Churches Are Exempt From The $1,500 Tax-Free Limit On Plebiscite Donations
Sources say the church's tax-free status is a potential problem.
The $1,500 cap on tax-deductible donations to the "yes" and "no" campaigns in the marriage equality plebiscite could give an unfair advantage to the "no" camp, according to sources within the Coalition.
The federal government on Tuesday announced plans to give $7.5 million each to the "yes" and "no" campaigns, while both sides will also be able to accept donations.
The "no" campaign will be supported by the powerful and wealthy Catholic church, along with other faith and ethnic groups.
In Australia, such groups do not pay tax, and so will remain unaffected by the $1,500 tax-free threshold on plebiscite donations that applies to individuals and corporate donors.
A moderate Liberal MP told BuzzFeed News that some in the party are concerned that churches could be used to to collect large donations for the "no" campaign.
To avoid the cap, people could donate large sums to churches who then donate to the "no" campaign, tax-free.
On Tuesday, special minister of state Scott Ryan said both sides had been treated "exactly the same".
"There is tax deductibility in line with the contribution to a political party, capped at $1,500," he said.
"There will be supporting and opposing committees established outside the official 'yes' and 'no' committees and they are free, of course, to run their own particular campaigns as long as they comply with the act."
Public funding has been a source of much consternation in recent months, with the "yes" campaign saying no extra money should be provided, and the "no" campaign saying it is essential to run a fair campaign.
However, leading voice in the "no" campaign Lyle Shelton, from the Australian Christian Lobby, told ABC Radio this morning that he thought the $7.5 million for each campaign is "on the low side", and that the amount should have matched the 1999 referendum, adjusted for inflation, which would come to around $11 million in today's money.
BuzzFeed News understands that some of the largest corporate supporters of marriage equality in Australia, including Telstra and ANZ bank, are unlikely to provide financial support to the "yes" campaign.