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'Comprehensive' review of Charities Act now underway, minister Peeni Henare says, as calls to change tax treatment of religious charities grow

Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector Peeni Henare has revealed that a "comprehensive" review of the Charities Act 2005 is underway "after hearing calls from the sector".

Peeni Henarewith Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Source: Te Karere

Mr Henare first revealed his plans to review the legislation in the February Charities Services Newsletter, which is sent out to those in the charities industry, where he wrote that "reviewing this legislation is my top priority".

He today publicly confirmed those plans with 1 NEWS, saying "significant change has taken place since the first charity was registered, over ten years ago".

"After hearing calls from the sector and as per the commitment made late last year, the first steps have been taken to initiate a comprehensive review of the 2005 Charities Act."

"Feedback is currently being sought from sector representatives on the proposed scope of the review but this has yet to be finalised."The review will include a public consultation process and I look forward to everyone having their say."

A review of the Act was promised in 2010 by the government, but the minister for charities at the time, Jo Goodhew, announced in 2012 that the fiscal environment made it too risky to conduct the review.

She argued changing the definitions could lead to more organisations being allowed more tax breaks, and that the Global Financial Crisis made it a bad time.

The review comes as a new petition was launched calling on the government to remove the tax breaks given to religious groups for the advancement of religion.

Under current law, a religious organisation can register as an income tax-exempt charity using "the advancement of religion" as their charitable purpose.

Read more: Opinion: The Flying Spaghetti Monster speaks - time to review our religious charity laws

Kieran McKewen published a petition yesterday on Parliament's newly-revamped site, and at time of writing it had received 168 signatures.

A Change.org petition in November of 2016 calling for Destiny Church to be stripped of their tax-free perks gained 127,242 signatures, after pastor Brian Tamaki made comments many interpreted to be blaming homosexuality for the Kaikoura earthquake.

The latest petition is on the Parliament website.