whoosanightowl wrote:What requirements are there to becoming tax exempt? Do the same rules apply for churches as for any other "non-profit" organization? If so, then they should be treated equally, but if it's true that churches are not held fiscally accountable to the IRS while others are, then it's only fair to tax them. Then maybe we'd stop seeing a different church on every corner if they had to pay property tax.
That's the rub. The same rules do not apply.
The IRS does not require churches to file a yearly report on income & expenses. They never have to apply for non-profit (501C3) status, as do other non-profit organizations. (I've worked for non-profits for most of my career.) They are never required to undergo an audit, even if the the pastor is also the bookkeeper. And it's not only Federal taxes -- it's also the local government taxes, whose services the churches are most likely to make use of.
And what's more, Fred Phelps' Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas is getting the same tax breaks as St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church. A church, synagogue, or mosque can promote misogyny, racism, homophobia, child abuse, and provide no community services for anyone but its membership, yet still pays no local taxes. Any other non-profit with such an agenda would be refused non-profit status.