BCC is a church and a non-profit organization that is exempt from wealth tax and income tax on its church activities according to the Taxation Act § 2-32 (1). As a non-profit and charitable organization, BCC is exempt from tax on economic activities, including leasing of real estate, by turnover of less than NOK 140 000, see the Taxation Act. § 2-32 (2). The same applies to local Norwegian churches affiliated with BCC.
BCC is pre-approved by the Inland Revenue Service according to the Act relating to Religious Communities where donors can receive income deduction for gifts—compare for examples Taxation Act. § 6-50 and related regulations. Income deduction applies to gifts up to NOK 40 000 (2018), see Taxation Act. § 6-50 (5).
BCC has a duty to present accounts, according to the Accounting Act § 1-2 (1) no. 9, and to undertake audits according to the Auditors Act § 2-1 (1). BCC’s auditor is Price Waterhouse Cooper AS in Oslo.
BCC owns the companies BrunstadShop AS, which manufactures and sells literature, video and music associated with BCC’s purposes and BCC Event AS, which owns and rents out technical crews and audio, lighting and video equipment. BCC also owns two Norwegian commercial properties through separate corporations that are subject to ordinary taxation.
In addition, BCC has received large donations from local churches and members for many years, which are managed carefully for future use. The Board safeguards and implements these plans according to the organization`s objectives, which are focused on three main areas: strategy/budget/finance reports, compliance, and communication.
In 2002 BCC established the Brunstad Foundation, which administers ownership and operation of properties previously owned by the organization. The Brunstad Foundation manages large assets in real estate, both at Brunstad, elsewhere in Norway, and abroad. Several joint-stock companies have been established under the Brunstad Foundation.
Below is a general insight into the guidelines for BCC and affiliated local churches in Norway.
Taxes and duties 3
Voluntary work 4
Accounting in BCC and local churches
Good accounting is a focus area for Brunstad Christian Church (BCC), and is an important element in the sound management of members’ contributions to the activities. Accounting also provides a basis for evaluating BCC and the financial position of the local churches.
BCC is an association registered with the Central Coordinating Register for Legal Entities (CCR), with a duty to keep accounts for its activities according to the Accounting Act § 1-2, first paragraph. 9. BCC has assets worth over 20 million NOK and the average number of employees amount to more than 20 full-time FTEs.
The Association’s accounts are kept according to the Accounting Act, Bookkeeping Act and by the principles of the Norwegian Accounting Standard.
BCC is duty-bound to audits according to the Auditors Act § 2-1 and has its accounts audited by the accounting firm PWC in Oslo.
Norwegian local churches affiliated with BCC are also associations registered with the CCR. There are associations with assets having a book value of NOK 20 million, or where the average number of employees amounts to more than 20 FTEs, which have a duty of accounts by law. Unpaid voluntary work is not included in the calculation of the number of FTEs.
None of BCC´s local congregations have employees who make up more than 20 FTEs, and a few local churches have assets with a value of under 20 million NOK. BCC in their standard statutes nonetheless still work on the basis that accounts shall be kept according to the Accounting Act, insofar as is applicable.
Audit and control committee
Where the local churches are not duty-bound to audits, and therefore no auditor is chosen, the statutes determine the requirement that financial statements should be reviewed by an audit committee. The Audit Committee shall consist of three persons, of whom at least one should be proficient in accounting.
The Audit Committee shall verify the accounts.
Other project accounts
In addition to the financial statements, project / separate accounts for specific purposes may be prepared.
Conference – participant fees
BCC hosts many conferences as part of the realization of the Association’s objectives. At these conferences it is not BCC’s purpose to pursue economic activity. Participant fees are calculated annually to cover the full cost of the events.
Specific project accounting of revenues and expenses of these events are kept.
In the event of there being a surplus or shortfall in relation to expenses in the one year, this is transferred to the accounts of conferences in the following year.
Subsidies from the state and municipality
BCC receives grants from the State and Municipality for its Norwegian members. Regulations on subsidies for ethical communities § 2 says that it should keep separate accounts of the use of funds, as certified by the auditor. Our use of the funds is stated in the accounts and certified by the audit report.
Gifts with tax deduction
BCC is pre-approved by the Inland Revenue Service as a voluntary organization where donors receive a tax deduction for gifts up to NOK 40 000 (2018).
These gifts form a part of BCC’s annual report and are audited by our auditors as part of the regular audit. There is no required certification for this from the auditor.
BCC’s annual account statements form the basis for applications for VAT compensation. BCC has hitherto sought compensation according to the simplified model (Chapter 2 of the Regulation on VAT compensation for NGOs) that are based on costs in the audited accounts, with deductions for items that fall outside the scheme. The application is documented by the annual accounts, annual report and audit report. In addition, BCC’s auditor certifies the application.
BCC’s local churches deliver applications for VAT compensation via BCC, which is the central link in the application. If the local church has more than 5 million NOK in operating costs, a specific auditor attestation for the local church’s application shall be submitted.
Storing of accounting records
Accounting records must be kept for 5 years for BCC and local churches that have duties of accounting and who follow the Bookkeeping Act, refer to the Bookkeeping Act § 13, second paragraph.
Local Congregations that are not duty-bound to keep accounts must keep records for 3 years, under the rules for storing in regulations on VAT compensation for NGOs § 25.
Treatment of financial statements
The Board of BCC presents the annual financial statements of the Supervisory Board of the association by the end of July the following year.
The board of the local churches must submit financial statements for the Association’s annual meeting by the end of June the following year.
The church’s operations are funded primarily by donations from members and other organizations and companies. In addition, BCC receives grants from the Government in accordance with the Religious Communities Act, but this represents a smaller portion of operating income.
BCC experiences great generosity from its members, and gifts are given based on the members’ ability and desire to contribute to the community. However, gifts and other forms of contributions from members do not in any way give members rights of any kind.
In cases where members have agreed a fixed gift contribution there shall not be sent reminders in the event of lack of payment.
Donations to BCC should be recorded and reported to the IRS in accordance with the rules on deductions for donations to NGOs in the Taxation Act § 6-50.
Trustees have a special responsibility to ensure that no members set goals for private contributions and commitment beyond what is justifiable.
Local Churches – donations towards operations
Every year the board of local churches should approve the budget for the costs of operation of the local church, this will be presented to the annual meeting for information. The budget shall show the average cost of operating expenses per family and member, so that the community knows what the average cost amounts to.
It is recommended that members of the local church set up direct debit contributions that cover budgeted operating costs.
The Board shall, when financial statements are presented to the annual meeting, give an account of any deviations from the budget.
BCC – Fixed donation contribution to mission work
To strengthen the scope for action and ensure continuity for mission work BCC has worked out a suggested size of members’ contribution to missionary work (internally called “David Column”). Currently this amount is 1000 NOK per month for married couples and single people aged 23-65 years, for people above age 65 years the amount is 500 NOK.
Based on the local congregation’s size (number of members) 90% of their estimated amount is paid to BCC.
The local church’s contribution to BCC takes into account that there are members who for various reasons do not have the opportunity or desire to contribute.
Local Congregations – donations to the fund for future facilities
Because of the strong membership growth in local congregations, there is a need for long-term planning and management to ensure the financing of future facilities. Many members have indicated that over a long period of time they will help to contribute significant amounts for this purpose. In order to manage and use these contributions in the best possible way, local churches should encourage people to set up contribution plans in order to give an overview of the expected liquidity and capital.
Internally there is a requirement that there is at least 50% equity in the local church before such projects can be started.
The board of the local church must gather together the result of members’ contribution plans, and base their financial plan for development on these. In this context it may create order if donors confirm in a voluntary declaration that these are donations that they wish to provide for the community.
In connection with the events in local churches and centrally in BCC, members can also give donations through a common collection. Collections are given as an anonymous gift, but members who wish to get a tax deduction for their donation must use “Quick-collection”.
Guidelines for Tax relationship between congregations
BCC and local churches conduct themselves in accordance with Norwegian tax legislation. Special rules apply for non-profit organizations, such as BCC. In this context guidelines have been prepared which help BCC and local churches to ensure a proper and legal structure for the church’s assets and activities.
Below are guidelines by which all Norwegian churches affiliated to Brunstad Christian Church (BCC) are to conduct themselves.
Local congregations’ tax law position
Norwegian local churches associated with BCC are organized as independent associations. An association is a tax object with an ordinary tax duty under the Taxation Act § 2-2 (1) letter h. Local churches affiliated to BCC, however, are non-profit organisations, and are therefore exempt from income and property tax under the Taxation Act § 2-32 (1). However, should the association engage in economic activity beyond their non-profit purposes, including leasing of real estate, such a business is taxable. As local churches are nonprofit organizations tax liability comes into play when the turnover of the economic activity exceeds NOK 140,000, ref. § 2-32 (3). Rental of real estate to organizations with similar purposes is regarded fundamentally as being a part of the association’s non-profit causes.
The term “non-profit oriented” has been developed through theory and case law. A demarcation runs between realizing and financing the Association’s objectives, the first of which is exempt from taxation and the latter which is included in the limited amount. Furthermore, in case law the basis is that the assessment of the association’s tax liability is affected by activities in subsidiaries.
Activities which may be operated or owned by local congregations
Below is a list of businesses that can be operated or owned by local churches.
Rental of real estate
Real estate that is associated with and used by the local church can be rented directly from the association to organizations / individuals who do not share the association’s objectives. This also applies to rental that includes dining and the like. Turnover on such rentals will be taxable if the local church exceeds the threshold of NOK 140,000.
Local churches can also own real estate associated with BCC in wholly owned subsidiaries if the property is also leased to tenants who are not affiliated BCC. The same also applies to the rental of equipment. This will ensure a more orderly rental processing for tax, duty and accounting purposes. Rental of such property will be taxable.
Income-creating volunteer work can be carried out in the form of crew hire when the local church does not have profit responsibility. It is recommended that such rental is done through a wholly owned subsidiary of the association in order to achieve a more orderly and natural distinction between economic activities and the non-profit activity in the local church. Crew hire in separate corporation will be taxable.
Regular activities that local churches will be able to rent out the crew for are:
Help crew without special competence, for example landscaping work, clearing tasks, etc.
Events activities, including dining, coverage etc.
Guards for sporting events
Business that should not be operated or owned by local congregations
Below is a list of businesses that should not be operated or owned by local churches.
Developing real estate
Local Congregations shall basically not operate or own companies operating in the areas of the development, construction, leasing or sale of real estate except for the cases mentioned above. Nonetheless, the investment in real estate that is passive in character may be permitted following a more detailed assessment.
As mentioned above, local churches can rent out crews for a variety of businesses. However, local churches shall not deliver (or own companies that supply) the following services, especially where these are supplied with a responsibility for financial profit:
services that cause disproportionate consequences for local businesses
services subject to special regulations or requiring special competence
other services or deliveries with particular responsibility for performance, warranty or otherwise, that may lead to wide-ranging commitments
Sale of goods
Furthermore, no local churches shall engage in the sale or procurement of products, including where sales do not take place in the local church´s name or at its expense and risk. Exceptions will apply to products that have a natural connection with the association, such as church literature, or products sold in conjunction with traditional volunteer venues such as flea markets, bazaars or the like.
Local Churches should not own shareholdings or individual interests in companies where other shares / stakes are owned by private individuals or privately owned companies. Shareholdings or interests in companies where other units / shares are owned by other local churches should be assessed separately and an independent advisor should be consulted to comprehend the tax implications.
Tax related aspects
All local churches with revenues from economic activity that exceeds the threshold limit of NOK 140 000, or which are taxable under other provisions of the Taxation Act, shall submit a tax return in line with the Tax Assessment Act. Moreover, a tax return is delivered for all subsidiaries owned by the local church.
Local churches should ensure internal procedures that safeguard timely compliance with these obligations and an orderly communication with tax authorities.
Transactions with related companies and members
All transactions between the association and its subsidiaries, or other related parties shall be on market terms (arm’s length). There should always be written agreements in connection with any significant transactions. The board must approve all such agreements.
Common commercial transactions between the association or its subsidiaries and members or companies owned by members of the association shall be on market terms. Written agreements should be made for significant transactions. The board must approve such agreements.
Employers’ national insurance contributions and withholding tax
EA tax-exempt organization basically has the same obligations as other employers. The organization shall withhold and pay withholding tax and pay employer’s national insurance contributions of salary payments from both tax exempt and taxable activities that the organization had to operate. However, there are specific amount limits that simplify the reporting. These are to be found in Inland Revenue Service’s brochure for voluntary and nonprofit organizations (go to brochure) that local churches should relate to.
In terms of VAT local churches have no special position as a duty paying entity, with the exception of the specific limit of NOK 140,000 per twelve-month period. Local churches need to follow the VAT tax laws and guidelines of the Inland Revenue Service brochure for VAT for NGOs (go to brochure).
The local church can be organized into subgroups. If the local congregation is organized in this way, approval from the tax office must be applied for before the group has its own limit of 140 000 NOK in relation to tax and the VAT Act.
The requirements for being approved by the Inland Revenue Service are stated in their brochure:
The group keeps its own accounts
The group has its own board
The group holds their own annual meeting
There is no requirement that the group’s annual meeting should be held on a day other than the annual meeting of the local church.
All proceeds of the subgroup are to be used in the group’s own operations and are to be utilized by the Board for purposes within the group.
Any open accounts between subgroups and the main organization shall be avoided.
If the subgroup shall cover common costs incurred in the local church, there must be a signed agreement about the allocation of common costs.
Guidelines for voluntary work
Voluntary work plays a very strong part in BCC and the local churches are associations where the activity is very largely built on the voluntary efforts of its members. Most of the voluntary work is carried out at our own events, conferences, in child and youth work and other care-driven work in the church.
BCC has a long and good tradition with great commitment among members, and a very high proportion of its members are active in church life. There is therefore a need for considerably more funds than that which it receives in public support and donations from members in order to provide adequate facilities and offerings for the members.
Guidelines for remunerative voluntary work
Income-making voluntary work is an opportunity the local churches have to fund their activities. Such voluntary work is to be implemented according to the guidelines set out below.
The guidelines should also be followed if the voluntary work is performed in companies owned by BCC or local churches.
Voluntary work is conducted to benefit a community, and is not a working relationship where a person receives regular salary for his efforts. All voluntary work in BCC and the local churches is linked to the philanthropic purposes of the association.
The tasks are carried out over shorter periods of time and voluntary work is used in labor-intensive work periods. However, there is no obligation for the members to work.
Voluntary work is to be implemented in accordance with the guidelines for the tax and duty circumstances in the local church. In addition, the following guidelines are to be kept to:
That contributions made by way of voluntary work do not allow the participants to acquire rights as a result of voluntary work. All earnings as a result of voluntary work goes to the community, and is allocated by the board of the organization where the work is performed.
It is not permitted to have remunerative voluntary work done where individuals perform work in their own business. Such work must always be done at the member’s own expense and risk and any financial contribution must then be made by giving a monetary donation in hindsight.
Voluntary work can be performed in areas which are widely accepted for working voluntary work. In competitive markets, one must ensure that the voluntary work does not cause disproportionate consequences for the market.
Voluntary work cannot be performed on work that demands authorization, or right to accept responsibility etc. Nevertheless, voluntary work can be carried out with simpler help functions as long as it is under the supervision of a responsible leader.
Local churches must follow Inland Revenue Service guidelines for taxes and duties when invoicing performed voluntary work. These guidelines are stated in leaflets with guidance on special thresholds for NGOs:
The board of the organization is responsible for ensuring that all formalities are met.
In areas that require ID cards for presence at work places, the individual providing voluntary effort shall identify themselves using a declaration of voluntariness. In this declaration the purpose and background for the voluntary work shall be made clear.
This statement should be used as documentation of presence in workplaces where there are identification requirements and must thus contain the necessary information normally required from ID cards.
The scheme may also be used to advantage in all areas where voluntary work is performed.
Transactions with related companies or members
All transactions between the association and its subsidiaries, or other related parties shall be on market terms (arm’s length). Written agreements should always be entered into in the case of substantial transactions. The board must approve all such agreements.
Regular commercial transactions between the association or its subsidiaries and members or companies owned by members of the association, shall take place on market terms. Written agreements should always be entered into in the case of substantial transactions. The board must approve such agreements.
The organization for which the volunteers perform voluntary work on behalf of, has a responsibility for the health, safety and environment of the volunteers. Members who provide volunteer work are not “employees” in relation to the general provisions of employment protection legislation. HSE responsibility primarily applies in relation to ensuring that the volunteers have a safe working environment, and in relation to injuries or accidents resulting from the volunteers performing voluntary work for business:
• The organization will be responsible for preventing accidents among the volunteers in accordance with the Working Environment Act, Chapter 2. • The organization will be responsible for mapping operations, assessing risks at work operation and implementing any necessary safety measures. • The organization must specifically consider whether the working hours for volunteers are such that it maintains safety considerations in a satisfactory manner. • The organization is responsible for assessing the training necessary for the volunteers to enable them to carry out tasks, for example in the form of training in the use of protective equipment. The organization will also be responsible for implementing the necessary measures. • The organization must have particular regard to the above when young people under-18 want to contribute with voluntary effort. The organization must ensure that their contribution does not affect the their safety, health or development in an unfortunate way. Neither should it interfere with their schooling. • The organization will in some circumstances be liable as an employer for damages or accidents that affect the volunteers. • The organization will in certain circumstances be liable as an employer for damages or accidents that affect the volunteers during the execution of their volunteer work.
The organization must ensure that satisfactory claims and liability insurance is in place for all of the volunteers who carry out tasks for the organization.
The members who provide voluntary contributions shall be informed about which injury and liability insurance has been taken out for this voluntary work.