Today Tonight 7-Network
June 22, 2010
SourcePlease click 'Source' top read the original article
including other side-articles and information.
It's alleged Scientology has been avoiding paying tax in the United Kingdom by claiming it is run out of South Australia.
In Britain, the Church of Scientology is supposed to pay tax on the millions of pounds it brings in each year. Now, the organisation has been accused of claiming its entire UK operation is part of its Australian outfit.
Here, Scientology is recognised as a religion and does not pay tax. It's alleged the church is using this, combined with some lax laws covering incorporated associations, to avoid paying its dues in the old Dart.
Ten years ago authorities in Britain told the Church of Scientology it would have to pay tax, that it was not a charity. To avoid paying tax in the UK it's alleged they made the entire Church of Scientology in Britain a member of a tiny little association incorporated here in South Australia.
From its non-existent offices in Adelaide the tiny incorporated association boasts as its members, not people, but Churches of Scientology from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium, France, Holland, Germany and Sweden. They have a member in South Africa too.
Today Tonight discovered a global multinational corporation boasting more members in Canada, including Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and British Columbia.
They operate under a company called the Church of Scientology Religious Education College Incorporated, or COSRECI.
The British wing, like all branches of Scientology, sells its books, tapes, DVD's and courses for profit and employs a small army of so-called volunteers, who work up to 80, even 100 hours every week.
Ian Howarth, the founder of Britain's Cult Information Service, has helped many people trapped inside Scientology to escape.
"Well in my experience people don't actually join Scientology, it's usually a case of being recruited. They'll often go along and do some kind of a personality test and then low and behold they find there is something wrong with them and guess who's going to solve that problem, Scientology,” Howarth said.
"It's the one group in Britain that's been denied full charitable status so it doesn't have the recognition that the average religious group has, and yet it still allegedly isn't paying taxes... this is outrageous," Howarth added.
"The British citizen should not be paying Scientology's bills, if you will, Scientology should be paying taxes."
Britain is in the throws of a terrible depression - that's about to get worse. With over 2.5 million people out of work the new government has savagely cut spending and is contemplating a rise in VAT, their Goods and Services Tax. That is the only tax Scientology is exempt from paying in the UK.
"Well its interesting that it's come up at this time isn't it when Britain is suffering,” Howarth said. "We're in the middle of a major recession people are struggling to make ends meet and yet, allegedly, Scientology has not been paying taxes for many years."
"You know, when I talk to families that are suffering, they're paying. Sometimes they pay financially, they certainly are paying emotionally and I think it's about time that Scientology paid," Howarth said.
Adelaide is 16,259 kilometres from London. Still, the capital of South Australia does have a distinctively British feel, furnished with plenty of reminders of the old country.
It might also be fate that in Scientology's universe of planetary confederates and intergalactic warlords, they chose Adelaide, the city of Churches.
The Independent Senator Nick Xenophon is one of South Australia's favourite sons. He championed the former members of Scientology who spoke out about the abuse inflicted on them. This latest intrigue surprised even him.
"Given what now has been revealed, you need to ask some very serious questions about how this group operates internationally in terms of the flow of money, where the money goes and how it's treated in terms of its tax free status," Senator Xenophon said. "It's a case of follow the money and also show me the money."
"I'd like to think the corporate regulators in the UK will be scratching their heads over this one."
"To say that the Church of Scientology in the UK is a South Australian charity seems pretty bizarre when you look at the evidence."
But that is precisely what Scientology does say. The group has not filed any financial records in South Australia but they've provided un-audited accounts to Companies House in Britain in which they themselves claim: "The Church is a South Australian charity, and is established in England for charitable purposes only. The trustees consider that corporation tax should not therefore be applicable."
"When you look at the fact that the three directors are based in the UK, that returns haven't been filed for the South Australian entity in over 30 years you've got to ask what on earth is going on," Xenophon said.
We do know that Scientology in Britain takes its orders from the group's leader in America, David Miscavige. If they take their orders from the United States, how can Scientology in Britain be run by a South Australian charity?
"Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine that the Church of Scientology's European and UK operations are based on a suburban home in Adelaide," Xenophon said.
South Australian authorities confirmed the group is not a registered charity in Australia. Today Tonight even tracked down the owners of the house listed on the COSRECI Article of Incorporation as their address.
"Oh, we were surprised, I was surprised and had no idea of it until today," the owner said.
The owners are a family who run a market gardening business. They owned the property long before Scientology declared it as their address.
"My parents have owned it for a number of years and I'm unaware of that," the owner said. "My parents are Greek Orthodox and we have no idea it was used in this way."
"Here you have an organisation with hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue over the past few years from their European operations and they rely on their tax free status based on premises in suburban Adelaide," Senator Xenophon said. "You've got to ask whether this little suburban house is a powerhouse for the Church of Scientology or whether it’s really just a house of cards."
"We don't know what they're spending that money on, we hear about management fees being paid to the Church in America," said Senator Xenophon. "This organisation needs to be up front and say how much has been paid in so-called management fees, who it's been paid to, in which country its been to, what transfers have occurred from one country to another and that's what the authorities need to be looking at."
"The Church of Scientology has to come clean on their books, they have to open their books."
"I'll be meeting with the federal government later this week to brief them on this issue and to urge the government to give all cooperation, all support to the UK Government in their investigations."
Following our inquiries, the anti-avoidance group of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) in Britain are investigating Scientology's tax arrangements to see if they are in breach of their laws. Likewise, the Australian Tax Office and the South Australian Government are looking into the church's corporate structure.
Today Tonight requested an interview with the Church of Scientology but was refused. They supplied us with a brief written response you can view below. (See Source link at top of page.)
Disclaimer:This news page is about groups, organizations or movements, which may have been called "cults" and/or "cult-like" in some way, shape or form. But not all groups called either "cults" or "cult-like" are harmful. Instead, they may be benign and generally defined as simply people intensely devoted to a person, place or thing. Therefore, the discussion or mention of a group, organization or person on this page, is not necessarily meant pejoratively. Readers are encouraged to read widely on a topic before forming an opinion. Never accept information from a single source at face value. This website only holds a small amount of information and should not be relied on as a complete source. For example, if you find older information, this should be weighed up against newer information as circumstances can change.