Should the church be taxed?

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  • #126
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Definitely not in the United States. If we are to adhere to the current legal system, it would be highly illegal and virulent to the foundation to tax the Church.

As Chief Justice John Marshall declared in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), "the power to tax involves the power to destroy".
 
  • #127
Evo
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That would be religious discrimination, treating religious organizations differently from other non-profits because of their beliefs.
Why do churches deserve tax exempt status except for reasonable expenses related to the charitible work they do? What else do they do that warrants a tax exempt status?

I'm linking to a point counterpoint article, I'm linking to the counterpoint.

Tax exemption is a privilege, not a right
Counterpoint: Barry W. Lynn

Second, you seem to believe that the Constitution somehow mandates that all religious institutions be tax exempt, even though the Constitution says no such thing.

When any group accepts a tax exemption, it agrees to play by certain rules and accept a certain degree of oversight. Federal law actually makes it more difficult for the IRS to audit churches than other charities. In addition to this modest "no electioneering" rule, for example, tax-exempt groups cannot collect money for a "charitable" purpose and then use it all for the personal benefit of the director and her family (or the pastor and his family). Do you seriously believe that the IRS and possibly even criminal investigative bodies have no right to try to scrutinize possible misbehavior?

Second, government at the local, state and federal level made a decision early in our history to grant tax exemptions to churches and other bodies. The Constitution does not mandate it; and indeed, even the decision you cite -- the Walz case -- doesn't say that tax exemptions are required by the 1st Amendment. In general, governments believed that churches along with other types of community groups enhanced and supplemented government services such as feeding the hungry, housing those in need of shelter and in general using private funds for public good. (Although this is a debate for another time, I note that more and more religious groups are now asking for a government bailout through the "faith-based initiative" and to keep their tax exemptions.)
http://www.latimes.com/la-oew-lynn-stanley23-2008sep23,0,4272340.story
 
  • #128
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Why do churches deserve tax exempt status except for reasonable expenses related to the charitible work they do? What else do they do that warrants a tax exempt status?

I'm linking to a point counterpoint article, I'm linking to the counterpoint.



http://www.latimes.com/la-oew-lynn-stanley23-2008sep23,0,4272340.story
You present a "counterpoint" from none other than Barry Lynn, who is the enemy of free operation of churches. Barry has no problem with ACLU, planned parenthood, etc. operating freely w/o any taxation at all. Why isn't he giving the secular groups who oppose the Church while retaining tax exempt status the same third degree?

BL wants what many people want, a society where only their views are propagated, while opposition is either suppressed, or at minimum discouraged, minimized, or villified. The McCollough vs. Maryland Supreme Court decision from 1819 was not a church case, but the justices set the legal precedent that power to tax involves power to destroy. This statement covers a broad range of cases.

Whenever a group like AUFSCS, ACLU, Sierra Club, etc. actively campaigns to remove an institutions tax exemption while fully enjoying the same, that is pure double standard. People like Lynn do not want fairness, they want the opposition wiped out. It may come to that. A pluralistic society is not what church taxers want.

For the record, I believe that any NPO, secular or faith based, should only be taxed on capital gains, not on operating funds. My system allows all groups, secular or faith, to operate freely unhampered, whether I agree with them or not.
Govt has trillions, while budget for missionaries is a pittance. I estimate the mission budget at 0.001% of the public health, education, & welfare budgets. Now the activists want to transfer a portion of the tiny mission budget to the Goliath public treasury. This is pure unmitigated gall.

Claude
 
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  • #129
russ_watters
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....if they are producing enormous revenues that far exceed their benevolent actions they should be taxed just as I said before.
As I said before, business revenue isn't taxed. Only profit. So this requirement would be even worse discrimination, taxing churches more than even for-profit businesses!
If they are doing any political lobbying (not saying the BSA were...) they should be taxed
That's a problematic one to me. Why are labor unions allowed to have a political voice (or any other non-profit political organization, for that matter!?), but churches aren't? That seems discriminatory to me too. I'd like to see that part of the law challenged.
 
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  • #130
russ_watters
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Why do churches deserve tax exempt status except for reasonable expenses related to the charitible work they do? What else do they do that warrants a tax exempt status?
Not have a profit. Be a civic organization.

Why should a labor union be tax exempt? Why should any non-profit be tax exempt? I don't know, but I do know that what's good for the goose must be good for the gander otherwise it is discriminatory.
 
  • #131
Evo
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Not have a profit. Be a civic organization.

Why should a labor union be tax exempt? Why should any non-profit be tax exempt? I don't know, but I do know that what's good for the goose must be good for the gander otherwise it is discriminatory.
I certainly don't think a labor union should be tax exempt, doesn't even make sense. I can see a tax break for organizations that help the public with services that would otherwise fall on the tax payers. Charity hospitals, homeless shelters, animal shelters. Unions? WTH? HELL NO. IMO.

Tax exemption to build multi-million dollar cathedrals? NO, IMO. The new Catholic church near here, cost $6 million, tax free. Now, tell me why any of that money should have been tax free. There is no associated charity, they are giving nothing back to the public, they should be taxed on it, IMO. Now if they turn that into a marble floored and pillared homeless shelter and soup kitchen, I might see it.

There are many deserving charities operating on a shoestring budget that do a great deal of public service, now THOSE I support being tax exempt.
 
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  • #132
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As I said before, business revenue isn't taxed. Only profit. So this requirement would be even worse discrimination, taxing churches more than even for-profit businesses! That's a problematic one to me. Why are labor unions allowed to have a political voice (or any other non-profit political organization, for that matter!?), but churches aren't? That seems discriminatory to me too. I'd like to see that part of the law challenged.
I would consider unions and lobbying groups like the NRA being taxed a step forward for the USA.
I am confusing revenue and profit, sorry if this seems like a stupid mistake, but considering that there is churches that have millions of dollars salaries for their preachers I think something has to change somewhere in the system.
 
  • #133
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This thread is about taxing church profits. Disparaging remarks about groups of people will not be tolerated, and have been deleted.
I find it ridiculous and discriminatory that everyone is arguing whether the church should be taxed or not, while leaving other religious organizations out of the debate.
 
  • #134
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I would consider unions and lobbying groups like the NRA being taxed a step forward for the USA.
I am confusing revenue and profit, sorry if this seems like a stupid mistake, but considering that there is churches that have millions of dollars salaries for their preachers I think something has to change somewhere in the system.
Technical question (I wouldn't pretend that I know US tax system):

Are those salaries taxed as personal income of those preachers?

Evo:
But you know, if we treat a church as profit oriented organization, then we should recognize the mentioned cathedral as fixed asset that should be subject to depreciation, shouldn't we? (we would allow for a company to claim depreciation on their main office or retail store)
 
  • #135
russ_watters
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Yes, personal income is taxed, even if it comes from a nonprofit.

I'm trying to come up with logic for tax exempt status... My thought is that while a for-profit business's one and only purpose is profit, a nonprofit exists for some civic benefit reason, so the government tries to encourage that...without passing judgement on the particular goal.
 
  • #136
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I certainly don't think a labor union should be tax exempt, doesn't even make sense. I can see a tax break for organizations that help the public with services that would otherwise fall on the tax payers. Charity hospitals, homeless shelters, animal shelters. Unions? WTH? HELL NO. IMO.

Tax exemption to build multi-million dollar cathedrals? NO, IMO. The new Catholic church near here, cost $6 million, tax free. Now, tell me why any of that money should have been tax free. There is no associated charity, they are giving nothing back to the public, they should be taxed on it, IMO. Now if they turn that into a marble floored and pillared homeless shelter and soup kitchen, I might see it.

There are many deserving charities operating on a shoestring budget that do a great deal of public service, now THOSE I support being tax exempt.
So they build a cathedral. Big deal. The preacher's salary is taxed, as are the salaries of all church employees. Homeless shelter & soup kitchen? Those are good things as well, but Evo you do not decide what is a good endeavor vs. a bad one. Preaching the word does help people as does a shelter or kitchen. I can't go into details about why preaching is good but let it suffice to say that many people find comfort, solace, strength, & encouragement from sermons, prayer, & theological instruction.

Every construction worker who built the cathedral paid taxes, and all the materials were taxed. It seems to me that you never feel that taxes are high enough. Everything everybody earns is taxed, all they buy is taxed, every item they buy results in the vendor being taxed on profit, etc. The state & federal govts make a lot of revenue on a cathedral construction.

You feel that the cathedral does not generate enough revenue, but i ask the following. Sports stadiums/domes/arenas cost hundreds of millions, close to a billion. Not only do they get tax abatement, but most of the time the taxpayers foot the bill for the whole project. What do they produce? Cleveland Browns Stadium hosts 8 regular season football games & never hosted a playoff in 14 seasons of existence. Seriously, do you wish to force the NFL (& other sports leagues) to fund their own arenas?

Since sports is a for profit operation, I believe they should pay taxes on their capital gains, and that arenas are to be privately funded. Every small business (dry cleaner, nail salon, restaurant, etc.) and big business (Mobil, GE, Dell) must build their own labs, office buildings, etc. You allow pro sports to not only get tax abatement, but allow their arenas to be built w/ taxpayer money.

Yet when members of a church build a cathedral w/ their own funds, you complain it isn't taxed. If the church collects $2M, then spends $1.5M on the cathedral, then gives away the balance, there is no gain to be taxed. Is that hard to understand?

But if some funds are invested such as municipal bonds, stock market, T-bills, etc., any capital gains, including interest, are indeed taxed. Does that make you happy? Honestly, the system is fair to all NPO, religious or secular. It is NOT up to me to decide which endeavors are worthy to retain tax exemption, and which are not. Labor unions, Sierra Club, ACLU, all have agendas I usually disagree with, sometimes agree with. Yet I know that if their tax exemption is considering being revoked, I will fight for them to keep it, despite my opposition to their agenda.

I believe in allowing that which I DISagree with to continue by not attempting to stop it or interfere with it. That is the textbook definition of tolerance. Your disagreement with one or more churches is not just cause to revoke their tax status any more than that of groups I differ with such as AFL-CIO/ACLU/Sierra etc.

Claude
 
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  • #137
Evo
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So they build a cathedral. Big deal.
If they had been taxed properly in the first place, they wouldn't have the extra $6 million to build the place. Tax laws for "non-profits', especially churches, need to be revised. This "taboo" on churches goes back thousands of years, it's time to lift the taboo, IMO to all above.
 
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  • #138
Evo
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I find it ridiculous and discriminatory that everyone is arguing whether the church should be taxed or not, while leaving other religious organizations out of the debate.
"the church" covers all religious organizations for the purpose of discussion in this thread. What are you trying to say?
 
  • #139
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If they had been taxed properly in the first place, they wouldn't have the extra $6 million to build the place. Tax laws for "non-profits', especially churches, need to be revised. This "taboo" on churches goes back thousands of years, it's time to lift the taboo, IMO.
Could they leasing their cathedral? In such a way they would not have to put much money in front and can immediately claim leasing rates as tax deductible cost?

(I base here on typical income tax rules, that I'm used to, if anything contradict US tax rules, please correct me)

Salaries of priests should be then consider as tax deductible cost, right? They should be considered as employees.

(I thought a bit about this case a while ago, but in Polish setting - if we treat church as business, then as long as long as it does not stacks piles of money but spends it on "reasonable business expenditures" like buildings, priests, religious celebration, whatever - it should be able to claim that actual taxable income is tiny)
 
  • #140
russ_watters
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If they had been taxed properly in the first place, they wouldn't have the extra $6 million to build the place. Tax laws for "non-profits', especially churches, need to be revised. This "taboo" on churches goes back thousands of years, it's time to lift the taboo, IMO to all above.
Why "especially churches"? Harvard is sitting on a $30 billion endowment. My homeowners association has a hundred thousand in a reserve fund.
 
  • #141
Evo
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Why "especially churches"? Harvard is sitting on a $30 billion endowment. My homeowners association has a hundred thousand in a reserve fund.
Churches because of the ease of financial fraud. Perhaps they are no worse than most other non-profits that receive donations, but it seems harder to investigate church finances, IMO, from what I've read. I don't have time right now, but there is a huge scandal with the Catholic church, fianancial scandals in Evangelical churches. Recently, the huge church complex behind where I live closed over millions of dolars that went *missing*. Of course I need to provide sources.

I'll just post some links for now. This first is the main one I am concerned with.

Do you know how your church -- or the megachurch down the street -- spends its tax-exempt money? Do you know how much tax-exempt compensation your pastor receives or how he or she spend their money?

Shouldn't you know? Shouldn't the the government to find out for you?
Those are some of the intriguing and unsettling questions raised by a must-read staff review released last week by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).
The 66-page report, filled with references to nearly every major religious figure in America from Billy Graham to Jerry Falwell to Rick Warren, concludes Grassley's three-year investigation of six media-based, multi-million-dollar "ministries."

What is a church?

"Currently, anyone can set up an organization, call the organization a church, solicit tax-deductible contributions, and -- unless the organization voluntarily applies for recognition of tax-exempt status or files annual returns - that organization will be invisible to the IRS and operate virtually without government oversight because no state requires religious organizations to register and file annual financial reports with the state attorney general," the staff reported.

Under current tax law, religious organizations that are not churches are required to file IRS Form 990 and report their sources of income and expendutures annually.
Churches -- and organizations deemed "integrated auxiliaries of the church" -- are not required to do so.

"This lack of governmental, independent or denominational oversight is troubling when considering that churches can reach the size of large taxable corporations, control numerous taxable and non-taxable subsidiaries, and bestow Wall Street-size benefits on their ministers," the staff reported.
http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/o...ch_who_is_minister_should_tax_man_decide.html

These other links just discuss financial scandals.

http://www.spiegel.de/international...threatens-catholic-church-image-a-842140.html

http://blogs.vancouversun.com/2012/07/22/evangelical-church-in-14-million-financial-scandal/

As well as questionable financial management, the church also suffers from fraud and embezzlement, according to Jason Berry, an expert in Catholic finance and author of “Render Unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church”. In March the former chief financial officer of the archdiocese of Philadelphia was arrested and charged with embezzling more than $900,000 between 2005 and 2011. Hundreds of priests have been disciplined for taking more than a little “walking around money” from the collection basket.

Muni bonds are generally tax-free for investors, so the cost of borrowing is lower than it would be for a taxable investment. In other words, the church enjoys a subsidy more commonly associated with local governments and public-sector projects. If the church has issued more debt in part to meet the financial strains caused by the scandals, then the American taxpayer has indirectly helped mitigate the church’s losses from its settlements. Taxpayers may end up on the hook for other costs, too. For example, settlement of the hundreds of possible abuse cases in New York might cause the closure of Catholic schools across the city.
http://www.economist.com/node/21560536
 
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  • #142
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Evo:

Aren't you placing here a few separate subject in to one topic:
1) Vatican finances - it's an independent country, able to regulate it's own internal affairs, so I don't see how it is related to US taxation. (Though after FACTA, I'm not sure whether US tax authorities notice that there are indeed independent countries)
2) Mess in finances of many churches and embezzlement of their own funds. It's noble of you that you want to help them combat that, however, that's also a different subject.
 
  • #143
Evo
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Evo:

Aren't you placing here a few separate subject in to one topic:
1) Vatican finances - it's an independent country, able to regulate it's own internal affairs, so I don't see how it is related to US taxation. (Though after FACTA, I'm not sure whether US tax authorities notice that there are indeed independent countries)
2) Mess in finances of many churches and embezzlement of their own funds. It's noble of you that you want to help them combat that, however, that's also a different subject.
Actually, the OP doesn't restrict the subject of taxes to the US, and the financial problems are relevant to the overall secrecy behind church finances and is related, IMO.
 
  • #144
turbo
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Why shouldn't churches be taxed? Churches rely on public infrastructure just like every other business. Roads, bridges, water, sewage, electrical supply, communications... All paid for by the taxpayers. I can see churches being exempted from taxation on reasonable expenses for personnel, maintenance, and charity work, but a blanket exemption is just too much, IMO.
 
  • #145
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Why shouldn't churches be taxed? Churches rely on public infrastructure just like every other business. Roads, bridges, water, sewage, electrical supply, communications... All paid for by the taxpayers. I can see churches being exempted from taxation on reasonable expenses for personnel, maintenance, and charity work, but a blanket exemption is just too much, IMO.
I think the biggest reason has been gone over and over in this thread... churches don't have profits to tax. If run correctly, even if you wanted to tax them, there'd be nothing there.

Now in reality, I suspect churches and many other non-profits have creative ways to take money out of the business. For other non-profits, they have to file paperwork to keep everything straight. Churches are exempt from filing paperwork. Their books are completely hidden.
 
  • #146
Evo
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Yeah, we've gone 10 pages and we've covered the same points repeatedly, time to put the thread out of it's misery.
 

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