Economic Development – Charitable?

The law before the Charities Act The promotion of industry and commerce has been long been held to be charitable in both England and New Zealand.  The decision in Crystal Palace Trustees v Minister of Town and Country Planning [1951] Ch 132; [1950] 2 All ER 857n, concluded that the promotion of industry and commerce for the public benefit was charitable, a decision followed in Re Tennant [1996] 2 NZLR 633. However, some overseas decisions, in particular, CIR v Oldham Training and Enterprise Council (1996) 69 TC 231 and Travel Just v Canada (Canada Revenue Agency), 2006 FCA 343, have laid the seeds of doubt in the collective mind of the Charities Commission.  In the Oldham decision, despite indicia of charity, the Court concluded that the council promoted the interests of individuals engaged in trade and commerce, providing private benefits regardless of likely beneficial consequences for employment, with the benefits to the community being deemed to be too remote. In the Travel Just case similar conclusions were reached, with the objects there also being held to be “broad and vague” and “subjective.” The Oldham decision also indicates that: To ascertain the objects of an institution . . . where the objects are comprehensively set out in a document, it is necessary to refer to that document. . . .  It is irrelevant to enquire into the motives of the founders or how they contemplated or intended that [the entity] should operate or how it in fact operated.  To determine whether the object, the scope of which has been ascertained by due process of construction, is a charitable purpose, it may be necessary to have regard to evidence...