Tax status for Religious Institutions

Into statistics? Curious what everyone else thinks? Then start a poll here.

How should governments tax religious institutions (e.g., churches)?

Religious institutions should automatically be exempt from all taxes.
1
4%
Religious institutions should be exempt from taxes, but they should open their accounting books to the public, just as other non-profits do.
2
9%
Religious institutions should have to apply for non-profit status with Federal & state tax officials and follow the regulations to receive & maintain tax-exempt status.
7
30%
Religious institutions should pay local & state taxes at a special low rate (to help pay for police & roads), but should be exempt from Federal taxes.
0
No votes
Religious institutions should make payments in lieu of taxes, negotiated annually with state & local officials.
1
4%
Religious institutions should pay all taxes on all property that is not associated directly with worship.
0
No votes
Religious institutions should pay all taxes on all property that is not associated with non-discriminatory social welfare projects.
2
9%
Religious institutions should should pay Federal, state, & local taxes, as would any private club.
10
43%
 
Total votes : 23

Tax status for Religious Institutions

Postby NH Baritone » Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:17 pm

The tax status of churches has been brought under closer scrutiny following the overt church political activity in recent elections. While other non-profit organizations are banned from participating in electoral politics, some churches have devoted staff time and money toward influencing the electoral process.

This occasion calls for public expression on this issue. It cannot be denied that religious institutions use public services while simultaneously providing some community benefits. How are we to assess the benefits vs. the costs presented by these religious institutions and to formulate a reasonable tax policy that benefits the public?
Diversity is the offspring of Liberty. Nonetheless, frightened, mainstream ideologues treat diversity like a bastard stepchild, instead of like a welcome indicator of our overall well-being.
User avatar
NH Baritone
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 3040
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:38 am
Affiliation: Agnostic Atheistic Meditator

Re: Tax status for Religious Institutions

Postby Richard » Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:17 am

I agree with option 3:
"Religious institutions should have to apply for non-profit status with Federal & state tax officials and follow the regulations to receive & maintain tax-exempt status."
They want to be a non-profit organization, then they should follow the rules that apply for those.
Evidence is the only way to separate the probable from the possible. We should always strive to limit our beliefs to the probable.
Richard
resident
resident
 
Posts: 390
Joined: Sat Dec 08, 2007 8:30 am
Affiliation: Atheist

Re: Tax status for Religious Institutions

Postby darkumbra » Thu Feb 26, 2009 11:50 am

Define religion...

Christianity counts... (obviously)

Judaism... (obviously)

Islam... (obviously)

Church of the Latter day Saints? 'obviously' it does - lost gold tablets found by a con man - not-with-standing.

Scientology?

Flying Spaghetti Monster?

Darkumbra's Church of the Prime Divinity, Pi and Phi?

Who decides? Who says THEY decide?
The "god experience"? I have no idea what you are talking about. This sounds like COMPLETE BULLSHIT that you are just making up. How do you define "god experience" in objective scientific terms?-Mitch - a Christian beyond compare.
User avatar
darkumbra
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 3271
Joined: Tue Oct 02, 2007 10:05 am

Re: Tax status for Religious Institutions

Postby Pseudonym » Thu Feb 26, 2009 4:54 pm

I agree with option 3, though I'd be okay with option 2.

The bottom line for me is that it is morally wrong, and a violation of the principle of separation of church and state, for the government to discriminate against an organisation just because it's a religious institution. What other nonprofits get, religious nonprofits should also get.
User avatar
Pseudonym
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 1629
Joined: Mon Sep 29, 2008 4:26 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Affiliation: Liberal Christian

Re: Tax status for Religious Institutions

Postby spongebob » Thu Feb 26, 2009 8:42 pm

I tend to agree with Pseudonym. I don't see an advantage in discriminating against religious non-profit groups over non-religious non-profit groups. I think that if a group is legally deemed "non-profit" then they should receive the same treatment. However, I do believe that ANY non-profit group that breaks its commitment to the this agreement should be dealt with promptly and with little remorse.
Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.
~Bertrand Russell

:spongeb:
User avatar
spongebob
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 5783
Joined: Tue Mar 14, 2006 5:59 pm
Location: Huntsville, AL
Affiliation: Humanist - Bright

Re: Tax status for Religious Institutions

Postby NH Baritone » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:02 pm

darkumbra wrote:Define religion...

Christianity counts... (obviously)
Judaism... (obviously)
Islam... (obviously)
Church of the Latter day Saints? 'obviously' it does - lost gold tablets found by a con man - not-with-standing.
Scientology?
Flying Spaghetti Monster?
Darkumbra's Church of the Prime Divinity, Pi and Phi?

Who decides? Who says THEY decide?

Small cults with <$1000/year donations would not have enough sway to catch any tax collector's eye. But once you have enough $$$ MOOLAH $$$ to pay your clergy & staff and issue W-2s that state that their employer was The Church of the Prime Divinity (Praise π & φ!), to buy property (and seek to avoid paying property taxes), or to apply for an exemption from state sales taxes for Prime Divinity Stationery, THEN your organization will catch the Eye of Sauron (aka, the tax collectors).

Here's what the IRS regulations say regarding Federal tax exemption:
IRS Tax Guide for Churches & Religions Organizations, p. 3 wrote:TAX EXEMPT STATUS

Churches and religious organizations, like many other charitable organizations, qualify for exemption from federal income tax under IRC section 501(c)(3) and are generally eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.

To qualify for tax-exempt status, such an organization must meet the following requirements (covered in greater detail throughout this publication):

  • the organization must be organized and operated exclusively for religious, educational, scientific, or other charitable purposes,
  • net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder,
  • no substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation,
  • the organization may not intervene in political campaigns, and
  • the organization’s purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.
RECOGNITION OF TAX -EXEMPT STATUS
Automatic Exemption for Churches

Churches that meet the requirements of IRC section 501(c)(3) are automatically considered tax exempt and are not required to apply for and obtain recognition of tax-exempt status from the IRS.
Diversity is the offspring of Liberty. Nonetheless, frightened, mainstream ideologues treat diversity like a bastard stepchild, instead of like a welcome indicator of our overall well-being.
User avatar
NH Baritone
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 3040
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:38 am
Affiliation: Agnostic Atheistic Meditator

Re: Tax status for Religious Institutions

Postby NH Baritone » Thu Feb 26, 2009 9:18 pm

Pseudonym wrote:I agree with option 3, though I'd be okay with option 2.

The bottom line for me is that it is morally wrong, and a violation of the principle of separation of church and state, for the government to discriminate against an organisation just because it's a religious institution. What other nonprofits get, religious nonprofits should also get.

The question arises, then, should the property and income associated with WORSHIP be free of taxes?

In other words, should the IRS remove its exemption for the promotion of religion? It's not hard for me to argue that groups organized to worship are no different from groups that open a country club or a book club.
Diversity is the offspring of Liberty. Nonetheless, frightened, mainstream ideologues treat diversity like a bastard stepchild, instead of like a welcome indicator of our overall well-being.
User avatar
NH Baritone
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 3040
Joined: Wed Jan 30, 2008 10:38 am
Affiliation: Agnostic Atheistic Meditator

Re: Tax status for Religious Institutions

Postby Pseudonym » Thu Feb 26, 2009 10:33 pm

NH Baritone wrote:The question arises, then, should the property and income associated with WORSHIP be free of taxes?

In other words, should the IRS remove its exemption for the promotion of religion? It's not hard for me to argue that groups organized to worship are no different from groups that open a country club or a book club.


And it's not hard for me to argue that groups organised to worship are no different from groups that open a school or a charity, especially if they do indeed teach and do indeed collect money for charity work.

In most countries, even community sporting clubs are eligible for tax exempt status. Is that not the case in the United States?

EDIT: And why not book clubs? I'm not sure of the tax status of country clubs, though.
User avatar
Pseudonym
Senior member
Senior member
 
Posts: 1629
Joined: Mon Sep 29, 2008 4:26 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Affiliation: Liberal Christian

Re: Tax status for Religious Institutions

Postby Penguin » Fri May 01, 2009 6:59 am

Pseudonym wrote:And it's not hard for me to argue that groups organised to worship are no different from groups that open a school or a charity, especially if they do indeed teach and do indeed collect money for charity work.

And it would be fine to me to justify preferential tax status for a religious organization on that basis, but IMO it should be the same basis as any other charity: the nature of the work they do and the structure of the organization, not the organization's religious character.

Personally, I believe in fully secular government. I think that government should be blind to religion, and that religious status shouldn't matter when deciding what tax status an organization should have. If a religious charity meets all the normal criteria for a secular charity, fine - treat it as a charity. However, a church shouldn't be automatically considered a charity just because it's a church.

Pseudonym wrote:In most countries, even community sporting clubs are eligible for tax exempt status. Is that not the case in the United States?

That's the case in Canada. Here, we have non-profit organizations that aren't charities. Because they don't make a profit, their profits aren't taxed... though I believe that if they own property, it's taxed like normal. Because they don't engage in charitable work, donations to them aren't tax-deductible for the donor.

An example would be the car club I belong to: technically, it's organized as a corporation without share capital. We're not-for-profit, and even though we do community-minded activities occasionally, our activities are primarily for the mutual benefit of the club members so we definitely wouldn't be able to register as a charity. However, because the club takes in more than $30,000 a year (the magic number for the federal Goods and Services Tax) in the things they "sell" like event entry fees are subject to sales tax, which the club has to collect and then remit to the government.
User avatar
Penguin
resident
resident
 
Posts: 287
Joined: Mon Dec 22, 2008 4:23 pm
Location: Toronto-ish, Canada
Affiliation: Atheist/Humanist


Return to Polls

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest