Brian Tamaki fires up after Christopher Luxon eyes tax reform for churches

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon says he'll look at changing the tax-exempt status of churches this term, adding he's open to suggestions they should pay up.

But those comments today drew the ire of church leaders, including Destiny's Brian Tamaki, who say the current settings reflect the good they do in the community.

Some say it's an ungodly law. Churches going tax- and rates-free when Joe Public pays up - but that could change.

When asked his opinion, Luxon said he's "actually quite open to that consideration".

"I've actually been thinking through the broader dimension of our charitable taxation regimes," he told Newshub.

Under New Zealand law, churches are exempt from paying tax, but Luxon has left the door open for changes.

"We will certainly be looking at things like that this term, yep," he said.

But Luxon said right now it's "not a focus".

But it sure has provoked a response from the country's Christian churches.

"There's probably some perceptions out there that churches have a free ride, and aren't doing much good in the community, so why should they not pay taxes or rates?" Chris Bethwaite, who chairs the InterChurch Bureau, told Newshub.

"It would be good to have the conversation and maybe a little bit more known about what churches actually do in the community."

Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki today came out swinging too.

"You've got to wonder where his head space is, because a lot of churches pick up the mess that dysfunctional Governments leave in society," he said.

Tamaki said his church's social programmes are run without Government help and have a positive impact.

"When you think about it he's going to tax that or he's going to tax our income, I think that's what he's talking about. I'm going to send him a big bill at the end of every year charging all the cost that we're doing for free."

Luxon's desire to explore taxes for churches is hot on the heels of a similar call from Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown when it comes to rates.

Under the Rating Act, religious organisations are exempt, and the mayor said that should change.

"Everybody that we provide services to, which are pipes and water and roads and footpaths and rubbish collections and all those things, everybody that uses them should pay for them," Brown said.

Tamaki said he effectively does pay rates on Destiny's Auckland headquarters as the property is leased.

But if the Mayor gets his way, other churches occupying Auckland's priciest sites may be forced to fork out.