Destiny charities slow to file

Tax-free status at risk for bodies that fail to give figures to Internal Affairs

The New Zealand Herald/October 5, 2014

By Bevan Hurley

Controversial Destiny Church has been issued overdue notices after 14 affiliated charities are late filing their annual returns.

The church's tax-exempt status is under the microscope after the late filing. Previous returns from the charities totalled several million dollars.

Six Destiny-affiliated charities, which received a combined $5.5m in donations in the most recent returns, are more than a year overdue in filing statements with the public charities register.

During the same period, Bishop Brian Tamaki has repeatedly asked churchgoers to donate to pay for the church's new multi-million-dollar City of God in Manukau.

When unveiling plans for Destiny's City of God in 2012, Tamaki said: "I don't care what the media say, I don't care what your relatives say, I don't care what the world says, nobody should be not tithing."

An Internal Affairs spokeswoman said they were actively seeking overdue annual returns from a number of charities associated with the Destiny Church.

Charities could be deregistered if they "significantly and persistently" failed to comply with the Charities Act.

Reappointed Internal Affairs Minister Peter Dunne said they would be "pretty vigorous in policing compliance".

"I think there's a message to all other charities in here and while there are certain privileges associated with being a charity there are also obligations which we expect to be met."

Hayes Knight chairman Craig Fisher, an expert in not-for-profits, said organisations that were getting a tax benefit were receiving it from the Government on behalf of the general public. "Part of the quid pro quo is the fact that they need to be transparent and accountable. Not filing their information on time means they're not doing a great job of that transparency."

Under changes proposed to the Charities Act, organisations like Destiny that operate a large number of charities will have to file consolidated financial statements.

Fisher said some charities were concerned about "looking too rich" and therefore they have split their donations among different entities.

"Is it possible that someone could set up lots of different entities to try to muddy the picture? Absolutely that's possible."

According to the Charities Register, Hannah Tamaki is an officer of 11 Destiny charities. She declined requests for an interview from the Herald on Sunday.

A Destiny Church spokeswoman also refused to say why their annual returns were late.

"That's between us and the Charities Commission and we're working on it with them."

In 2012, two Destiny charities, Destiny Church Rotorua and Destiny TV, were deregistered for not filing annual returns. An analysis of the most recent returns filed by Destiny Church shows its annual donations declined between 2011 and 2012.

Last year, the church's application to have a charter school was rejected. If successful, the bid would have earned its school a large boost in taxpayer funding.

Meanwhile, the Tamakis' daughter-in-law Kiri has spoken of the plans that she and her husband Samuel - Brian and Hannah's son - have to build a flash new pad in an exclusive seaside resort on the Gold Coast.

The couple moved to Queensland last year to lead the Brisbane Destiny Church.

Kiri posted architects' plans for their new home in Calypso Bay, which markets empty seaside sections from $500,000.

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