Author Topic: Taxation of religious organizations  (Read 3140 times)

Dabnasty

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Taxation of religious organizations
« on: May 16, 2019, 12:37:01 PM »
I'm creating this thread to continue an off topic conversation from another thread which began here:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/unethical-ways-to-save-money/msg2373522/#msg2373522

This is an issue I've given some thought to in the past and I do have an opinion but before taking a stance I'd like to learn a bit more about tax law as it relates to religious organizations.

If anyone would like to continue the conversation or has any knowledge to share this would place to do it.

simonsez

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2019, 04:33:32 PM »
There was an excellent Scientology documentary a couple years ago (was either HBO or Netflix I saw it on) where it showed the landmark decision granting them tax-exempt status.  The feel from watching that in this opulent room with paid/blackmailed celebrities was like they knew they were getting away with something, was icky.  I do admit freely to my bias of not considering Scientology a religion but find its history and current existence fascinating.

I'd be fine if religious organizations had to meet some criteria based on charitable lines rather than being exempt solely on being religious as defined by the IRS.  The charitable part is important to me because without that, it's reduced to just another business trying to survive.

As for individuals (I know you asked about the religious organizations themselves), I'm not 100% about charitable giving being tax deductible.  I guess I'm okay with much of the spirit of it but seems like an area rife with corruption that goes in stark contrast to the notion of charity.  The new tax laws in the US with the doubled standard deduction are interesting in seeing how it affects giving.  I wish giving was this personal thing that didn't have tax implications - I mean, it is a nice bonus but man is that a Pandora's Box!

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2019, 04:46:31 PM »
I'm creating this thread to continue an off topic conversation from another thread which began here:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/unethical-ways-to-save-money/msg2373522/#msg2373522

This is an issue I've given some thought to in the past and I do have an opinion but before taking a stance I'd like to learn a bit more about tax law as it relates to religious organizations.

If anyone would like to continue the conversation or has any knowledge to share this would place to do it.

The First Amendment includes two Religion Clauses, the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.

The Establishment Clause forbids the establishment of religion by any governmental entity.

Avoidance of church-state entanglement is among the reasons for this proscription.

I was taught that one of the reasons churches enjoy tax exemption is to preclude church officials desirous of particularized tax treatment from having to interact with governmental entities to receive it,  thereby avoiding church-state entanglement.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 04:49:54 PM by John Galt incarnate! »

GuitarStv

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2019, 05:57:28 PM »
It's not just the tax free status of churches that I don't like . . . it's that giving to a church is a tax deduction.  In effect, the government is paying part of every donation made to the religious organization.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2019, 06:16:35 PM »
I'm creating this thread to continue an off topic conversation from another thread which began here:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/unethical-ways-to-save-money/msg2373522/#msg2373522

This is an issue I've given some thought to in the past and I do have an opinion but before taking a stance I'd like to learn a bit more about tax law as it relates to religious organizations.

If anyone would like to continue the conversation or has any knowledge to share this would place to do it.

First of all, again, thanks for the thread. It's an important discussion. It's also a very clear cut one.

I can speak with firsthand experiences for churches and also for a non profit camp organization. There's two essential ways they benefit from tax law. People get a tax deduction for donating, and the non profit doesn't pay taxes. This is standard for non profits. The personal tax deduction for most churches that are normal size (less than 100 we'll say) is pretty irrelevant. You need to have a person donating a lot of money for this to impact them past the standard deduction, especially with the new higher standard deduction. From my experience, it doesn't really affect much. The one that does, though, is the taxing of the churches. If you look at things from the media perspective, churches are more like Joel Olsteen mega churches with millions of dollars in revenue. In reality, most are smaller without an even full time paid pastor, operating off of a shoestring budget. If they paid taxes, many would fold or they would lose the ability to do almost any community work because they could barely afford rent and utilities.

The fact is that there are standard non profits and churches that aren't on the up and up. Some nonprofits have CEOs that make exorbitant amounts of money just like some churches have pastors that do as well.There is nothing unique about churches as non profits except for religion. So essentially, as I mentioned in the previous thread, we either reevaluate our entire strategy on non profits, single out religions as especially awful non profits that need to be treated differently than any other non-profit, or come up with another solution. If we want to eliminate the concept of non profits, that's fine (a bad idea in my mind) but at least consistent. If we want to take away non profit status for churches, that is simply targeting religion. It's also unconstitutional. It would certainly be targeting religions, essentially respecting the establishment of a religion (atheism, a non religion at least) by targeting anything but atheism. Even if you don't buy this, it's definitely targeting churches as not just not good but bad and not just bad but so bad that we override standard non profit rules just for them. It's pretty ridiculous.

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2019, 06:36:32 PM »

If they paid taxes, many would fold or they would lose the ability to do almost any community work because they could barely afford rent and utilities.



Churches do  perform good works in their communities such as the operation of soup kitchens and shelters for homeless people.

Sponsored by their church, some churchmen  go abroad and do good works by  assisting  the poor and treating/curing diseased individuals.

For these good works I support tax exemptions for churches.



« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 06:40:46 PM by John Galt incarnate! »

GuitarStv

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2019, 06:48:53 PM »

If they paid taxes, many would fold or they would lose the ability to do almost any community work because they could barely afford rent and utilities.



Churches do  perform good work in their communities such as the operation of soup kitchens and shelters for homeless people.

Sponsored by their church, some churchmen  go abroad and do good by  assisting  the poor and treating/curing diseased individuals.

For this good that they do I support tax exemptions for churches.

Yeah, the good stuff is great.  Not entirely OK with funding the bad in order to get that good though.

Gay conversion camps to fix those satanic urges that cause homosexuality.  Fighting against the distribution of condoms in AIDS stricken African countries.  Fighting to teach myth along with science in public schools.

Telecaster

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2019, 06:51:35 PM »

If they paid taxes, many would fold or they would lose the ability to do almost any community work because they could barely afford rent and utilities.



Churches do  perform good works in their communities such as the operation of soup kitchens and shelters for homeless people.

Sponsored by their church, some churchmen  go abroad and do good works by  assisting  the poor and treating/curing diseased individuals.

For these good works I support tax exemptions for churches.

I do too, but only for monies that pay for those good works.  If you are a minister, you are allowed to claim a parsonage, which is tax-free housing benefit, and there's no definition of a parsonage.   It can be, and often is, a giant mansion. 

https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc417

That's not the highest best use of my tax dollars.  The Catholic Church has spent untold million of dollars defending against lawsuits against pedophile priests.  All those dollars are tax deductible, which gives the church a big leg up on the victims, who have to pay with after tax dollars. 

If the money is actually going to a soup kitchen, fine.   Sounds like a worthy, tax-deductible cause.   If it is going to buy a luxury vehicle for Tom Cruise, then not so much. 

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2019, 07:02:06 PM »

Yeah, the good stuff is great.  Not entirely OK with funding the bad in order to get that good though.

Fighting against the distribution of condoms in AIDS stricken African countries.

I condemn the Catholic Church for such an execrable policy.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 07:05:32 PM by John Galt incarnate! »

Dabnasty

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2019, 08:00:08 PM »
I'm creating this thread to continue an off topic conversation from another thread which began here:

https://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/welcome-to-the-forum/unethical-ways-to-save-money/msg2373522/#msg2373522

This is an issue I've given some thought to in the past and I do have an opinion but before taking a stance I'd like to learn a bit more about tax law as it relates to religious organizations.

If anyone would like to continue the conversation or has any knowledge to share this would place to do it.

First of all, again, thanks for the thread. It's an important discussion. It's also a very clear cut one.

I can speak with firsthand experiences for churches and also for a non profit camp organization. There's two essential ways they benefit from tax law. People get a tax deduction for donating, and the non profit doesn't pay taxes. This is standard for non profits. The personal tax deduction for most churches that are normal size (less than 100 we'll say) is pretty irrelevant. You need to have a person donating a lot of money for this to impact them past the standard deduction, especially with the new higher standard deduction. From my experience, it doesn't really affect much. The one that does, though, is the taxing of the churches. If you look at things from the media perspective, churches are more like Joel Olsteen mega churches with millions of dollars in revenue. In reality, most are smaller without an even full time paid pastor, operating off of a shoestring budget. If they paid taxes, many would fold or they would lose the ability to do almost any community work because they could barely afford rent and utilities.

The fact is that there are standard non profits and churches that aren't on the up and up. Some nonprofits have CEOs that make exorbitant amounts of money just like some churches have pastors that do as well.There is nothing unique about churches as non profits except for religion. So essentially, as I mentioned in the previous thread, we either reevaluate our entire strategy on non profits, single out religions as especially awful non profits that need to be treated differently than any other non-profit, or come up with another solution. If we want to eliminate the concept of non profits, that's fine (a bad idea in my mind) but at least consistent. If we want to take away non profit status for churches, that is simply targeting religion. It's also unconstitutional. It would certainly be targeting religions, essentially respecting the establishment of a religion (atheism, a non religion at least) by targeting anything but atheism. Even if you don't buy this, it's definitely targeting churches as not just not good but bad and not just bad but so bad that we override standard non profit rules just for them. It's pretty ridiculous.

I think you're missing a significant difference between religious groups and non-profits. Non-profits put all* of their donations/income toward their cause while religious groups may or may not put some portion of income toward charitable causes; it's not a requirement. It could be 20%, 80%, or 0%. If they have a building to worship in and paid employees to run services and events,  then it's not 100%. Why should the dollars going towards causes other than charity have the same tax advantages?

And there's another issue that hasn'thas now :) been brought up, religious exemption are not the same as non-profit exemptions, they're easier to obtain and in some cases like the parsonage, better. On top of being exempt from property tax it's not classified as income for the purpose of income tax. A non-profit paying for an employee's housing would be counted as income*.

Quote
According to the IRS, “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.” So it isn’t required for your church to apply for 501(c)(3) in order to be tax exempt.

https://www.aplos.com/academy/church-management/501c3-tax-exempt-right-for-your-church/

vs.
Quote
Steps for obtaining tax-exempt status for your nonprofit:
1.   Incorporate.
2.   Apply for an EIN.
3.   Provide a detailed business purpose.
4.   File Form 1023 with the IRS.
5.   Pay the necessary filing fees.
6.   When to file.
7.   Complete the state-level application (if applicable).

https://www.bizfilings.com/toolkit/research-topics/incorporating-your-business/filing-f

And after completing those steps and paying the fees their business purpose still needs to be approved by the IRS. After approval their activities and spending will be more closely monitored than would a religious group's.

most are smaller without an even full time paid pastor, operating off of a shoestring budget. If they paid taxes, many would fold or they would lose the ability to do almost any community work because they could barely afford rent and utilities.

This last point is mostly irrelevant, but I question your framing of small churches. Do you have data to support any of this? I've attended many small churches, most of them far from 100 members, mostly rural and none of them appeared to be short on cash. In the area where I grew up there were lots of churches. Some of the congregations were poor but they always seemed to find a way to fund the church.

I'm sure some churches would fit your description but I think your use of the word "most" is suspect.


*I'm no expert on the specific requirements for non-profit status. If anyone could add to this or correct me if I'm wrong it would be appreciated.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2019, 08:01:42 PM by Dabnasty »

Bloop Bloop

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2019, 08:11:24 PM »

If they paid taxes, many would fold or they would lose the ability to do almost any community work because they could barely afford rent and utilities.



Churches do  perform good works in their communities such as the operation of soup kitchens and shelters for homeless people.

Sponsored by their church, some churchmen  go abroad and do good works by  assisting  the poor and treating/curing diseased individuals.

For these good works I support tax exemptions for churches.

If they want to do good work they can do it under a secular guise. If there's any "churchiness" involved then who's to say that the tax exemptions aren't paying for missionary work, religious education, or other religious matters? There's nothing wrong with those religious matters, but I can not for the life of me understand why religious proselytising should be given a tax exemption. To me, it's no different from political influencing. It's fine for you to do so - to lobby - but it should not be subsidised by the public purse.

Otherwise, George Lucas might as well name Lucasfilm a church that promotes the Jedi religion, and then claim a tax deduction for all of its marketing activities. It's the same principle.

Telecaster

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #11 on: May 16, 2019, 09:17:47 PM »
I can speak with firsthand experiences for churches and also for a non profit camp organization. There's two essential ways they benefit from tax law. People get a tax deduction for donating, and the non profit doesn't pay taxes. This is standard for non profits. The personal tax deduction for most churches that are normal size (less than 100 we'll say) is pretty irrelevant. You need to have a person donating a lot of money for this to impact them past the standard deduction, especially with the new higher standard deduction. From my experience, it doesn't really affect much. The one that does, though, is the taxing of the churches. If you look at things from the media perspective, churches are more like Joel Olsteen mega churches with millions of dollars in revenue. In reality, most are smaller without an even full time paid pastor, operating off of a shoestring budget. If they paid taxes, many would fold or they would lose the ability to do almost any community work because they could barely afford rent and utilities.

But what is wrong with them folding?  If they are not self-supporting, what is it they do that is so important they need government charity?  What benefit does the public get by supporting this function?

Does Scientology return any public benefit for the billions they generate?  How about the New Jersey mosque of Omar Abdel-Rahman who plotted terrorism attacks?   

https://www.nj.com/news/2017/02/blind_cleric_behind_1993_world_trade_center_bombin_1.html

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that killing people should not be a tax deductible activity.   

If the function is to run a soup kitchen, then yes, I can see the rationale for a tax deduction.  If the function is to buy private jets and have private clubhouses, or plot terrorist attacks, then I don't see why the US taxpayer needs to fund it. 

If you want to preach philosophy, more power to you.   Just do it on your dime, not mine. 

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2019, 05:04:22 AM »
Well, if nothing else, this thread has caused me to brush up on some of my non profit information, so that's good :). Let's address all of these one at a time:

Yeah, the good stuff is great.  Not entirely OK with funding the bad in order to get that good though.

I'm not really wanting to get into the good stuff vs. bad stuff in this particular thread. I'm sure our definitions of that would have some overlap and some not. The point is that non profits do not have to justify their work as "good stuff" (in the moral way of good stuff that you're talking about), so if we're attacking it on that platform, we are, going back to my original point, singling out religions to be against for non profits.


I do too, but only for monies that pay for those good works.  If you are a minister, you are allowed to claim a parsonage, which is tax-free housing benefit, and there's no definition of a parsonage.   It can be, and often is, a giant mansion. 

https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc417

That's not the highest best use of my tax dollars.  The Catholic Church has spent untold million of dollars defending against lawsuits against pedophile priests.  All those dollars are tax deductible, which gives the church a big leg up on the victims, who have to pay with after tax dollars. 

If the money is actually going to a soup kitchen, fine.   Sounds like a worthy, tax-deductible cause.   If it is going to buy a luxury vehicle for Tom Cruise, then not so much.

If you have an issue with overall compensation of individuals of non profits, address that on the entire scale of non profits. If you're super concerned with fringe benefits like housing, address it with all non profits. It's certainly allowed with them as well:

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/executive-compensation

Again, we're either targeting religions because we don't like them specifically, in which case, be up front about it and be aware that it's pretty much unconstitutional or do it for all non profits.


Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2019, 05:06:51 AM »

I think you're missing a significant difference between religious groups and non-profits. Non-profits put all* of their donations/income toward their cause while religious groups may or may not put some portion of income toward charitable causes; it's not a requirement. It could be 20%, 80%, or 0%. If they have a building to worship in and paid employees to run services and events,  then it's not 100%. Why should the dollars going towards causes other than charity have the same tax advantages?


This one is kind of weird, and I have seen your posts enough to know that you don't have conversations not in good faith, so I'll assume there's some confusion on my part to understand. Do you really think all non profits put all of their donations towards directly whatever specifically they're doing with no overhead? Why do you think there are tons of non profit rankings out there that rank how much actually goes towards the cause versus compensation of CEO's, building overheads, etc.? It's kind of a big deal if you're researching charities to give to to evaluate where the money is actually going to specifically save lives or whatever the cause is...

The other difference is, for a church, meeting together is actually a big part of the cause, so the building, utilities, etc. that allow that isn't really wasted. It's part of the whole deal.


And there's another issue that hasn'thas now :) been brought up, religious exemption are not the same as non-profit exemptions, they're easier to obtain and in some cases like the parsonage, better. On top of being exempt from property tax it's not classified as income for the purpose of income tax. A non-profit paying for an employee's housing would be counted as income*.

Quote
According to the IRS, “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.” So it isn’t required for your church to apply for 501(c)(3) in order to be tax exempt.

https://www.aplos.com/academy/church-management/501c3-tax-exempt-right-for-your-church/

vs.
Quote
Steps for obtaining tax-exempt status for your nonprofit:
1.   Incorporate.
2.   Apply for an EIN.
3.   Provide a detailed business purpose.
4.   File Form 1023 with the IRS.
5.   Pay the necessary filing fees.
6.   When to file.
7.   Complete the state-level application (if applicable).

https://www.bizfilings.com/toolkit/research-topics/incorporating-your-business/filing-f

And after completing those steps and paying the fees their business purpose still needs to be approved by the IRS. After approval their activities and spending will be more closely monitored than would a religious group's.


I'll admit that I'm not an expert on the initial incorporation of non profits and churches, so I learned something. I'm not that opposed to shoring up the differences between churches applying for non profit status and other non profits applying.

I will mention again that churches providing fringe benefits of housing is actually not different from other non profits.

most are smaller without an even full time paid pastor, operating off of a shoestring budget. If they paid taxes, many would fold or they would lose the ability to do almost any community work because they could barely afford rent and utilities.


This last point is mostly irrelevant, but I question your framing of small churches. Do you have data to support any of this? I've attended many small churches, most of them far from 100 members, mostly rural and none of them appeared to be short on cash. In the area where I grew up there were lots of churches. Some of the congregations were poor but they always seemed to find a way to fund the church.

I'm sure some churches would fit your description but I think your use of the word "most" is suspect.


I'm having a hard time doing a quick dig into overall averages of church income. I've seen some statements that as many as 40-60% to upwards of 80% of pastors are bivocational, but I don't have statistics on that either. 58% of churches are less than 100 members, so that's most :).

https://factsandtrends.net/2016/02/24/majority-of-american-churches-fall-below-100-in-worship-attendance

I also think the issue of churches folding is actually not irrelevant, because I believe that the motivation behind many people who want to tax churches is because they want churches to fold. Churches are being singled out to have tax status revoked whereas other non profits are not.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2019, 05:12:21 AM »

If they want to do good work they can do it under a secular guise. If there's any "churchiness" involved then who's to say that the tax exemptions aren't paying for missionary work, religious education, or other religious matters? There's nothing wrong with those religious matters, but I can not for the life of me understand why religious proselytising should be given a tax exemption. To me, it's no different from political influencing. It's fine for you to do so - to lobby - but it should not be subsidised by the public purse.

Otherwise, George Lucas might as well name Lucasfilm a church that promotes the Jedi religion, and then claim a tax deduction for all of its marketing activities. It's the same principle.

The tax exemptions certainly apply to money that goes to all church activities. Money is fungible; I have no problem with that.

There are restrictions of all non profits, religions including, to not lobby from a legislative stance. Religions are no different than that. If a pastor comes up and says vote for this guy or that guy, the church can lose their non profit status.

There are no restrictions on any non profit for "lobbying" for any other situation than political. To churches on that would again be targeting churches. Your last point is reminiscent of the John Oliver episode where he started a church with ridiculous ease. Your example is an example where no one with common sense would allow because it's obviously not genuine (like Oliver's church). I am not opposed to more oversight to filter out obvious silliness.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2019, 05:20:52 AM »

But what is wrong with them folding?  If they are not self-supporting, what is it they do that is so important they need government charity?  What benefit does the public get by supporting this function?

Does Scientology return any public benefit for the billions they generate?  How about the New Jersey mosque of Omar Abdel-Rahman who plotted terrorism attacks?   

https://www.nj.com/news/2017/02/blind_cleric_behind_1993_world_trade_center_bombin_1.html

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and say that killing people should not be a tax deductible activity.   

If the function is to run a soup kitchen, then yes, I can see the rationale for a tax deduction.  If the function is to buy private jets and have private clubhouses, or plot terrorist attacks, then I don't see why the US taxpayer needs to fund it. 

If you want to preach philosophy, more power to you.   Just do it on your dime, not mine.

Any organization that's a non profit could misuse money for something really bad. It's easy to blame the organization after the fact and say, well, we probably should have not given them tax exempt status. I'll do you one better. Well, we probably should have arrested them all to keep it from happening. I'm sure we would have if we had known.

Churches are self-supporting or they fold. It's that simple. If they don't get donations to pay for rent, they will get evicted. They don't expect or receive government dollars to subsidize their existence. The "not on my dime" phrase that keeps permeating has serious connotations as if they are being given money to exist and they're not. Many just can't be taxed on top of supporting themselves and survive.

It's all inherent in the design of non profits, at least ones that are run as they should be. The decision was made whenever ago that we'll allow certain organizations to exist that we won't tax because they're not actual businesses. Churches exist under that umbrella as do tons of other organizations. Those organizations could/would fold if the government began to tax them and/or they wouldn't be able to do as much things because money would be taken away from them by the government. Again, either eliminate the whole concept of non-profits or admit that churches are being targeted specifically.

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2019, 06:58:44 AM »

If they want to do good work they can do it under a secular guise. If there's any "churchiness" involved then who's to say that the tax exemptions aren't paying for missionary work, religious education, or other religious matters? There's nothing wrong with those religious matters, but I can not for the life of me understand why religious proselytising should be given a tax exemption. To me, it's no different from political influencing. It's fine for you to do so - to lobby - but it should not be subsidised by the public purse.

Otherwise, George Lucas might as well name Lucasfilm a church that promotes the Jedi religion, and then claim a tax deduction for all of its marketing activities. It's the same principle.

The tax exemptions certainly apply to money that goes to all church activities. Money is fungible; I have no problem with that.

There are restrictions of all non profits, religions including, to not lobby from a legislative stance. Religions are no different than that. If a pastor comes up and says vote for this guy or that guy, the church can lose their non profit status.

There are no restrictions on any non profit for "lobbying" for any other situation than political. To churches on that would again be targeting churches. Your last point is reminiscent of the John Oliver episode where he started a church with ridiculous ease. Your example is an example where no one with common sense would allow because it's obviously not genuine (like Oliver's church). I am not opposed to more oversight to filter out obvious silliness.

Your last sentence is the crux of my point. To me, there's no difference between Lucasfilm advertising its films versus a church advertising its principles. It's all self-directed, and none of it is inherently altruistic. Yes, a church is more likely to operate a soup kitchen than Lucasfilm. But what that illustrates is that it is not the churchiness, but the charitable nature, of an activity that makes it worthy of tax subsidy. So, I don't think any lobbying - whether political or ideological or missionary - ought to attract a tax subsidy. Instead, only altruistic activities ought too. By that standard, many religious organisations would be precluded or partly precluded from their preferential status.

Otherwise we are throwing money at religious institutions to spread their religion. That is a questionable social choice. If we won't throw money at sports teams or politicians to drum up support, what makes religion special?

Psychstache

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2019, 07:04:40 AM »
I am not opposed to more oversight to filter out obvious silliness.

Obvious Silliness (w/r/t religion) is in the eye of the beholder.

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2019, 07:11:37 AM »

Yeah, the good stuff is great.  Not entirely OK with funding the bad in order to get that good though.

Fighting against the distribution of condoms in AIDS stricken African countries.

I condemn the Catholic Church for such an execrable policy.

My point is not to single out one branch of faith for their mistakes (even just looking at Christian sects, there are many worse that the Catholic church).  My concern is that the bad is also supported by the public dime because of the tax exempt status of churches.


Churches are self-supporting or they fold. It's that simple. If they don't get donations to pay for rent, they will get evicted. They don't expect or receive government dollars to subsidize their existence. The "not on my dime" phrase that keeps permeating has serious connotations as if they are being given money to exist and they're not. Many just can't be taxed on top of supporting themselves and survive.

It's very strange to read this post because of the contradictions:
- A church is self-supporting . . . but needs government tax breaks because churches can't support themselves.
- A church will get evicted if they don't pay rent . . . but churches don't pay property tax.  So if they buy land, they never need to worry about being evicted ever again.
- Churches are not being given money to exist.  Except tax money.  They're being given this money every time that they are allowed to dodge paying taxes.  Oh, and also the government pays people who donate to churches . . . thereby increasing the number of donations that churches get.  That's an awful lot of money that they're being given by the government that is conveniently forgotten in your posts.

Lots of nonsense here.

EvenSteven

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2019, 08:11:39 AM »

If they want to do good work they can do it under a secular guise. If there's any "churchiness" involved then who's to say that the tax exemptions aren't paying for missionary work, religious education, or other religious matters? There's nothing wrong with those religious matters, but I can not for the life of me understand why religious proselytising should be given a tax exemption. To me, it's no different from political influencing. It's fine for you to do so - to lobby - but it should not be subsidised by the public purse.

Otherwise, George Lucas might as well name Lucasfilm a church that promotes the Jedi religion, and then claim a tax deduction for all of its marketing activities. It's the same principle.

The tax exemptions certainly apply to money that goes to all church activities. Money is fungible; I have no problem with that.

There are restrictions of all non profits, religions including, to not lobby from a legislative stance. Religions are no different than that. If a pastor comes up and says vote for this guy or that guy, the church can lose their non profit status.

There are no restrictions on any non profit for "lobbying" for any other situation than political. To churches on that would again be targeting churches. Your last point is reminiscent of the John Oliver episode where he started a church with ridiculous ease. Your example is an example where no one with common sense would allow because it's obviously not genuine (like Oliver's church). I am not opposed to more oversight to filter out obvious silliness.

Do you live in the US? It might be a regulation on the books, but is simply not enforced. There is a thing called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" where churches video tape themselves giving political sermons, and then mail it to the IRS. Guess how many have lost tax-exempt status?

Make churches file a 990, and stop the political shenanigans, and end the parsonage perks.

Jim Fiction

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #20 on: May 17, 2019, 09:33:32 AM »

If they want to do good work they can do it under a secular guise. If there's any "churchiness" involved then who's to say that the tax exemptions aren't paying for missionary work, religious education, or other religious matters? There's nothing wrong with those religious matters, but I can not for the life of me understand why religious proselytising should be given a tax exemption. To me, it's no different from political influencing. It's fine for you to do so - to lobby - but it should not be subsidised by the public purse.

Otherwise, George Lucas might as well name Lucasfilm a church that promotes the Jedi religion, and then claim a tax deduction for all of its marketing activities. It's the same principle.

The tax exemptions certainly apply to money that goes to all church activities. Money is fungible; I have no problem with that.

There are restrictions of all non profits, religions including, to not lobby from a legislative stance. Religions are no different than that. If a pastor comes up and says vote for this guy or that guy, the church can lose their non profit status.

There are no restrictions on any non profit for "lobbying" for any other situation than political. To churches on that would again be targeting churches. Your last point is reminiscent of the John Oliver episode where he started a church with ridiculous ease. Your example is an example where no one with common sense would allow because it's obviously not genuine (like Oliver's church). I am not opposed to more oversight to filter out obvious silliness.

Do you live in the US? It might be a regulation on the books, but is simply not enforced. There is a thing called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" where churches video tape themselves giving political sermons, and then mail it to the IRS. Guess how many have lost tax-exempt status?

Make churches file a 990, and stop the political shenanigans, and end the parsonage perks.

Thank you for pointing out that churches (and many types of religious organizations) don't file Forms 990, a lot of people don't realize this and thus don't realize how little oversight there is on churches. Typical non-profits face IRS scrutiny and potential audit. Churches basically don't. (caveat below)

There are rules on the books for IRS to essentially audit churches, but they are rather obtuse and are under constant attack by legislature:

"Congress has imposed special limitations, found in section 7611 of the Internal Revenue Code, on how and when the IRS may conduct civil tax inquiries and examinations of churches. The IRS may begin a church tax inquiry only if an appropriate high-level Treasury official reasonably believes, on the basis of facts and circumstances recorded in writing, that an organization claiming to be a church or convention or association of churches may not qualify for exemption, may be carrying on an unrelated trade or business (within the meaning of IRC § 513), may otherwise be engaged in taxable activities or may have entered into an IRC § 4958 excess benefit transaction with a disqualified person."

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #21 on: May 17, 2019, 10:16:42 AM »
The tax exemptions certainly apply to money that goes to all church activities. Money is fungible; I have no problem with that.

There are restrictions of all non profits, religions including, to not lobby from a legislative stance. Religions are no different than that. If a pastor comes up and says vote for this guy or that guy, the church can lose their non profit status.

There are no restrictions on any non profit for "lobbying" for any other situation than political. To churches on that would again be targeting churches. Your last point is reminiscent of the John Oliver episode where he started a church with ridiculous ease. Your example is an example where no one with common sense would allow because it's obviously not genuine (like Oliver's church). I am not opposed to more oversight to filter out obvious silliness.

Your last sentence is the crux of my point. To me, there's no difference between Lucasfilm advertising its films versus a church advertising its principles. It's all self-directed, and none of it is inherently altruistic. Yes, a church is more likely to operate a soup kitchen than Lucasfilm. But what that illustrates is that it is not the churchiness, but the charitable nature, of an activity that makes it worthy of tax subsidy. So, I don't think any lobbying - whether political or ideological or missionary - ought to attract a tax subsidy. Instead, only altruistic activities ought too. By that standard, many religious organisations would be precluded or partly precluded from their preferential status.

Otherwise we are throwing money at religious institutions to spread their religion. That is a questionable social choice. If we won't throw money at sports teams or politicians to drum up support, what makes religion special?

Again you're singling out religion. Any non profit "lobbys." They do it by promoting themselves. They advertise. As mentioned in other areas, they have overhead not directly related to the specific stated goal of the organization. To view it otherwise is to basically eliminate the concept of non profit organizations as these are basic needs of all organizations. I still haven't heard anyone call for eliminating non profits altogether....

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #22 on: May 17, 2019, 10:19:43 AM »
I am not opposed to more oversight to filter out obvious silliness.

Obvious Silliness (w/r/t religion) is in the eye of the beholder.

With respect, no, to act like there's no difference here in the point that I was making is intellectually dishonest. Religions that have been around for centuries with devoted followers who genuinely believe in their points are an entirely different animal from a for profit business obviously creating something that they label a religion solely for the tax benefits.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #23 on: May 17, 2019, 10:32:17 AM »

Churches are self-supporting or they fold. It's that simple. If they don't get donations to pay for rent, they will get evicted. They don't expect or receive government dollars to subsidize their existence. The "not on my dime" phrase that keeps permeating has serious connotations as if they are being given money to exist and they're not. Many just can't be taxed on top of supporting themselves and survive.

It's very strange to read this post because of the contradictions:
- A church is self-supporting . . . but needs government tax breaks because churches can't support themselves.
- A church will get evicted if they don't pay rent . . . but churches don't pay property tax.  So if they buy land, they never need to worry about being evicted ever again.
- Churches are not being given money to exist.  Except tax money.  They're being given this money every time that they are allowed to dodge paying taxes.  Oh, and also the government pays people who donate to churches . . . thereby increasing the number of donations that churches get.  That's an awful lot of money that they're being given by the government that is conveniently forgotten in your posts.

Lots of nonsense here.

No, not lots of nonsense here, and nothing is being conveniently forgotten. Look, I get it that we view taxes differently. You come from the side that the government's right to money is some fixed entity in time and space that cannot be infringed upon. The fact that you act like anyone buying property, owning it outright and not being able to be evicted because they don't pay property taxes is some affront or logical fallacy (a government could very easily do away with property taxes and do it solely as income tax and actually allow people to really own their land, for instance) shows that your view and mine of tax will never align.

I'll reiterate again, you are arguing against the concept of non profits in general. Non profits are there because enough people thought someone should be able to make an organization that didn't have to be taxed. Yes, an organization can be self-supporting, allowed because they don't pay taxes, and it doesn't mean they are not self-supporting. They are literally paying the bills to people for things they are using like electricity, water, etc. That means they are self-supporting. They are not a business. They are not set up like a business. They should not be taxed like a business, or, again, elminate non profits altogether.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #24 on: May 17, 2019, 10:42:50 AM »

The tax exemptions certainly apply to money that goes to all church activities. Money is fungible; I have no problem with that.

There are restrictions of all non profits, religions including, to not lobby from a legislative stance. Religions are no different than that. If a pastor comes up and says vote for this guy or that guy, the church can lose their non profit status.

There are no restrictions on any non profit for "lobbying" for any other situation than political. To churches on that would again be targeting churches. Your last point is reminiscent of the John Oliver episode where he started a church with ridiculous ease. Your example is an example where no one with common sense would allow because it's obviously not genuine (like Oliver's church). I am not opposed to more oversight to filter out obvious silliness.

Do you live in the US? It might be a regulation on the books, but is simply not enforced. There is a thing called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" where churches video tape themselves giving political sermons, and then mail it to the IRS. Guess how many have lost tax-exempt status?

Make churches file a 990, and stop the political shenanigans, and end the parsonage perks.

Yes, I do live in the US. Yes, I do understand that this law is not enforced very well. If people are upset about this, support the side of enforcing the existing law instead of going beyond the existing laws because they're upset that a law isn't enforced.

In regards to parsonages, I'll assume you didn't read my post above and post it again:

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/executive-compensation

I'll copy the text out this time:

"Compensation includes salary and benefits, such as insurance, a car, housing allowance, or other fringe benefits, that should be included in the calculation of total annual compensation. See instructions to IRS Form 990, pages 31-32."

All non profits can provide housing as a benefit. Not to pick on you because this is your first post here, but I think I'll copy and paste this for future posts because I keep typing the same sentiment :):

Would you like for all non-profits to be abolished/put on a level playing field or are you singling out religions?

Psychstache

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #25 on: May 17, 2019, 10:44:26 AM »
I am not opposed to more oversight to filter out obvious silliness.

Obvious Silliness (w/r/t religion) is in the eye of the beholder.

With respect, no, to act like there's no difference here in the point that I was making is intellectually dishonest. Religions that have been around for centuries with devoted followers who genuinely believe in their points are an entirely different animal from a for profit business obviously creating something that they label a religion solely for the tax benefits.

In your example, sure it is obvious, but when you look into others it's no so clear cut.

Scientology has not been around for centuries. Mormonism is less than 200 years old so not quite centuries as you set the bar at. How long do you to be around to count?

Santaria only has about 22,000 followers in the US. Is that enough 'devoted followers'? What if they only had 10,000? 2,000? 100?

How do you constitute genuine belief as a metric? The People's Temple congregation was pretty clearly devoted, is that the bar? Or is an attendance check on Sunday morning while I act like a christless heathen the other 6.75 days of the week good enough?
« Last Edit: May 17, 2019, 10:46:42 AM by Psychstache »

EvenSteven

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #26 on: May 17, 2019, 11:35:40 AM »

The tax exemptions certainly apply to money that goes to all church activities. Money is fungible; I have no problem with that.

There are restrictions of all non profits, religions including, to not lobby from a legislative stance. Religions are no different than that. If a pastor comes up and says vote for this guy or that guy, the church can lose their non profit status.

There are no restrictions on any non profit for "lobbying" for any other situation than political. To churches on that would again be targeting churches. Your last point is reminiscent of the John Oliver episode where he started a church with ridiculous ease. Your example is an example where no one with common sense would allow because it's obviously not genuine (like Oliver's church). I am not opposed to more oversight to filter out obvious silliness.

Do you live in the US? It might be a regulation on the books, but is simply not enforced. There is a thing called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" where churches video tape themselves giving political sermons, and then mail it to the IRS. Guess how many have lost tax-exempt status?

Make churches file a 990, and stop the political shenanigans, and end the parsonage perks.

Yes, I do live in the US. Yes, I do understand that this law is not enforced very well. If people are upset about this, support the side of enforcing the existing law instead of going beyond the existing laws because they're upset that a law isn't enforced.

In regards to parsonages, I'll assume you didn't read my post above and post it again:

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/executive-compensation

I'll copy the text out this time:

"Compensation includes salary and benefits, such as insurance, a car, housing allowance, or other fringe benefits, that should be included in the calculation of total annual compensation. See instructions to IRS Form 990, pages 31-32."

All non profits can provide housing as a benefit. Not to pick on you because this is your first post here, but I think I'll copy and paste this for future posts because I keep typing the same sentiment :):


I did read your post, and please correct me if I'm wrong here. Non-profits can provide housing as compensation, and that housing benefit is included as a part of total compensation. Therefore, that person is taxed on the housing benefit. With churches, neither the church nor the employee are taxed on this benefit, thus what I referred to as the parsonage allowance.

Quote
Would you like for all non-profits to be abolished/put on a level playing field or are you singling out religions?

Abolished, no, absolutely not. Level playing field is what I'm after (although level playing field to me implies some kind of competition. I would say equal treatment.) I work at a non-profit, and we file a 990, and I think we should be required to file one. I also think Churches should be required to file one if they want tax exemption.

GuitarStv

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #27 on: May 17, 2019, 12:08:56 PM »

Churches are self-supporting or they fold. It's that simple. If they don't get donations to pay for rent, they will get evicted. They don't expect or receive government dollars to subsidize their existence. The "not on my dime" phrase that keeps permeating has serious connotations as if they are being given money to exist and they're not. Many just can't be taxed on top of supporting themselves and survive.

It's very strange to read this post because of the contradictions:
- A church is self-supporting . . . but needs government tax breaks because churches can't support themselves.
- A church will get evicted if they don't pay rent . . . but churches don't pay property tax.  So if they buy land, they never need to worry about being evicted ever again.
- Churches are not being given money to exist.  Except tax money.  They're being given this money every time that they are allowed to dodge paying taxes.  Oh, and also the government pays people who donate to churches . . . thereby increasing the number of donations that churches get.  That's an awful lot of money that they're being given by the government that is conveniently forgotten in your posts.

Lots of nonsense here.

No, not lots of nonsense here, and nothing is being conveniently forgotten. Look, I get it that we view taxes differently. You come from the side that the government's right to money is some fixed entity in time and space that cannot be infringed upon. The fact that you act like anyone buying property, owning it outright and not being able to be evicted because they don't pay property taxes is some affront or logical fallacy (a government could very easily do away with property taxes and do it solely as income tax and actually allow people to really own their land, for instance) shows that your view and mine of tax will never align.

In a democracy, we are the government.  It's not some scary boogeyman waiting in the shadows to do us wrong.  Taxation is certainly not some fixed entity in time and space, it changes all the time.  It changes at our whim because we collect taxes to fund our society.  There should be a significant societal benefit if we're choosing to give away the tax revenue that we are owed by an organization enjoying operation in our society.

Whatever your views of taxation, at the end of the day you need to pay your bills.  We currently say that churches don't need to pay their bills to the government.  That's not self-supporting.



I'll reiterate again, you are arguing against the concept of non profits in general. Non profits are there because enough people thought someone should be able to make an organization that didn't have to be taxed. Yes, an organization can be self-supporting, allowed because they don't pay taxes, and it doesn't mean they are not self-supporting. They are literally paying the bills to people for things they are using like electricity, water, etc. That means they are self-supporting. They are not a business. They are not set up like a business. They should not be taxed like a business, or, again, elminate non profits altogether.

Legally, in the US all non-profits except churches are required to file a detailed application form, fee and annual information to obtain and maintain their tax-exempt status.

The forms include information about governance, composition of the governing body, the management policies, a lists of officers/directors/trustees/key employees, the compensation paid by the organization to such persons, the organization’s mission, activities, and current and prior years’ financial results, reports of revenue and expenses, financial schedules, including information about donations and whether donations are spent on programs or management and fundraising, statements of revenue and functional expenses, etc.

Because there is no requirement to report any of this information, it's impossible to determine if any church is in fact operating like other non-profits.  This creates an excellent opportunity for fraud and abuse.  That's why mega church pastors own private jets, muti-million dollar mansions, and multiple expensive vehicles.

Are you in favor of changing this so that churches are required to report their financial information like non-profits, or do you favor the current 'special favors only for churches' system?

Dabnasty

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #28 on: May 17, 2019, 01:23:21 PM »

I think you're missing a significant difference between religious groups and non-profits. Non-profits put all* of their donations/income toward their cause while religious groups may or may not put some portion of income toward charitable causes; it's not a requirement. It could be 20%, 80%, or 0%. If they have a building to worship in and paid employees to run services and events,  then it's not 100%. Why should the dollars going towards causes other than charity have the same tax advantages?


This one is kind of weird, and I have seen your posts enough to know that you don't have conversations not in good faith, so I'll assume there's some confusion on my part to understand. Do you really think all non profits put all of their donations towards directly whatever specifically they're doing with no overhead? Why do you think there are tons of non profit rankings out there that rank how much actually goes towards the cause versus compensation of CEO's, building overheads, etc.? It's kind of a big deal if you're researching charities to give to to evaluate where the money is actually going to specifically save lives or whatever the cause is...

The other difference is, for a church, meeting together is actually a big part of the cause, so the building, utilities, etc. that allow that isn't really wasted. It's part of the whole deal.

When I said they put all of their income "towards" their cause I meant for that word to be all encompassing. Money might be used to pay for salaries, overhead, hold promotional events, or anything else so long as it is part of the larger goal.

In the case of a church, not all spending is tied to charity. Meeting and fellowship may be part of the cause, but they are not charitable activities. In fact, none of their activities are required to be. If your argument is that religious groups are the same as other non-profits the charitable aspect should be a requirement, not an option.

I'll also add that where I've said "non-profit" I believe what I'm referring to is a 501(c)(3). There are other classifications of non-profit which receive different exemptions and have different requirements. Both religious groups and charitable non-profits fall under 501(c)(3) so I think it's reasonable to assume that's what we're all talking about.

Telecaster

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #29 on: May 17, 2019, 02:04:43 PM »


I do too, but only for monies that pay for those good works. If you are a minister, you are allowed to claim a parsonage, which is tax-free housing benefit, and there's no definition of a parsonage.   It can be, and often is, a giant mansion. 

https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc417

That's not the highest best use of my tax dollars.  The Catholic Church has spent untold million of dollars defending against lawsuits against pedophile priests.  All those dollars are tax deductible, which gives the church a big leg up on the victims, who have to pay with after tax dollars. 

If the money is actually going to a soup kitchen, fine.   Sounds like a worthy, tax-deductible cause.   If it is going to buy a luxury vehicle for Tom Cruise, then not so much.

If you have an issue with overall compensation of individuals of non profits, address that on the entire scale of non profits. If you're super concerned with fringe benefits like housing, address it with all non profits. It's certainly allowed with them as well:

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/executive-compensation

Again, we're either targeting religions because we don't like them specifically, in which case, be up front about it and be aware that it's pretty much unconstitutional or do it for all non profits.


No.  Please review the parts in bold.  Again, the part that is actual charity is fine.  That and whatever overhead it takes to maintain the charitable organization can be tax exempt/deductible.   In my example above I mentioned Tom Cruise.  The Church of Scientology has gifted Tom Cruise numerous luxury vehicles because of his friendship with Church of Scientology leader David Miscaviage.   The Church of Scientology didn't pay any tax on the income used to buy the luxury vehicles, and its members got a tax deduction when they contributed the funds. 

Using taxpayer dollars to subsidize Tom Cruise's lifestyle is objectively stupid.  I'm against things that are objectively stupid. 

If you want to have a clubhouse where you and friends meet once a week and talk philosophy, then great!  More power to you.  But there is no reason why you need to reach into my pocket in order to help fund your club. 

By the way, lots of organizations separate their activities into profit and non-profit wings.   There is no reason why a church couldn't separate out the money they spend on the soup kitchen from the money they spend giving Tom Cruise luxury vehicles. 

I realize there are some gray areas here, but let's start by stop doing things that are objectively stupid and go from there.


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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #30 on: May 17, 2019, 02:23:49 PM »


I do too, but only for monies that pay for those good works. If you are a minister, you are allowed to claim a parsonage, which is tax-free housing benefit, and there's no definition of a parsonage.   It can be, and often is, a giant mansion. 

https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc417

That's not the highest best use of my tax dollars.  The Catholic Church has spent untold million of dollars defending against lawsuits against pedophile priests.  All those dollars are tax deductible, which gives the church a big leg up on the victims, who have to pay with after tax dollars. 

If the money is actually going to a soup kitchen, fine.   Sounds like a worthy, tax-deductible cause.   If it is going to buy a luxury vehicle for Tom Cruise, then not so much.

If you have an issue with overall compensation of individuals of non profits, address that on the entire scale of non profits. If you're super concerned with fringe benefits like housing, address it with all non profits. It's certainly allowed with them as well:

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/executive-compensation

Again, we're either targeting religions because we don't like them specifically, in which case, be up front about it and be aware that it's pretty much unconstitutional or do it for all non profits.


No.  Please review the parts in bold.  Again, the part that is actual charity is fine.  That and whatever overhead it takes to maintain the charitable organization can be tax exempt/deductible.   In my example above I mentioned Tom Cruise.  The Church of Scientology has gifted Tom Cruise numerous luxury vehicles because of his friendship with Church of Scientology leader David Miscaviage.   The Church of Scientology didn't pay any tax on the income used to buy the luxury vehicles, and its members got a tax deduction when they contributed the funds. 

Using taxpayer dollars to subsidize Tom Cruise's lifestyle is objectively stupid.  I'm against things that are objectively stupid. 

If you want to have a clubhouse where you and friends meet once a week and talk philosophy, then great!  More power to you.  But there is no reason why you need to reach into my pocket in order to help fund your club. 

By the way, lots of organizations separate their activities into profit and non-profit wings.   There is no reason why a church couldn't separate out the money they spend on the soup kitchen from the money they spend giving Tom Cruise luxury vehicles. 

I realize there are some gray areas here, but let's start by stop doing things that are objectively stupid and go from there.

You've already set the bar too high.

Jim Fiction

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #31 on: May 17, 2019, 02:32:17 PM »

The tax exemptions certainly apply to money that goes to all church activities. Money is fungible; I have no problem with that.

There are restrictions of all non profits, religions including, to not lobby from a legislative stance. Religions are no different than that. If a pastor comes up and says vote for this guy or that guy, the church can lose their non profit status.

There are no restrictions on any non profit for "lobbying" for any other situation than political. To churches on that would again be targeting churches. Your last point is reminiscent of the John Oliver episode where he started a church with ridiculous ease. Your example is an example where no one with common sense would allow because it's obviously not genuine (like Oliver's church). I am not opposed to more oversight to filter out obvious silliness.

Do you live in the US? It might be a regulation on the books, but is simply not enforced. There is a thing called "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" where churches video tape themselves giving political sermons, and then mail it to the IRS. Guess how many have lost tax-exempt status?

Make churches file a 990, and stop the political shenanigans, and end the parsonage perks.

Yes, I do live in the US. Yes, I do understand that this law is not enforced very well. If people are upset about this, support the side of enforcing the existing law instead of going beyond the existing laws because they're upset that a law isn't enforced.

In regards to parsonages, I'll assume you didn't read my post above and post it again:

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/executive-compensation

I'll copy the text out this time:

"Compensation includes salary and benefits, such as insurance, a car, housing allowance, or other fringe benefits, that should be included in the calculation of total annual compensation. See instructions to IRS Form 990, pages 31-32."

All non profits can provide housing as a benefit. Not to pick on you because this is your first post here, but I think I'll copy and paste this for future posts because I keep typing the same sentiment :):


I did read your post, and please correct me if I'm wrong here. Non-profits can provide housing as compensation, and that housing benefit is included as a part of total compensation. Therefore, that person is taxed on the housing benefit. With churches, neither the church nor the employee are taxed on this benefit, thus what I referred to as the parsonage allowance.

Quote
Would you like for all non-profits to be abolished/put on a level playing field or are you singling out religions?

Abolished, no, absolutely not. Level playing field is what I'm after (although level playing field to me implies some kind of competition. I would say equal treatment.) I work at a non-profit, and we file a 990, and I think we should be required to file one. I also think Churches should be required to file one if they want tax exemption.

Generally speaking, housing allowances are considered taxable fringe benefits by the IRS. The code does provide for very narrow exceptions to this rule under section 119. For clarity's sake - Section 119 applies to all employers, not just non-profits. Please see the following article for a wonderful breakdown of this particular code section:

https://www.netassets.org/blogs/net-assets/2016/06/15/housing-benefits-and-taxation-a-misunderstood-area

Parsonage, covered in section 107 of the IRC is a whole 'nother ball of wax, and faaaaaaaar easier to exploit.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2019, 02:33:48 PM by Jim Fiction »

EvenSteven

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #32 on: May 17, 2019, 02:43:06 PM »

Snip

Generally speaking, housing allowances are considered taxable fringe benefits by the IRS. The code does provide for very narrow exceptions to this rule under section 119. For clarity's sake - Section 119 applies to all employers, not just non-profits. Please see the following article for a wonderful breakdown of this particular code section:

https://www.netassets.org/blogs/net-assets/2016/06/15/housing-benefits-and-taxation-a-misunderstood-area

Parsonage, covered in section 107 of the IRC is a whole 'nother ball of wax, and faaaaaaaar easier to exploit.

Would it be correct then to say that parsonage, even if being used as intended (not exploited or gamed in any way), gives a religious organization a tax advantage compared to a secular 501(c)(3) (or maybe rather church leaders an advantage over secular non-profit leaders) ?

CindyBS

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #33 on: May 17, 2019, 03:18:03 PM »
Let's say a group of friends and I own a house/condo/property of some sort.  Once per week we go to the property to hang out but we do use the property maybe a couple other times per week.  During our hang outs we talk a lot about Star Wars and Luke Skywalker.  We sing songs about Luke, etc.  We light candles and read from Star Wars themed books.  Part of our hang out is that we collect money to cover the costs of the property, insurance, electricity, etc. 

We do a few charity projects and donate some money, but overall spend less than 10% of our budget on charities or helping others, the vast majority of our time is spent talking about a mythological entity that is not real and the vast majority of the money goes to support meeting to talk about him. 

Should my group of friends and I get to be a non-profit?  Exempt from property taxes?  Should the money we collect get to be tax deductible?  Most people would say no because our organization is not for the "public good", it really just exists to talk about Luke Skywalker and the Star Wars Universe.   Same with churches.

Religious activities like church services are not a public good.  Just like hanging out and talking about Luke Skywalker is not.  The fact that churches get tax exemptions for that is ridiculous.  Any actual charitable work they do can be spun off into a proper non-profit.  Religious institutions should be taxed like any other social club.

FIREstache

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #34 on: May 17, 2019, 03:38:01 PM »
But there is no reason why you need to reach into my pocket in order to help fund your club. 

As a single person, that's how I feel about the big tax breaks married people get, child tax credits, or any proposal for UBI, paid family leave, or government provided child care.  I prefer the government stay out of the church and not try to get tax them.

CindyBS

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #35 on: May 17, 2019, 04:02:10 PM »
But there is no reason why you need to reach into my pocket in order to help fund your club. 

As a single person, that's how I feel about the big tax breaks married people get, child tax credits, or any proposal for UBI, paid family leave, or government provided child care.  I prefer the government stay out of the church and not try to get tax them.

Children are different because they grow up to become the adults that will support all of society when you get old.  You may not like the tax breaks that families get, but children do provide a societal good.  I can't imagine you will be building the roads you travel on when you are 90 years old.  Or working and paying taxes.  What about the health care workers that will provide your health care?  The police, firefighters, military, etc.?  All those people are now children and it is your best interest that they become healthy, productive adults.

Telecaster

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #36 on: May 17, 2019, 04:10:51 PM »
But there is no reason why you need to reach into my pocket in order to help fund your club. 

As a single person, that's how I feel about the big tax breaks married people get, child tax credits, or any proposal for UBI, paid family leave, or government provided child care.  I prefer the government stay out of the church and not try to get tax them.

As a married person, I agree with a lot of that.   Getting married or deciding to have kids is a lifestyle choice.   I don't think it is fair or good policy that some of the tax code is based on lifestyle choices.

But the same thing applies to churches.  The church on my corner gets police and fire protection, and members drive to the church (and park) on city streets, and walk to church on city sidewalks.  Yet they pay for none of those services.  Which means I have to pay more.   If I may borrow @CindyBS 's example, if the church was a Star Wars club, then it would have to pay taxes.  The only difference is the church claims to have a supernatural component. 

So if you claim to have a supernatural belief you get a tax break,  but if you don't claim to have such beliefs you don't.  How does that make a lick of sense?  How is that fair?   Why is belief in the supernatural incorporated into the tax code? 

Telecaster

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #37 on: May 17, 2019, 04:16:47 PM »
Children are different because they grow up to become the adults that will support all of society when you get old.  You may not like the tax breaks that families get, but children do provide a societal good.  I can't imagine you will be building the roads you travel on when you are 90 years old.  Or working and paying taxes.  What about the health care workers that will provide your health care?  The police, firefighters, military, etc.?  All those people are now children and it is your best interest that they become healthy, productive adults.

That's all true, but no one ever had a child in order to get a tax deduction.  The reason why the credits exist is they are easy to understand and lots of people have kids, so politicians can point to them and say "look! I cut your taxes!"  which makes politicians popular.   Very likely a better use of the money would be to ensure that schools are functional and safe, public health needs are met, etc.  But that's a harder sell than tax cuts. 

CindyBS

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #38 on: May 17, 2019, 04:37:07 PM »
Children are different because they grow up to become the adults that will support all of society when you get old.  You may not like the tax breaks that families get, but children do provide a societal good.  I can't imagine you will be building the roads you travel on when you are 90 years old.  Or working and paying taxes.  What about the health care workers that will provide your health care?  The police, firefighters, military, etc.?  All those people are now children and it is your best interest that they become healthy, productive adults.

That's all true, but no one ever had a child in order to get a tax deduction.  The reason why the credits exist is they are easy to understand and lots of people have kids, so politicians can point to them and say "look! I cut your taxes!"  which makes politicians popular.   Very likely a better use of the money would be to ensure that schools are functional and safe, public health needs are met, etc.  But that's a harder sell than tax cuts.

That is not the reason people have kids, but it doesn't mean they are not justified.  My original point is that unlike churches getting a tax break, a child getting a tax break actually does give back to the greater community.

I personally would forgo all tax breaks for having kids in exchange for paid parental leave and single payer health care.  Lack of those 2 things has cost my family nearly $100K in the last 3 years alone. 

Bloop Bloop

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #39 on: May 17, 2019, 05:29:23 PM »
To answer the tangent, I do agree there's a similarity between religious tax breaks and child-related tax breaks. Both are arbitrary concessions given for specific lifestyle choices. Why not subsidise dog owners? Or car enthusiasts?

With children, there's an argument that they become the next generation of tax payers and therefore have an ancillary benefit. But I would agree generally that we shouldn't be giving financial inducements to people to have kids - that causes a cascade of perverse incentives.

seattlecyclone

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #40 on: May 18, 2019, 01:24:36 AM »
Let's say a group of friends and I own a house/condo/property of some sort.  Once per week we go to the property to hang out but we do use the property maybe a couple other times per week.  During our hang outs we talk a lot about Star Wars and Luke Skywalker.  We sing songs about Luke, etc.  We light candles and read from Star Wars themed books.  Part of our hang out is that we collect money to cover the costs of the property, insurance, electricity, etc. 

We do a few charity projects and donate some money, but overall spend less than 10% of our budget on charities or helping others, the vast majority of our time is spent talking about a mythological entity that is not real and the vast majority of the money goes to support meeting to talk about him. 

Should my group of friends and I get to be a non-profit?  Exempt from property taxes?  Should the money we collect get to be tax deductible?  Most people would say no because our organization is not for the "public good", it really just exists to talk about Luke Skywalker and the Star Wars Universe.   Same with churches.

Religious activities like church services are not a public good.  Just like hanging out and talking about Luke Skywalker is not.  The fact that churches get tax exemptions for that is ridiculous.  Any actual charitable work they do can be spun off into a proper non-profit.  Religious institutions should be taxed like any other social club.

I like this example a lot. The tax code does have a section 501(c)(7) establishing not-for-profit social clubs. I think your Star Wars club could likely be organized under these provisions. The club generally wouldn't have to pay any income taxes on the dues it collects from its members and spends on activities related to its members' common interest in Star Wars. If the club gained any income from outside sources (maybe by renting out the Star Wars hall on nights you aren't using it for Star Wars club member activities), that would be taxable. The club may also owe property tax on any real estate they happen to own.

I happen to think this is a pretty fair deal for a social club. Your club members are basically just pooling their money to enjoy a particular interest together. If the members purchased Star Wars paraphernalia with their own funds and used their own homes to have these activities there wouldn't be any sort of taxable event recognized. At some point the group might grow to the point where these ad-hoc meetings might become unwieldy and the members might want to create a formal entity to help facilitate things. It makes sense to me that we wouldn't assess income tax to this entity, same as we didn't assess income tax to the ad-hoc meetings before that. However just as you can't deduct the cost of your private Star Wars party from your income when you file your taxes, neither can you deduct the membership dues you pay to your 501(c)(7) Star Wars club.

I also think that churches have a lot more in common with a Star Wars club than they do with a homeless shelter or a nature preserve or a museum. I think the 501(c)(7)-style treatment would be more appropriate for whatever portion of a church's activities are focused inward at its members' spiritual and social activities, rather than outward in community service.

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #41 on: May 18, 2019, 11:37:25 AM »

Walz v. Tax Comm'n of the City of New York (1970)


Syllabus

Appellant property owner unsuccessfully sought an injunction in the New York courts to prevent the New York City Tax Commission from granting property tax exemptions to religious organizations for properties used solely for religious worship, as authorized by the state constitution and the implementing statute providing for tax exemptions for property used exclusively for religious, educational, or charitable purposes. Appellant contended that the exemptions, as applied to religious bodies, violated provisions prohibiting establishment of religion under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Held:


1. The First Amendment tolerates neither governmentally established religion nor governmental interference with religion. Pp. 667-672.

2. The legislative purpose of tax exemptions is not aimed at establishing, sponsoring, or supporting religion, and New York's legislation simply spares the exercise of religion from the burden of property taxation levied on private profit institutions. Pp. 672-674.


3. The tax exemption creates only a minimal and remote involvement between church and state, far less than taxation of churches would entail, and it restricts the fiscal relationship between them, thus tending to complement and reinforce the desired separation insulating each from the other. Pp. 674-676.

4. Freedom from taxation for two centuries has not led to an established church or religion, and, on the contrary, has helped to guarantee the free exercise of all forms of religious belief. Pp. 676-680.



If revocation of tax exemptions for churches were enacted they would sue asserting  violation of  the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause. The gravamen of their suit would be  that discontinuance of the centuries-old tradition of  tax exemption is  financially  burdensome  to an extent that  it impermissibly  impairs constitutionally assured, free exercise of religion. Churches would also assert that revocation invites constitutionally forbidden church-state entanglement as church officials would lobby politicians to undo revocation of the tax exemptions.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2019, 01:25:41 PM by John Galt incarnate! »

CindyBS

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #42 on: May 18, 2019, 03:42:09 PM »
To answer the tangent, I do agree there's a similarity between religious tax breaks and child-related tax breaks. Both are arbitrary concessions given for specific lifestyle choices. Why not subsidise dog owners? Or car enthusiasts?

With children, there's an argument that they become the next generation of tax payers and therefore have an ancillary benefit. But I would agree generally that we shouldn't be giving financial inducements to people to have kids - that causes a cascade of perverse incentives.

Children are citizens and human beings, not lifestyle choices - unlike cars and dogs.  Also, unlike cars and dogs, today's children won't just be paying taxes, they literally will be doing everything to keep society running - growing food, providing health care, etc.

Besides, by that logic - isn't everyone a lifestyle choice?  You are your mother's lifestyle choice.  Should you not get any tax breaks or benefits from greater society?  Should the fire department not come when your house is burning down to save you since it was really just a lifestyle choice that you even exist?  After all, why should society devote resources to your mother's hobby?


Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #43 on: May 18, 2019, 04:13:55 PM »

In your example, sure it is obvious, but when you look into others it's no so clear cut.

Scientology has not been around for centuries. Mormonism is less than 200 years old so not quite centuries as you set the bar at. How long do you to be around to count?

Santaria only has about 22,000 followers in the US. Is that enough 'devoted followers'? What if they only had 10,000? 2,000? 100?

How do you constitute genuine belief as a metric? The People's Temple congregation was pretty clearly devoted, is that the bar? Or is an attendance check on Sunday morning while I act like a christless heathen the other 6.75 days of the week good enough?

Determining things could be challenging, admittedly. I would default to being a little more lenient than not, because let's be real, it's a lot of work to get things to the point where you're actually a big enough organization where you're seriously reducing the taxes the government gets in a significant way. Again, if it was somehow tied to an actual business through financial transactions or through some obvious means of benefiting it, that would be an obvious no go. We could tighten up from where we are not without making things untenable for religious institutions.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #44 on: May 18, 2019, 04:14:10 PM »

I did read your post, and please correct me if I'm wrong here. Non-profits can provide housing as compensation, and that housing benefit is included as a part of total compensation. Therefore, that person is taxed on the housing benefit. With churches, neither the church nor the employee are taxed on this benefit, thus what I referred to as the parsonage allowance.

Quote
Would you like for all non-profits to be abolished/put on a level playing field or are you singling out religions?

Abolished, no, absolutely not. Level playing field is what I'm after (although level playing field to me implies some kind of competition. I would say equal treatment.) I work at a non-profit, and we file a 990, and I think we should be required to file one. I also think Churches should be required to file one if they want tax exemption.

I apologize, you are right, and I am wrong. I didn't realize the discrepancy. I am not against leveling the playing field in regards to housing allowances to non profits - either allow all non profits to provide some sort of limited non taxed housing allowance in applicable situation (parsonages make a lot of sense when they're not mansions, which is the exception, not the rule) or don't allow it for either.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #45 on: May 18, 2019, 04:14:51 PM »

In a democracy, we are the government.  It's not some scary boogeyman waiting in the shadows to do us wrong.  Taxation is certainly not some fixed entity in time and space, it changes all the time.  It changes at our whim because we collect taxes to fund our society.  There should be a significant societal benefit if we're choosing to give away the tax revenue that we are owed by an organization enjoying operation in our society.

Whatever your views of taxation, at the end of the day you need to pay your bills.  We currently say that churches don't need to pay their bills to the government.  That's not self-supporting.

No, the government is not some scary boogeyman trying to get me. It's an entity, and the in the case of the US government an insanely huge entity. I have an inherent distrust of organizations the larger they get, be they government or business. They tend to not do things very ethically and as is more germane to this conversation, they tend to be very wasteful in their spending. In this case, that is applicable because yes, there are certain services churches get for free that they definitely use that are provided by the government - police and fire protection, the protection of an army, etc. There are also applicable examples that true businesses would use that churches do not. Churches wouldn't need regulation to make sure they're not going to be come monopolies....no intellectual properties tend to occur with non profits, no regulations necessary to make sure what they're selling is safe, effective, etc. They tend to not sell items. Just a few examples that popped into my head, but I'm sure there are more. The point is, some of this "bill" you feel the non profits could be paying isn't really applicable apples to apples compared to businesses. Just thought I would point that out.

Either way, as you mentioned, taxes are dynamic, and it has been decided that they as non profits owe no taxes, so I guess they are self supporting since the dynamic taxes show that they don't owe anything :).


I'll reiterate again, you are arguing against the concept of non profits in general. Non profits are there because enough people thought someone should be able to make an organization that didn't have to be taxed. Yes, an organization can be self-supporting, allowed because they don't pay taxes, and it doesn't mean they are not self-supporting. They are literally paying the bills to people for things they are using like electricity, water, etc. That means they are self-supporting. They are not a business. They are not set up like a business. They should not be taxed like a business, or, again, elminate non profits altogether.


Legally, in the US all non-profits except churches are required to file a detailed application form, fee and annual information to obtain and maintain their tax-exempt status.

The forms include information about governance, composition of the governing body, the management policies, a lists of officers/directors/trustees/key employees, the compensation paid by the organization to such persons, the organization’s mission, activities, and current and prior years’ financial results, reports of revenue and expenses, financial schedules, including information about donations and whether donations are spent on programs or management and fundraising, statements of revenue and functional expenses, etc.

Because there is no requirement to report any of this information, it's impossible to determine if any church is in fact operating like other non-profits.  This creates an excellent opportunity for fraud and abuse.  That's why mega church pastors own private jets, muti-million dollar mansions, and multiple expensive vehicles.

Are you in favor of changing this so that churches are required to report their financial information like non-profits, or do you favor the current 'special favors only for churches' system?

I have said from the beginning, I have no problem leveling the playing field as you say for churches and non profits. I'll admit I didn't realize some of the discrepancies mainly because I have more experiences with religious organizations' financials than I do other non profits. If it had been posed from the beginning, hey churches get breaks beyond other non profits, I wouldn't have started a debate with anyone, lol.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #46 on: May 18, 2019, 04:15:01 PM »

When I said they put all of their income "towards" their cause I meant for that word to be all encompassing. Money might be used to pay for salaries, overhead, hold promotional events, or anything else so long as it is part of the larger goal.

In the case of a church, not all spending is tied to charity. Meeting and fellowship may be part of the cause, but they are not charitable activities. In fact, none of their activities are required to be. If your argument is that religious groups are the same as other non-profits the charitable aspect should be a requirement, not an option.

I'll also add that where I've said "non-profit" I believe what I'm referring to is a 501(c)(3). There are other classifications of non-profit which receive different exemptions and have different requirements. Both religious groups and charitable non-profits fall under 501(c)(3) so I think it's reasonable to assume that's what we're all talking about.

This has come up several times. The issue, I believe, is that people are bringing in assumptions about non profits. The churches mission is at least in a significant part meeting together. Churches also perform charity, as well. Somewhere along the line, this was decided as an acceptable rationale for non profit for civic good in general (and there are solid reasons for it being a civic good). However, this is not exclusionary to churches. The YMCA is a good example of a non profit where a big portion of the good is in the bringing of people together. There are also amateur sports leagues where they don't do charitable good as everyone seems to be limiting it to be as their exclusive purpose (i.e. it's not designed to get underprivileged kids to play sports). This is not a foreign concept for non profits in general, so we are left again with, attack churches in particular or the larger non profits as a whole.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #47 on: May 18, 2019, 04:15:18 PM »


I do too, but only for monies that pay for those good works. If you are a minister, you are allowed to claim a parsonage, which is tax-free housing benefit, and there's no definition of a parsonage.   It can be, and often is, a giant mansion. 

https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc417

That's not the highest best use of my tax dollars.  The Catholic Church has spent untold million of dollars defending against lawsuits against pedophile priests.  All those dollars are tax deductible, which gives the church a big leg up on the victims, who have to pay with after tax dollars. 

If the money is actually going to a soup kitchen, fine.   Sounds like a worthy, tax-deductible cause.   If it is going to buy a luxury vehicle for Tom Cruise, then not so much.

If you have an issue with overall compensation of individuals of non profits, address that on the entire scale of non profits. If you're super concerned with fringe benefits like housing, address it with all non profits. It's certainly allowed with them as well:

https://www.councilofnonprofits.org/tools-resources/executive-compensation

Again, we're either targeting religions because we don't like them specifically, in which case, be up front about it and be aware that it's pretty much unconstitutional or do it for all non profits.


No.  Please review the parts in bold.  Again, the part that is actual charity is fine.  That and whatever overhead it takes to maintain the charitable organization can be tax exempt/deductible.   In my example above I mentioned Tom Cruise.  The Church of Scientology has gifted Tom Cruise numerous luxury vehicles because of his friendship with Church of Scientology leader David Miscaviage.   The Church of Scientology didn't pay any tax on the income used to buy the luxury vehicles, and its members got a tax deduction when they contributed the funds. 

Using taxpayer dollars to subsidize Tom Cruise's lifestyle is objectively stupid.  I'm against things that are objectively stupid. 

If you want to have a clubhouse where you and friends meet once a week and talk philosophy, then great!  More power to you.  But there is no reason why you need to reach into my pocket in order to help fund your club. 

By the way, lots of organizations separate their activities into profit and non-profit wings.   There is no reason why a church couldn't separate out the money they spend on the soup kitchen from the money they spend giving Tom Cruise luxury vehicles. 

I realize there are some gray areas here, but let's start by stop doing things that are objectively stupid and go from there.

You change topics very quickly. Tom Cruise getting a sports car from proceeds is different than the getting together portion of what you said but you go so quickly between them it seems you are attempting to conflate them. As for Tom Cruise's sports car, I have to say, there's plenty of waste in other non profits as well. CEO salaries is a great example: https://www.erieri.com/blog/post/top-10-highest-paid-ceos-at-nonprofits - 3 above 10 million per year. As I have said before, if you're going to regulate things, do it across the board.

For the second part about meeting together, you're conflating a sports car with it to make it sound worse. Please refer to my response to Dabnasty on it.

sol

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #48 on: May 18, 2019, 05:47:08 PM »
If we want to eliminate the concept of non profits, that's fine (a bad idea in my mind) but at least consistent. If we want to take away non profit status for churches, that is simply targeting religion. It's also unconstitutional.

This would make a lot more sense if churches were non-profit.  But in reality, churches can operate as for-profit businesses while getting non-profit tax treatment.

I don't want to single out churches that deserve non-profit status.  That's not most of the big ones, though.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #49 on: May 20, 2019, 05:17:37 AM »
If we want to eliminate the concept of non profits, that's fine (a bad idea in my mind) but at least consistent. If we want to take away non profit status for churches, that is simply targeting religion. It's also unconstitutional.

This would make a lot more sense if churches were non-profit.  But in reality, churches can operate as for-profit businesses while getting non-profit tax treatment.

I don't want to single out churches that deserve non-profit status.  That's not most of the big ones, though.

It certainly is some, not all, of the big churches that cause a lot of the issues. However the problem is people really are singling out churches, because almost all of the railing against this kind of stuff are against those churches and not other non profits. I've rarely if ever seen arguments pushing taxing non profits because they're wasteful of money or pay certain employees huge salaries, etc. At most it's been don't donate to some of these places. The fact is, there's a reasonable argument to regulate all non profits on some of this stuff. The reality though is people like picking on churches. They make comments using a few bad apple examples and then promote removing non profit taxes of all churches (but exclusively of churches) using a meme or specific example of one or ten or whatever churches that have issues whereas, again, non profits in general in similar situations are either ignored or at worse called out for people to not donate to them.