Article in The Australian: Jehovah's Witnesses facing tax turmoil

by AndersonsInfo 16 Replies latest watchtower child-abuse

  • AndersonsInfo
    Sorry, the article is behind a paywall. However, here's a copy of it without the photo:

    Jehovah’s Witnesses facing tax turmoil

    Former Jehovah's Witness Lara Kaput says revocation of Watchtower’s charity status would be a ‘watershed moment’.

    Picture: Rob Leeson.


    • AN HOUR AGO APRIL 18, 2021

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses have taken legal action against Australia’s charity watchdog after it revoked the organisation’s tax-exempt status over concerns with the religion’s opaque global donations structure and alleged failure to protect vulnerable people.

    The organisation’s charitable arm, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia, which posted an income of $32m in the year to August 31, has been - accused of pushing cash offshore after directors splashed $16m of its total expenses on undisclosed donations and “overseas aid”.

    The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission informed Watchtower in November of its intention to revoke the organisation’s charity status, citing a litany of concerns about alleged contraventions of the Corporations Act and a failure to comply with a host of governance and conduct standards.

    Lawyer and abuse survivor Alec Spencer, a PhD candidate at James Cook University, said the ACNC’s decision was comparable to the abolition of the socalled “Ellis defence” in NSW in 2018, which ended the Catholic Church’s longstanding immunity to lawsuits.

    “If registration were to be removed, it would serve as a wake-up call for many other religious charities who have systemically failed to protect sexually abused children,” he said.

    “The removal of charitable registration would be an extraordinary outcome, both for the commission and the religious charity sector in particular.” The charity, which is seeking judicial review of the ACNC’s decision in the Federal Court, has been accused of “operating outside of Australia” and breaching its requirement to protect vulnerable people, including children, when conducting operations overseas.

    In a statement, Watchtower director Terry O’Brien denied the ACNC had moved to strip the organisation of its charity registration. “The ACNC has assured the - directors that they do not intend to revoke Watchtower Australia’s charity status,” Mr O’Brien said.

    However, court documents filed last week reveal the ACNC sent a notice to revoke Watchtower’s charity registration to the group’s directors in November.

    The ACNC has accused Watchtower’s directors of failing to comply with key conduct standards, including a requirement to disclose conflicts of interest and a requirement to protect children who are accessing benefits under the charity’s programs.

    If the court upholds the ACNC’s decision, Watchtower will lose its status as a registered charity and will not be entitled to receive tax concessions, including lucrative tax breaks.

    According to an application for judicial review filed by Watchtower, the ACNC’s decision is “unlawful” and an “unreasonable and inappropriate exercise” of its discretion.

    The organisation, which has nearly 70,000 members in Australia, has allocated almost $120m from 2014-20 to “donations and overseas aid”.

    “As a donor, I would be very troubled by this,” Mr Spencer said. “And as a regulator, their hands are tied due to the differential treatment bestowed on basic religious charities.

    “The ACNC could deregister a charity but the decision and why that occurs is not disclosed,” he said. “It allows them to operate in a cloud of secrecy.”

    Watchtower argues that the decision contains multiple errors of law, including that the legislation confers “no function with respect to child protection” on the ACNC.

    The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse warned that there were systemic problems within the Jehovah’s Witness religion in dealing with abuse, including a failure to report credible allegations to the police.

    The commission heard Jehovah’s Witnesses had documentation of abuse allegations by 1800 children involving more than 1000 perpetrators since 1950.

    Former church member and child abuse survivor Lara Kaput said revocation of Watchtower’s charity status would be a “watershed moment” if it were upheld by the Federal Court.

    “They were reticent to revoke their charity status because the charity commission knew it would set a precedent, and they don’t want that to happen,” Ms Kaput said.

    An ACNC spokeswoman said it was unable to comment on the “particular circumstances of a charity” and whether or not a charity was being investigated.

    JOURNALIST Kieran Gair is a reporter at The Australian. He has previously reported and produced for the ABC, Sky News, Sky News Business, and The Sydney Morning Herald. He studied Law and Journalism at UTS.
  • Rocketman123

    If they dont want to obey world government laws than slap with penalties.

    Lets face it the WTS/JWS doesn't like to be told how to operate their organization, even in regards toward protecting children from sex abuse.

    The Australian government has their eye on them.

  • Vidiot


    Just a month or so back, the Aussie branch of the Org finally blinked and signed up for the voluntary CSA redress scheme (tantamount to admitting the problem was real, I might add)...

    (Australia: Jehovah’s Witnesses to join redress scheme for child sexual abuse survivors (

    ...when it became painfully apparent that their charity status was approaching the chopping block.

    And now it's approaching said block again?

    Why the hell would "God's Earthly Organization" give a shit about something so mundane, even to the point where they'll grudgingly expose themselves to liability, public embarrassment, and worst of all, tacit admission that they were woefully and egregiously wrong?

    Why the hell is the Org fighting so desperately to not have to "pay back Caesar's things to Caesar"?


    ...the Org's business model is actually dependent on said tax-exemption for its very survival.

  • yalbmert99

    Jehovah’s Witnesses resolve legal stoush

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses say they have resolved legal action with Australia’s charity watchdog after it threatened to revoke their tax-exempt status.

  • Vidiot


    Article's locked behind a subscription registry.

    Did it happen to elaborate on just how they "resolved" it?

  • notsurewheretogo

    It is poor journalism, they were never revoked, it was just a possible consequence...the writer hastily wrote the update.

  • hoser

    I’m with vidiot on this one. If the lowly publishers need to put their full confidence in Jehovah to provide, maybe the Ozzie branch isn’t praying enough.

  • AndersonsInfo
    The article in the Australian titled "Jehovah's Witnesses facing tax turmoil" which I posted yesterday (April 18, 2021), was withdrawn (retracted) by the newspaper. It was replaced by another article "Jehovah's Witnesses resolve legal stoush with legal watchdog" that states that "Jehovah's Witnesses have resolved their legal action with Australia's charity watchdog." Further, sorry to say that the updated article stated, that the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission "will not be revoking Watchtower's charity status" ... "and the matter is closed."

    When I receive a link to the new article that is not behind a firewall, I'll post it.

  • Rocketman123

    I guess money is more important than upholding doctrines.

    This whole affair of the Australian JWS being exposed in hiding pedophilia within their organization has surely blacked the image of the JWS in that country.

    Good, I hope this happens in other countries as well.

    The stated amount of millions coming in and being off shored by the WTS there tells much of the inner workings of the WTS.

    Power and money corrupts and sometimes you can see this happen in religious organizations too.

  • joey jojo
    joey jojo

    here is a direct link to the Watchtower in the Australian Charities and not for profit Commission website.

    You can download financials and view other interesting things. It seems that most of the money WT receives in Australia is sent, presumably back to HQ in New York. In 2020 , revenue was about $32M and $16M was allocated to 'donations and overseas aid'.

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