That is a huge figure in that so many Australians earn their salaries either full or part time roles through this religious sector providing for the broader needs of the population – medical, hospital, welfare, accommodation, aged care, youth facilities, benevolence and a thousand more.
Moreover the donation in time as volunteers within the religious sector is astonishing. How one might even dare to count the hours given by those in congregations across the nation to visiting the shut-ins, nursing homes, hospitals and a myriad more caring situations in mind blowing.
An Anglican friend of mine was a HR senior executive in a large corporation in Melbourne and when retirement came, he discovered the local Salvation Army welfare arm was in some urgent need of someone with his HR skills. He turned up with his super impressive CV and they rejoiced in the Lord for such a voluntary gifting.
This is simply one of thousands upon thousands if examples of ordinary Australians putting something back into their communities. Some are paid for their professional work as part of the work force, some serve in voluntary ways. But they are all part of this huge charity sector.
Moreover those politicians who consider the Christian contribution as a deplorable blight upon the heads and hearts of the young really have no idea. Their marginalised in the electorate as they are out-of-step with what's happening at grass roots level.
But this is the reality of the situation. Politicians have in within their grasp to help or hinder a wide range of situations, not least the charity sector.
So it was therefore with much interest that I read Sydney Morning Herald's Money Column man Noel Whittaker answering a question on this charity sector. Noel Whittaker is the author of Making Money Made Simple! and numerous other books on personal finance. The declaimer in the column is that his advice is general in nature. Readers should seek their own professional advice before making decisions.
A reader's lengthy question
The heading: Is Charity work a Donation?
I work part-time for a major charity as a data analyst. My work will soon require me to do a project to which the charity will have difficulty allocating funds. Since I have two days off a week, I have suggested to my employer that I work on the project offline and log the hours. Once the project is complete I submit the hours logged as a donation - that way I can use the receipted donation against any tax that I have to pay in 2013. The charity is in a quandary about whether my work hours in lieu of actual pay qualifies as a legitimate donation. My thinking is that my work hours are monetarily quantifiable, as I get paid for 2½ days a week. If I work an extra two days a week that can easily be converted to the same monetary value. Can it be recognised as a legitimate donation on that basis?
Noel Whittaker's response: You will need to be guided by the company's accountants, but the simplest way to proceed may be for the charity to pay you in the normal way. Provided they are an approved charity, you could then donate the wages back to them and it would be a tax deduction for you. www.smh.com.au
This question raises a host of other issues associated with the charity sector for as more and more baby-boomers take early retirement. They want to put back into the community but need a little extra money with the nature of the superannuation difficulties created by the GFC.
With these baby-boomers in need of support income, politicians will inevitably need to find new ways within the existing taxation system to accommodate a host of post retirement scenarios.
This reader quoted above, may have come up with one such solution whereby money is not exchanged but the taxation liability is reduced allowing a little better living standard to which had been expected. In coming years more and more such exploratory ideas will come to the fore.
What it does mean is that the Christian charity sector will inevitably gets larger and ways need to be found to ensure that those who give the time and expertise themselves don't become charity cases.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html