased its humanitarian charitable output from Australia substantially over the last decade. Most of the church wide humanitarian relief donations (outside of fast offerings) come from Australia as I understand it. 
 

If the church in 2014/5, substantially increased its worldwide humanitarian donations in response to the Australian tax law changes then yes,  “there is a significant benefit to balance out the cost to other Australians”. If the church just rearranged numbers on paper, I just don’t see it. Legal, yes. Worthy of bad press (just like the bad press other multi billion dollar organizations get) yes.

Why hasn’t something been done? Because it’s legal, one, and two it’s really really hard to close loopholes.

 

ETA - how could this possible be addressed by changing the law - I see no way to do it. 

 

Edited by SeekingUnderstanding
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1 hour ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

I think legal and moral labels miss the point a little bit. 

 

Citizen A lives in Australia. She lives a comfortable life earning an income of an even $100k. Since she lives so comfortably she gives a generous 10% to charity. This gives her a taxable income of $90k and a tax bill of $27k (30 percent!). 

 

Citizen B lives next door to Citizen A. She also lives a comfortable life earning an income of an even $100k. Unlike Citizen A, Citizen B has an overseas income of $900k that she earns tax free. Since she lives so comfortably she gives a generous 10% to charity. Since money is fungible, she donates her entire Australian salary and ends up paying zero taxes overall. 

 

Is it legal? Yes. Moral? What does that mean in this situation? Is it fair? It doesn’t seem like it? Rich people, and organizations are able to manipulate tax loop holes and exceptions to a degree not available to lower, and middle class citizens avoiding tax liability and in turn, lower and middle class people end up with higher tax burdens. 

 

So, the people of Australia (their charities and government) receive $37k from Citizen A and $100k from Citizen B?  Or, to put it another way:  the people of Australia are receiving 100% of the income that Citizen B earns within their country's borders, but only 37% of the income that Citizen A earns with their country's border. Do you think that the people of Australia have a claim upon incomes that are not earned within their jurisdiction?  How is that fair?

The fairness of the tax laws are only an issue at the time the rules are being made.  It's at that point, that citizens can argue over what's a fair or moral or justifiable tax burden.  But once the laws are in place, though, there is no morality or fairness or goodness or badness for the people who simply follow those rules.  Is Citizen A following the rules?  Is Citizen B? Yes on both accounts.   

A loophole is simple a "rule I don't like."  Blame the rule makers, not the rule followers.      
 

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3 minutes ago, Stormin' Mormon said:

So, the people of Australia (their charities and government) receive $37k from Citizen A and $100k from Citizen B? 

No. In this case the money is abroad. So in case A they get 27k in case B they get 0. Further the amount given abroad by B is fixed and independent of Australian law. They gave 100k abroad regardless and only recently took advantage of the loop hole. 

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17 minutes ago, Stormin' Mormon said:

So, the people of Australia (their charities and government) receive $37k from Citizen A and $100k from Citizen B?  Or, to put it another way:  the people of Australia are receiving 100% of the income that Citizen B earns within their country's borders, but only 37% of the income that Citizen A earns with their country's border. Do you think that the people of Australia have a claim upon incomes that are not earned within their jurisdiction?  How is that fair?

The fairness of the tax laws are only an issue at the time the rules are being made.  It's at that point, that citizens can argue over what's a fair or moral or justifiable tax burden.  But once the laws are in place, though, there is no morality or fairness or goodness or badness for the people who simply follow those rules.  Is Citizen A following the rules?  Is Citizen B? Yes on both accounts.   

A loophole is simple a "rule I don't like."  Blame the rule makers, not the rule followers.      
 

Perhaps to make clearer comparison consider two churches whose primary goal is to promote religion as a public good (bring people to Christ). Both churches value humanitarian efforts as well and pledge 10 percent of all donations to humanitarian work. Church A’s parishioners do not get a tax write off because their church is small and local. Church B’s parishioners can get a write off because they belong to a huge multinational church that can move money around and therefore it’s parishioners contributions are considered tax deductible despite (from a global perspective) being exactly identically situated. Is this fair for the parishioners? How could this be stopped?

Edited by SeekingUnderstanding
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42 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

From my perspective, the church’s overarching goal is to bring people unto Christ through the church and it’s ordinances. This is firmly inline with “Advancement of religion for the public benefit“. Donors to organizations with this as their primary goal are not eligible for tax deductions. 

This is not accurate. The Australian Tax Office only recently (2014?) ruled that 75 per cent of tithing was eligible for a tax deduction. For many years before that, it was 100 per cent. The Church's goal hasn't changed, and neither has the Law of the Tithe. The only thing that has changed, twice now over the past 15 years, is the ATO's assessment of what portion of a Church member's tithing should be eligible for a tax deduction. (It has never been zero, and in fact it has never been lower than 75 per cent.)

The Church took a perfectly legal and rational step to deal with this bureaucratic uncertainty (would it go back up to 100 per cent? would it drop next year to 50 per cent?) on behalf of its members. And as @Duncan has pointed out, the 'negative reaction from the general public' has been close to nil (former and disgruntled members excepted).

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16 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

How could this be stopped?

Easy. Australia should recognise the value of all donations to registered charities like the rest of the Anglosphere.

And in fact, the last time I looked into this, the Church had made submissions to the Australian Government recommending that very approach for the benefit of all religious bodies.

Edited by Hamba Tuhan
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10 minutes ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

Easy. Australia should recognise the value of all donations to registered charities like the rest of the Anglosphere.

And in fact, the last time I looked into this, the Church had made submissions to the Australian Government recommending that very approach for the benefit of all religious bodies.

Correct! The only way to close some tax loop holes is to tax no one. 

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1 hour ago, Hamba Tuhan said:

And as @Duncan has pointed out, the 'negative reaction from the general public' has been close to nil (former and disgruntled members excepted).

I’m not sure how you’d measure this. I notice Duncan talked about comments on a FB page (fifth estate). I noted five on the issue, but none of their stories had many comments. I looked at “shares” and I had to scroll back to May to find a story with more shares than the one on the church. Are former and “disgruntled” members pushing this? I’m sure, but that is the same with pretty much any story about anything ever (people who are passionate and have knowledge one way or another have something to say about it). 

Edited by SeekingUnderstanding
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Citizens that are members likely don't care about how the church allocates its money. It's not anybody's concern, not even members, they can do as they please, I wouldn't care if it was burnt on an altar. My ownership ended when I handed it over in exchange for blessings.

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4 hours ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

Loopholes are hard to close. 

Threatening the Church that the government will go public with their position the Church is cheating Australians by using a loophole few, if any others can wouldn’t require changing the law.  Yet government representatives are quiet so far.

Edited by Calm
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It would be interesting to find out how having the tax deduction affects choices of Australian Saints. Do they take the saved money and apply it to Fast Offerings or other humanitarian causes, use it to improve financial security, or spend it on mostly frivolous things.  Most likely a combination I am guessing, but perhaps they are more conscious in the choices than I am.   If they were to give most of the savings to Fast Offerings, this might save the government money in the long run as less appeals for government welfare might be needed among the Saints and the money going all to the needy and not to administrative government costs could increase the percentage that gets to those who need it. 
 

If it turns out the Church does give all the money away rather than taking the amount  of whatever it sends (if any) to Australia to pay for expenses running the Church there, would people still be upset or see it as immoral since the donations would be going to those in need without the safety nets that exist In Australia?

Edited by Calm
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9 hours ago, Tacenda said:

Why are Austrialian latter-day saints more generous in their tithing then the rest of the world? Comment from the video. Just started watching and it's silly how they use scary music, please!

 

A few thoughts:

1. The music they are using is A) intrusive and overblown, and B) not evocative of the Latter-day Saints.

2. One of the very first statements made is by an unidentified bearded fellow: "I just couldn't believe the kind of brazenness of this tax avoidance or tax evasion.  The loser is the Australian government and the Australian people."  No context.  No measured analysis.  Just "Tax Evasion!" right out of the chute.

3. The voiceover: "Tonight we're throwing up a set of books the Mormons would rather nobody reads, their financial books, and asking questions they've never before had to answer ... These records tell a damning story about a religion that's actually run as a multi-national corporation that now stands accused of not just breaching its own moral code, but also breaking the law."

An interviewer asks an unidentified couple: "Do you think the Church is guilty of fraud?"  The wife answers, "I do, I do," and the husband nods and says "Absolutely."

Next, an unidentified man in a pinstriped blue suit (subsequently identified as Neville Rochow) : "In a cult, you don't question the leadership."  (John Dehlin interviewed Rochow in January, and described him as "{having} served as an LDS Bishop, and in LDS Church Stake Presidencies and Mission Presidencies," and is "a truly delightful human.")

"Damning story."  "{Stands accused of} breaking the law."  "Guilty of fraud."  "Absolutely."  "In a cult..."

All this in the first two minutes of the "report."

4. Describing how Australia only allows tax deductions if given to a "charity," the reporter states that "the Mormons are exploiting a loophole" by "registering their own charity in Australia" and having members donate to it instead of to the Church.

5. The report juxtaposes the Australian Saints donating $93 million/year to "charity," and that the rest of the Church's 16 million members throughout the rest of the world pay "only $25 million" to "charity," making "Australian Mormons the most generous {people} on the planet."  I am curious (and, frankly, a bit skeptical) about these figures, as they seem to be a matter of accounting and terminology.

6. The report claims that the donated to the Church's charitable trust in Australia is managed out of Salt Lake, which would make it (the trust, I suppose) "illegal under Australian law."

7. The report states that Neville Rochow was asked by the Church to research "the tax benefits available to religions," and kinda sorta implies that he helped create the trust.  It also states that he and another "ex-Mormon" are the ones that lodged a complaint about the Church with Australia's charity regulator (which has so far declined to state whether or not they are investigating the Church). 

8. The report states that they have "uncovered what the Church has really been doing with so-called 'surplus donations,'" which is "instead of using that money for charity, the religion has built a $100 billion dollar slush fund, and you won't believe how they've been spending the cash."   

9. The interview with Andrew Leigh, the Assistant Minister for Charities.  Where he previously publicly demanded that the Tax Office "immediately investigate allegations the Mormons are dodging tax," but that now he's actually in government, "he's pulling his punches."  The reporter asks him why the government is not "changing the rules," to which Leigh responds with a comment about "when some people exploit loopholes," which the reporter seized on.  "Loophole" is one of those "truthy" terms.  Loaded, yet vague.  Accusatory, yet plausibly deniable.  Legal-sounding, yet vacuous.

10. The couple referenced above, former members of the Church, have joined "hundreds of other former Mormons in a class action against the Church."  The husband: "I'll be very straightforward.  I want my tithing money back.  I paid it under false pretenses."  He says he feels "ripped off," and that "they" (notably vague, this) "just keep getting richer and richer and richer, and not doing anything with the money."  

11. The "comments" are turned off for this video.

Thanks,

-Smac

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32 minutes ago, smac97 said:

...

10. The couple referenced above, former members of the Church, have joined "hundreds of other former Mormons in a class action against the Church."  The husband: "I'll be very straightforward.  I want my tithing money back.  I paid it under false pretenses."  He says he feels "ripped off," and that "they" (notably vague, this) "just keep getting richer and richer and richer, and not doing anything with the money." 

... 

I have a feeling this will go about as well as the last time another disaffected Australian member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints attempted, on similar grounds, to bring legal action against the Church.

Edited by Kenngo1969
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44 minutes ago, smac97 said:

Thanks,

-Smac

Your thoughts pretty much match mine.

As far as point 5, the 93M is presumably the total donations listed for "LDS Charities Australia" in the Church's annual submission to the charity register [1]  though that's not where our tithing goes directly. Our donation receipts are from the "LDS Charitable Trust Fund" [2] which sends money to LDS Charities (among other places). LDS Charities then uses it for the humanitarian aid etc.

[1] https://acncpubfilesprodstorage.blob.core.windows.net/public/30f0a550-3aaf-e811-a963-000d3ad24077-f22f51ad-ee3d-438e-a40c-115e9ab6eef2-Financial Report-fea4e329-4ef0-ec11-bb3d-002248944f2b-LDSCA_2021_Financial_Statements_-_FINAL.pdf

[2] https://acncpubfilesprodstorage.blob.core.windows.net/public/357ae4a8-38af-e811-a962-000d3ad24a0d-97dcd68b-9110-41d6-9a46-7bf07ae04731-Financial Report-22d66fba-d44c-ec11-8f8e-00224811cb6e-CT_and_LDSGS_2021_Financial_Statements.pdf 

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

11. The "comments" are turned off for this video.

I wouldn't actually read anything into this. After a court decision here last year, media organisations can be held responsible for defamatory comments by others in response to their social media posts. https://www.sydney.edu.au/law/news-and-events/news/2021/09/13/high-court-rules-media-liable-for-facebook-comments-on-stories.html so they are very skittish with anything remotely likely to create defamatory replies.

Edited by JustAnAustralian
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On 10/30/2022 at 10:09 PM, JustAnAustralian said:

I wouldn't actually read anything into this. After a court decision here last year, media organisations can be held responsible for defamatory comments by others in response to their social media posts. https://www.sydney.edu.au/law/news-and-events/news/2021/09/13/high-court-rules-media-liable-for-facebook-comments-on-stories.html so they are very skittish with anything remotely likely to create defamatory replies.

 I was actually fairly surprised at how overtly derisive they were of the church.  The accusations of outright fraud and tax evasion were barely veiled.  I suspect that they listened to the various disaffected former members of the church, who told them that the church will not respond litigiously to defamatory accusations, such that they can pretty much say what they want and get away with it.

Edited by smac97
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