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RATES REVIEW FOR SCIENTOLOGY BASE.

Byline: Jasbir Authi

BIRMINGHAM City Council is reviewing an 80 per cent reduction in taxes it is currently offering to the controversial Church of Scientology.

The group, whose members include film stars John Travolta and Tom Cruise, is due to move to the Grade II listed Pitmaston building on Moor Green Lane, Moseley, this year.

It could be entitled to the discount under the council's discretionary business rate relief policy, because it calls itself a religion.

Yet the Church is not registered as a charity by the Charity Commission.

The council is currently one of the few local authorities in the country that give the discout to the Church of Scientology.

Councillor Martin Mullaney (Lib Dem Moseley, Kings Heath) requested that this allowance is reviewed at a full cabinet meeting.

He said: "We are reviewing which organisations we give the 80 per cent discretionary rate relief to.

"Normally it's charities or religious groups and as it's been pointed out by various local residents in Moseley, that Birmingham is one of the few local authorities that give 80 per cent reductions to the Church of Scientology.

They are not recognised by the Inland Revenue as a church or religious group."

A decision will be made in April.

A Church of Scientology spokesman said: "I have spoken to Mr Mullaney and addressed his concerns.

"As well as local council authorities, government bodies in this country and in many others, and the European Court of Human Rights have all recognised the religious nature of Scientology, the charitable nature of our activities and the fact that Scientologists are actively helping those in their communities as a direct reflection of their religious beliefs.

"We are grateful to Birmingham City Council for granting us rates relief, which is consistent with its diversity and non-discrimination policy."

A spokesman from Her Majesty Revenue and Customs said: "The Charity Commission for England and Wales is responsible for registering charities in England and Wales.

"No organisation refused registration by the Charity Commission for England and Wales is eligible for UK charity tax reliefs."

Last October, communities secretary Eric Pickles appealed to council chiefs to halt tax breaks given to the Church of Scientology.

CAPTION(S):

Tax relief: The Pitmaston Building, and famous Scientologists Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Jan 12, 2011
Words:378
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