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Post Reply Should churches remain tax exempt?
mxdan 
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17
Some estimates say taxing churches would bring in 82 billion a year. Furthermore if we did this we could make community college largly free for most citizens in the United States.

It seems the only thing holding the United States from doing this is Tradition Economics but at the end of the day that is a lot of money that the U.S. could use.

Though, I will say that the U.S. largely mishandles its taxes but that's a debate for another day.


http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2015/07/28/should-america-tax-churches/#3763911421ea



Source: http://www.secularhumanism.org/fi/vol_32/4/cragun_32_4.pdf

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Counter Argument:

The counter argument mainly stems around the fact that churches are able to do things they otherwise wouldn't if we didn't tax them; Food closets, and missionary work come to mind.


1. Government can’t pick some churches to tax & regulate but not others.

Oliver focused on churches that preach the “Prosperity Gospel” and do so in a public way. His audience (myself included) laughed as he ridiculed some prominent TV preachers. Making pronouncements, giving blessings, and issuing calls for faithful giving is, well, something found in nearly every house of worship in America. Government can’t pick and choose which ones are silly and which ones are legitimate. It must practice “benevolent neutrality.” If you tax the TV evangelist you don’t like, then you also must tax the Unitarian/Universalist congregation, the synagogue, the Catholic parish, the Amish house church, and every other religious community.

READ Five things I teach foreign students about American religion & politics

2. If we tax churches, then we will need to tax all not-for-profit organizations.

Government may exempt churches from property taxes and other taxes so long as they do so for other charities. There are some who argue that, as in the case of religious groups on public campuses (Rosenberger v UVA), government can’t select just religious groups to tax while leaving all other organizations like schools, women shelters, soup kitchens, and fraternal organizations tax-exempt.

3. To tax churches, government would need to have the (currently unconstitutional) authority to audit and regulate churches.

Income is revenue minus expenses. So, to tax revenue, the government has rules about what counts as legitimate business expenses and regulations on how businesses perform their accounting. The government may also audit organizations. To do this for churches means that the government would define what is and is not legitimate and then act to ensure compliance. This raises a constitutional issue as Congress cannot make laws that affect the free exercise of religion.

4. Taxation would benefit large churches and ministries and harm smaller ones.

As with any organization, larger is better. Big churches would have the resources to hire lawyers and accountants that would minimize their tax burden. Smaller churches that currently operate on shoestring budgets would face a relatively greater cost in order to comply with new regulations.

5. It wouldn’t solve the problem.

Most of the discussion of taxing churches offers so-called megachurches or television-based ministries as examples of abuse. But if we tax churches, then churches will do what other businesses do—they’ll increase expenditures in order to reduce taxable income. Again: income is revenue minus expenditures. The TV preacher’s million dollar income? That’s an expense. His clothes for his show? An expense. His jet to travel for business? Another expense. The cost of all those fundraising mailings? More expenses. By the end, there won’t be any income to tax.


http://religionnews.com/2015/08/26/5-reasons-we-should-never-tax-churches-even-if-john-oliver-is-right-commentary/

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So what do you guys think?

Personally I think we should differentiate between churches and non-profit organizations. Mainly because good NPO's are held to some sort of standard if they are to receive funding were as Churches become more ambiguous when it comes to their reasoning. NPO's usually have a direct goal in mind. For instance helping people with depression or trying to cure cancer. Can we say the same for churches? The directive seems to be one of many things but ultimately it is hard understand just what that is exactly. Especially when the people in charge of many congregations are living so lavishly.

Also it sort of goes into the Meta Ethical conversation about what churches actually do beyond that of a subjective opinion.
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17
If churches want a voice in politics, they should pay taxes.

If they don't want a voice in politics (LGBT, Abortion, etc) then they can keep it. As I see it currently.. People like Pence are using religion in politics to shove it down the throat of those who don't believe. So currently I say tax the fuck out of churches. That money could go for so much good...

mxdan 
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17

Dark_Alma wrote:

If churches want a voice in politics, they should pay taxes.

If they don't want a voice in politics (LGBT, Abortion, etc) then they can keep it. As I see it currently.. People like Pence are using religion in politics to shove it down the throat of those who don't believe. So currently I say tax the fuck out of churches. That money could go for so much good...



You're 100% right.

In many ways I think a lot of what has happened in the last 20 years in politics is a push back from religion. It's been steadily losing its power in this country over the last few centuries.
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17
Too many churches are used as tax dodges and engage in political activity it's past time to tax them. The system set up to remove tax exemption from groups that violate the rules has been broken by both side on purpose. Both side did this so a church can never lose that exemption no matter how far they brake the rules.

Unless we could set a soild no neogation standard that makes a brick wall between churches and politics. Also Sets a standard for which chruches have to do "good works" to maintain there status. That the volation of with no appeals, with no 2nd tries you lose your exemption period. I don't see any other way. But I can not possaily see even in our counry where 1/4 now recognize as "not religious" happening any time soon.
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17

Dark_Alma wrote:

If churches want a voice in politics, they should pay taxes.

If they don't want a voice in politics (LGBT, Abortion, etc) then they can keep it. As I see it currently.. People like Pence are using religion in politics to shove it down the throat of those who don't believe. So currently I say tax the fuck out of churches. That money could go for so much good...



I am not sure about that logic. I would say there are adherents and then there are religious leaders. I am not sure if that is a sufficient counter argument on my part though.
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17
I'm not entirely sure about this but has a country other than the USSR ever taxed churches? Also I think the USA with such a large religious population shouldn't be the first country to try out a church tax. All debates aside, I can't see it happening in the next 12 years.
mxdan 
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17

GrandMasterTime wrote:

I'm not entirely sure about this but has a country other than the USSR ever taxed churches? Also I think the USA with such a large religious population shouldn't be the first country to try out a church tax. All debates aside, I can't see it happening in the next 12 years.


Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Iceland all collect taxes from churches and they all just happen to be economic powerhouses save for Italy. It's true that America has a Large religious population but this is all the more reason we should tax.
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17
ya just being a church/religious organization should definitely not be a get out of taxes card. nor do i think can really compare religious sects and such to true non profit charity groups since a lot of the money isn't being used for charity work a lot of the time
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17

mxdan wrote:


GrandMasterTime wrote:

I'm not entirely sure about this but has a country other than the USSR ever taxed churches? Also I think the USA with such a large religious population shouldn't be the first country to try out a church tax. All debates aside, I can't see it happening in the next 12 years.


Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Iceland all collect taxes from churches and they all just happen to be economic powerhouses save for Italy. It's true that America has a Large religious population but this is all the more reason we should tax.


Every single country that you listed collects a Church tax. The money goes back into the church from taxpayers essentially (Maintenance of church grounds and such). Especially in countries such as Denmark where nearly the entire population is listed as a member of the state church.

Also from the wikipedia article I was reading before, In Germany apparently "About 70% of church revenues come from church tax. This is about €9.2 billion (in 2010)."
mxdan 
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17

GrandMasterTime wrote:


mxdan wrote:


GrandMasterTime wrote:

I'm not entirely sure about this but has a country other than the USSR ever taxed churches? Also I think the USA with such a large religious population shouldn't be the first country to try out a church tax. All debates aside, I can't see it happening in the next 12 years.


Germany, Italy, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Austria and Iceland all collect taxes from churches and they all just happen to be economic powerhouses save for Italy. It's true that America has a Large religious population but this is all the more reason we should tax.


Every single country that you listed collects a Church tax. The money goes back into the church from taxpayers essentially (Maintenance of church grounds and such). Especially in countries such as Denmark where nearly the entire population is listed as a member of the state church.

Also from the wikipedia article I was reading before, In Germany apparently "About 70% of church revenues come from church tax. This is about €9.2 billion (in 2010)."


Oh true true! A large portion of the tax does go to maintenance revenue. Having been to a large portion of those countries myself though a lot of them are more historic landmarks that bring in tourism revenue. So ultimately it is an economic process that benefits the country probably even more in the long run.

America probably can't count on increased tourism as a result so putting the tax back into the church would make no sense.
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17
While im sure there are some very rich priests (think TV evangelist) in australia i dont know a single one that i would consider "better off than the average man"

most of the ones ive met were given very modest accommodations to live in and lived very simply. i dont think a lot of these churches would survive if they started being taxed.

its been mentioned that charities do better work than churches but can that be said of every charity? there are a heap where the charity funds go mostly to lawyers and the heads of the charities. its just as easy for these people to swindle tax free money as it is for the TV evangelist to make mega bucks.
Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17
But baby Jesus needs your money.
mxdan 
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17

Bailey86 wrote:

While im sure there are some very rich priests (think TV evangelist) in australia i dont know a single one that i would consider "better off than the average man"

most of the ones ive met were given very modest accommodations to live in and lived very simply. i dont think a lot of these churches would survive if they started being taxed.

its been mentioned that charities do better work than churches but can that be said of every charity? there are a heap where the charity funds go mostly to lawyers and the heads of the charities. its just as easy for these people to swindle tax free money as it is for the TV evangelist to make mega bucks.


Well pastors and teachers are the two lowest paid degree careers in the nation. A sad reality. But at least teachers get many health benefits. The thing about pastors though is that many have other things they do besides ministry a couple times a week so they do alright for themselves considering the average work load they actually have in comparison to other professional degrees.

I suppose it depends on the church as it depends on the charity.

Would you be opposed to a tax for churches bringing in over a certain percentage of income each year?
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Posted 1/25/17
its not that im actually for or against the idea of taxes all churches in general. we all know the vatican is extremely wealthy (probably beyond our wildest imagination)

i think christian churches that demand a tithe of weekly income of its regulars would do just fine.

im not sure how muslim or jewish churches get money - ive never looked into it.

i would also expect a massive backlash from the church! i think that there would be a lot of community programs that are run by various churches that even if they could still afford it would shut down just to spite everyone.

do your ministers seriously only have to give services a couple times a week?

Here most of them do 3 - 4 masses per day during the week and even more on the weekends. its a much more full time job.

it would be great if you could tax either group, church or charity, based on various factors like what they do with extra income and how much they pay their staff, but that wouldnt work either.
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Posted 1/25/17 , edited 1/25/17
Yes they should, why should churches be exempt from paying taxes. Only time I would exempt churches if they reinvest a large portion of the money they get back into the community otherwise they should be liable to pay taxes.
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