Religious groups and commercial deals

19 Mar 2010

We refer to the letter by Mr Lester Lam on “Religious Groups’ Commercial Deals and Tax Question” (The Straits Times, 11 Mar 2010).

A charity’s main purpose is to provide public benefits through its charitable activities. Hence the incomes of registered charities are tax exempt.

Some charities have chosen to engage in business activities to generate additional income. However, such business activities must be done in the best interest of the charity and not subject the charity's assets and resources to unacceptable risk. Further, any business carried out by a charity under a separate legal entity does not enjoy tax-exempt status and is subject to normal corporate income tax.

With regard to Mr Lam’s query on land use, Suntec City is an approved major commercial development which contains a large scale international convention and exhibition centre. The exclusive use of commercial developments for religious purposes would constitute a material change of use of such developments into places of worship. Any such proposals would have to be submitted for URA’s consideration.

The URA has not received any change of use proposal from City Harvest Church pertaining to its use of Suntec City premises.

Ms Carol Chua
Deputy Director (Charities Unit)
Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports

Mr Han Yong Hoe
Group Director (Development Control)
Urban Redevelopment Authority

Ms Deanna Choo
Director (Corporate Communications Branch)
Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore