Author Topic: Taxation of religious organizations  (Read 4096 times)

sol

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #50 on: May 20, 2019, 09:06:46 AM »
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.

Churches are not non-profits.  I don't think they should get non-profit tax treatment.

I'm not singling out churches, I'm singling out fraudulent non-profit organizations.  Which is most of them, since they were created by individual human beings for the purpose of getting rich, and now (sometimes thousands of years later) there are individual human beings who become vastly wealthy from running them.

Some faiths are less guilty of this than others.  L. Ron Hubbard certainly made millions from making up a religion.  Joseph Smith lived a live of relative luxury after making up his religion.  The Episcopalians, though?  I'm not sure you can clearly point to an individual dude who made money off that idea.

Dabnasty

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #51 on: May 20, 2019, 09:17:14 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.

You've acknowledged that churches receive different tax benefits than other 501(c)(3) organizations yet you continue to insist that people are picking on churches? I can't speak for everyone but I feel confident that my opinions on this issue are not due to a bias against churches. I grew up attending church, most of my immediate and extended family attend church, and I have great respect for the charitable activities of churches. I've even considered joining a church for the charity/community aspect (and the singing, but not that new school praise music crap).

Going back to your first comment in this thread, I don't think anyone is calling for a complete elimination of the non-profit status of churches, they're just asking for equal treatment and that the religious aspect not be taken into consideration. Where a church acts as a charity or provides direct benefit to the community, they should receive the same benefits as any other 501(c)(3). Where a church acts as a social club they should receive the same benefits as any other 501(c)(7). In any case they should be subject to the same qualifications and oversight as other non-profits to receive these tax benefits. Is this still picking on churches?

simonsez

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #52 on: May 20, 2019, 09:29:02 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.
Call a spade a spade is all I ask for.  I'm in favor of all non-profits (including churches) having the same standards to meet (and enforced) for taxation purposes.  This way, no one is picking on anything specific.  Seems this thread has done a good job explaining the different (lower) standards churches already have compared to other non-profits, you take that to be 'picking on churches'.  Well, I guess I could see that.  If there was some charity that didn't have to follow the rules other charities did, it would make sense that favored charity would get "picked on" by the general public for their unfair advantage. 

Aside from the charity aspect, I have no idea why religion gets to be a special club but a lack thereof (e.g. a group of freethinkers), or any other social club would not get equal tax treatment.

BTW, if you haven't heard of people railing against "bloated administration" salaries of charities, I don't know what to tell ya.  Maybe some people are more okay with that as the ones doing that aren't purporting to be doing it in the name of a god and just comes with the territory of running a business, I'm not sure.

Psychstache

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #53 on: May 20, 2019, 09:34:05 AM »

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.

Do you have this same level of distrust of religious organizations as they grow too large? The Catholic Church is one of the largest and richest institutions in the world.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2019, 10:23:50 AM by Psychstache »

Dabnasty

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #54 on: May 20, 2019, 10:02:49 AM »

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.

I'll agree that this is a conversation worth having. Does the existence of religion contribute to society? Certainly there are plenty of examples of people who turned their lives around for the better and did so for their religion. For others, religion helps them through difficult times in life or helps them accept the loss of loved ones or to accept their own mortality. On the other hand religions have hindered the progress of medicine and science and been used to justify harmful acts. Then you'd have to take into consideration the societal good provided by any other product as well. I've read books that I feel have made me a better person. Some people go to bars to find a sense of community. Anyway, this is a separate conversation that could get very complex so I'd rather keep it simple for the sake of this thread. There are lots of pros & cons we could point to but I don't think they can be clearly defined the way the activities of an organization like the YMCA can. If it could, we wouldn't need a specific classification for religion under the 501(c)(3) rules.

Quote
Section 501(c)(3) — 71.3% of all nonprofits — religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, public safety, amateur sports, prevention of cruelty to children or animals. Charitable contribution deduction is available.1

You mention that a big portion of the good provided by the YMCA is bringing people together but that is not why they are given tax-exempt status. Their tax-exempt status is based on education, health, and fitness. When you say "bringing of people together" are you referring to classes provided by the YMCA? Exercise groups? Interestingly, there have been a number of law suits against the gyms and health clubs run by the Y which receive tax benefits even though they're in direct competition with other gyms. In my limited reading it does sound like the Y gets an unfair advantage but the courts have consistently ruled in their favor. Perhaps there's more to the story than I am aware of.

As for amateur sports clubs, they must meet specific qualifications:

Quote
To qualify for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, an amateur athletic organization must fall under one of three rationales endorsed by the IRS:
1.An organization is educational by either teaching sports to youth or being affiliated with an educational organization. Such organizations may also provide facilities and equipment.
2.An organization that “develops, promotes, and regulates a sport for youths” may be charitable as combating juvenile delinquency or lessening the burdens of government. These organizations may also provide facilities and equipment.
3.An organization is “organized and operated to foster national or international amateur sports competition and no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment.”2

Quote
An organization that is primarily social or recreational (e.g., social clubs, organizations of casual athletes, or organizations “whose primary purposes are the recreation of their members”) will not qualify for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status2

I'm not sure I understand number 3 well enough to comment on whether I think it is fair or not but I've never said that I'm in favor of all other types of non-profits. You seem concerned that anyone is questioning the validity of the tax exempt status of churches but not other non-profits but I'm not sure what you expect. This is a conversation about religious groups specifically. Sure there may be other non-profits that I don't agree with but I can't discuss all of them at once.

1http://seriousgivers.org/question/are-there-nonprofits-that-arent-charities/

2http://www.nonprofitlawblog.com/amateur-athletic-organizations/
« Last Edit: May 20, 2019, 10:05:04 AM by Dabnasty »

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #55 on: May 20, 2019, 10:12:41 AM »
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.

Churches are not non-profits.  I don't think they should get non-profit tax treatment.

I'm not singling out churches, I'm singling out fraudulent non-profit organizations.  Which is most of them, since they were created by individual human beings for the purpose of getting rich, and now (sometimes thousands of years later) there are individual human beings who become vastly wealthy from running them.

Some faiths are less guilty of this than others.  L. Ron Hubbard certainly made millions from making up a religion.  Joseph Smith lived a live of relative luxury after making up his religion.  The Episcopalians, though?  I'm not sure you can clearly point to an individual dude who made money off that idea.

Look, you're not Michael Scott on the Office. You can't declare bankruptcy by just declaring it :). You have twice made the basic statement that churches are not non profit without backing it up with anything I could see that doesn't boil down to the concept that they take in money in general and or some people that work in them make a lot of money, whereas I have step by step explained how they fit within the non profit umbrella and commented that I wouldn't mind regulations to level out non profits without eliminating them as non profits - i.e. fixing the issues, not throwing the baby out with the bath water. You're going to have to provide specific explanations as to why you feel that they as a concept are not non profit for us to have a productive conversation.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #56 on: May 20, 2019, 10:18:58 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.

You've acknowledged that churches receive different tax benefits than other 501(c)(3) organizations yet you continue to insist that people are picking on churches? I can't speak for everyone but I feel confident that my opinions on this issue are not due to a bias against churches. I grew up attending church, most of my immediate and extended family attend church, and I have great respect for the charitable activities of churches. I've even considered joining a church for the charity/community aspect (and the singing, but not that new school praise music crap).

Going back to your first comment in this thread, I don't think anyone is calling for a complete elimination of the non-profit status of churches, they're just asking for equal treatment and that the religious aspect not be taken into consideration. Where a church acts as a charity or provides direct benefit to the community, they should receive the same benefits as any other 501(c)(3). Where a church acts as a social club they should receive the same benefits as any other 501(c)(7). In any case they should be subject to the same qualifications and oversight as other non-profits to receive these tax benefits. Is this still picking on churches?

Yes, I have acknowledged that, and yes I do think that people are picking on churches (maybe not you in specific, but that there's an underlying theme of it). The reason is what I said before. The topic of removing non profit status comes up a lot more in conversation, in articles, etc. for churches than other non profit organizations despite similar infractions. Additionally, the fixes proposed in these discussions more often tend towards full elimination specifically of churches' non profit status versus fixing perceived issues. I.e. the posts above where they keep bringing up Tom Cruise getting a sports car and then use certain bad situations to extend their proposals beyond just fixing them.

Perhaps no group is for removing non profit status and everyone here only wants to make churches have to do the same paperwork as other non profits and not have the parsonage allowance (these are the two differences I'm aware of that have been brought up). If so, great, we all agree. If not, we can continue to discuss.

In regards to the division of 501(c)(3) vs. 501(c)(7), I explained my position on that in my previous response to you on this with comparables to other types of non profits (YMCA, sports groups). Please let me know where you disagree with that. I just saw you responded to this point earlier, and I will address it on that response.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2019, 10:25:01 AM by Wolfpack Mustachian »

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #57 on: May 20, 2019, 10:21:58 AM »
Call a spade a spade is all I ask for.  I'm in favor of all non-profits (including churches) having the same standards to meet (and enforced) for taxation purposes.  This way, no one is picking on anything specific.  Seems this thread has done a good job explaining the different (lower) standards churches already have compared to other non-profits, you take that to be 'picking on churches'.  Well, I guess I could see that.  If there was some charity that didn't have to follow the rules other charities did, it would make sense that favored charity would get "picked on" by the general public for their unfair advantage. 

Aside from the charity aspect, I have no idea why religion gets to be a special club but a lack thereof (e.g. a group of freethinkers), or any other social club would not get equal tax treatment.

BTW, if you haven't heard of people railing against "bloated administration" salaries of charities, I don't know what to tell ya.  Maybe some people are more okay with that as the ones doing that aren't purporting to be doing it in the name of a god and just comes with the territory of running a business, I'm not sure.

Again, I don't take that to be picking on churches. I have read multiple articles, seen commentary on social media, etc. talking about removing churches' non profit status altogether. That is picking on churches. I have not called anyone out on here for talking about addressing actual differences. The issue, as I mentioned with Dabnasty above, is that it doesn't end there.

As I also mentioned above, I have seen people railing against other charities. I don't think it's as often as with churches, but maybe that's subjective. What I don't believe is subjective is the extension that I keep seeing of for churches - let's remove non profit status altogether, for those other charities - let's legislate and fix the individual issues.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #58 on: May 20, 2019, 10:23:00 AM »

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.

Do you have this same level of distrust of religious organizations as they grow to large? The Catholic Church is one of the largest and richest institutions in the world.

I do not pretend to be without biases, but I would say the same risks are true of any organization.

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #59 on: May 20, 2019, 10:24:33 AM »


Churches are not non-profits.  I don't think they should get non-profit tax treatment.

I'm not singling out churches, I'm singling out fraudulent non-profit organizations.  Which is most of them, since they were created by individual human beings for the purpose of getting rich, and now (sometimes thousands of years later) there are individual human beings who become vastly wealthy from running them.

Some faiths are less guilty of this than others.  L. Ron Hubbard certainly made millions from making up a religion.  Joseph Smith lived a live of relative luxury after making up his religion.  The Episcopalians, though?  I'm not sure you can clearly point to an individual dude who made money off that idea.

I don't want to write pulp for magazines at 6 cents per word for the rest of my life. I want to get rich so I'm going to start a religion.

^
Reportedly, L. Ron Hubbard made a statement similar to this one.

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #60 on: May 20, 2019, 10:31:12 AM »


Again, I don't take that to be picking on churches. I have read multiple articles, seen commentary on social media, etc. talking about removing churches' non profit status altogether. That is picking on churches. I have not called anyone out on here for talking about addressing actual differences. The issue, as I mentioned with Dabnasty above, is that it doesn't end there.

As I also mentioned above, I have seen people railing against other charities. I don't think it's as often as with churches, but maybe that's subjective. What I don't believe is subjective is the extension that I keep seeing of for churches - let's remove non profit status altogether, for those other charities - let's legislate and fix the individual issues.


"I do not believe that it can be too often repeated that the freedoms of speech, press, petition and assembly guaranteed by the First Amendment must be accorded to the ideas we hate or sooner or later they will be denied to the ideas we cherish. The first banning of an association because it advocates hated ideas - whether that association be called a political party or not - marks a fateful moment in the history of a free country." Justice Hugo Black 



There is a natural human tendency to disfavor exercise of rights appertaining  to institutions one dislikes. To check this illiberal bent one needs to be heedful of  Justice Black's admonition for what it says about hated ideas and cherished ideas  is equally applicable to disfavored rights and favored rights. When we defer  to exercise of rights we disfavor we  foster a pluralistic milieu that supports exercise of rights we favor.



« Last Edit: June 03, 2019, 03:57:36 AM by John Galt incarnate! »

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #61 on: May 20, 2019, 10:46:30 AM »

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.

I'll agree that this is a conversation worth having. Does the existence of religion contribute to society? Certainly there are plenty of examples of people who turned their lives around for the better and did so for their religion. For others, religion helps them through difficult times in life or helps them accept the loss of loved ones or to accept their own mortality. On the other hand religions have hindered the progress of medicine and science and been used to justify harmful acts. Then you'd have to take into consideration the societal good provided by any other product as well. I've read books that I feel have made me a better person. Some people go to bars to find a sense of community. Anyway, this is a separate conversation that could get very complex so I'd rather keep it simple for the sake of this thread. There are lots of pros & cons we could point to but I don't think they can be clearly defined the way the activities of an organization like the YMCA can. If it could, we wouldn't need a specific classification for religion under the 501(c)(3) rules.

Quote
Section 501(c)(3) — 71.3% of all nonprofits — religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, public safety, amateur sports, prevention of cruelty to children or animals. Charitable contribution deduction is available.1

You mention that a big portion of the good provided by the YMCA is bringing people together but that is not why they are given tax-exempt status. Their tax-exempt status is based on education, health, and fitness. When you say "bringing of people together" are you referring to classes provided by the YMCA? Exercise groups? Interestingly, there have been a number of law suits against the gyms and health clubs run by the Y which receive tax benefits even though they're in direct competition with other gyms. In my limited reading it does sound like the Y gets an unfair advantage but the courts have consistently ruled in their favor. Perhaps there's more to the story than I am aware of.

As for amateur sports clubs, they must meet specific qualifications:

Quote
To qualify for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status, an amateur athletic organization must fall under one of three rationales endorsed by the IRS:
1.An organization is educational by either teaching sports to youth or being affiliated with an educational organization. Such organizations may also provide facilities and equipment.
2.An organization that “develops, promotes, and regulates a sport for youths” may be charitable as combating juvenile delinquency or lessening the burdens of government. These organizations may also provide facilities and equipment.
3.An organization is “organized and operated to foster national or international amateur sports competition and no part of its activities involve the provision of athletic facilities or equipment.”2

Quote
An organization that is primarily social or recreational (e.g., social clubs, organizations of casual athletes, or organizations “whose primary purposes are the recreation of their members”) will not qualify for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status2

I'm not sure I understand number 3 well enough to comment on whether I think it is fair or not but I've never said that I'm in favor of all other types of non-profits. You seem concerned that anyone is questioning the validity of the tax exempt status of churches but not other non-profits but I'm not sure what you expect. This is a conversation about religious groups specifically. Sure there may be other non-profits that I don't agree with but I can't discuss all of them at once.

1http://seriousgivers.org/question/are-there-nonprofits-that-arent-charities/

2http://www.nonprofitlawblog.com/amateur-athletic-organizations/

You have some good points. I'd say that churches were called out specifically because historically they have been considered good for a variety of reasons. That's part of the reason why this is so challenging of a discussion. There's no one thing that churches benefit. They do very effective charity work local and abroad. They foster a sense of community. They provide localized resource distribution for people in need within the organization and of those that people within the organization directly know. People do have lives changed that tie back to church.

I guess, though, if you overwhelmingly feel that churches are an overall and especially if they are a significant net drawback to society, then, of course, you would want their tax exempt status removed. However, in that case, you would kind of be singling out churches, because you literally are singling out churches - i.e .churches specifically out of non profits don't deserve non profit status when there are plenty of other non profits with similar situations. You would have reasons, but you would still be doing it.

In regards to the sports/YMCA vs. churches, my point is simply, that the point of churches is not exclusively setting up a neighborhood food bank or giving out children's clothes. It is church. That is kind of the point. Now for churches, the extension of that should be and often is that charity is a huge part of that. It's not all of it however. In that regard, though, it's not unlike sports or the Y. Their goal is not specifically helping out the underprivileged. It's health or wellness or yay ultimate Frisbee or whatever, but not specifically for what people here have implicated is what charity is defined as.

Beyond that, I also understand what you're saying about other non profits not being the topic of discussion etc. However, I don't really know anyway around it in this conversation. If churches were unilaterally granted tax exempt status and nothing else was, then the entirety of the argument would be the above. They are not. I don't know how to defend churches' tax exempt status without bringing in examples of other non profits that have similar situations/flaws and failings/basic set ups in relation to churches. I can't see a way around saying, we as a society have agreed this is OK, so why is it not ok with churches, and if it's not ok for churches, do we scrap non profit set ups altogether? That was the intended crux of my original statement.

Dabnasty

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #62 on: May 20, 2019, 12:08:16 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.

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.

You've acknowledged that churches receive different tax benefits than other 501(c)(3) organizations yet you continue to insist that people are picking on churches? I can't speak for everyone but I feel confident that my opinions on this issue are not due to a bias against churches. I grew up attending church, most of my immediate and extended family attend church, and I have great respect for the charitable activities of churches. I've even considered joining a church for the charity/community aspect (and the singing, but not that new school praise music crap).

Going back to your first comment in this thread, I don't think anyone is calling for a complete elimination of the non-profit status of churches, they're just asking for equal treatment and that the religious aspect not be taken into consideration. Where a church acts as a charity or provides direct benefit to the community, they should receive the same benefits as any other 501(c)(3). Where a church acts as a social club they should receive the same benefits as any other 501(c)(7). In any case they should be subject to the same qualifications and oversight as other non-profits to receive these tax benefits. Is this still picking on churches?

Yes, I have acknowledged that, and yes I do think that people are picking on churches (maybe not you in specific, but that there's an underlying theme of it). The reason is what I said before. The topic of removing non profit status comes up a lot more in conversation, in articles, etc. for churches than other non profit organizations despite similar infractions. Additionally, the fixes proposed in these discussions more often tend towards full elimination specifically of churches' non profit status versus fixing perceived issues. I.e. the posts above where they keep bringing up Tom Cruise getting a sports car and then use certain bad situations to extend their proposals beyond just fixing them.

Perhaps no group is for removing non profit status and everyone here only wants to make churches have to do the same paperwork as other non profits and not have the parsonage allowance (these are the two differences I'm aware of that have been brought up). If so, great, we all agree. If not, we can continue to discuss.

That's fair, I have seen articles and individuals calling for the complete removal of non-profit status I just didn't see where anyone in this thread was suggesting it. My guess would be that if most of the people who advocate for complete removal were to be involved in a conversation like this they would take a more nuanced stance but as it is they are probably just scratching the surface of the issue and looking at the big picture. Plus articles that argue both sides of an issue tend not to get people riled up the way a strong one sided stance does and therefore they're less likely to get published :(

I think the situations where individuals are taking advantage of the system in ways that were not intended are relevant to the conversation because it is the current law which allows them to do so. The very hands off approach of regulating what a religious organization can and can't do is what makes this abuse so easy. There is abuse of charitable non-profits too, it's just not as easy to do when you're required to track where dollars are going and get IRS approval for your activities. If someone argues that all churches should lose their tax exempt status in relation to charitable activities because others have abused the system, then of course, that's an unfair conclusion.

GuitarStv

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #63 on: May 20, 2019, 12:37:50 PM »
I'd argue that all churches should lose tax exempt status until they meet the same reporting requirements that other non-profits must.  Otherwise you're just throwing the door open to the kind of fraud that exists in churches acting as non-profits today.  Don't believe me?  Good!  You can prove me wrong when the financial records of churches are available and shown to be above board.

A wise man once said that he had an inherent distrust of organizations.  Don't trust a church to do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts.  Make them prove that they are.  Like every other kind of non-profit must do.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #64 on: May 20, 2019, 06:02:16 PM »
The Episcopalians, though?  I'm not sure you can clearly point to an individual dude who made money off that idea.

Well, Henry VIII got his divorce.

Anglican (Episcopalian) is where a lot of couples in religious mixed marriages end up.  One is Catholic, one United or Lutheran or whatever?  They can both be relatively comfortable in the Anglican community.

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #65 on: May 21, 2019, 12:36:53 PM »
I’ve seen this belief stated a dozen times here that churches do all sorts of great charitable work in their communities. Actually they spend less than 6% of revenue on programs that benefit others. The vast majority of church budgets go to salaries and facilities (overhead) and the vast majority of the benefits are enjoyed by the members. Churches have a business model that looks more like a country club than, say, the Red Cross or Rotary Club. There are college fraternities that apply more of their revenue to social service, and corporations that rival churches in their charitable giving.

https://holysoup.com/the-shocking-truth-of-church-budgets/

In my town we have several thousand churches and maybe a half dozen of the much-celebrated “soup kitchens”. Some of these kitchens require religious participation as a condition of receiving food. The number of congregations paying for billboards and TV broadcasts is greater.

So yes, churches are a different type of thing than a nonprofit altogether. Unless you consider religious activity to be a charitable good in itself, they aren’t charities.

The tax code made them this way.

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #66 on: May 21, 2019, 01:22:23 PM »
I’ve seen this belief stated a dozen times here that churches do all sorts of great charitable work in their communities. Actually they spend less than 6% of revenue on programs that benefit others. The vast majority of church budgets go to salaries and facilities (overhead) and the vast majority of the benefits are enjoyed by the members. Churches have a business model that looks more like a country club than, say, the Red Cross or Rotary Club. There are college fraternities that apply more of their revenue to social service, and corporations that rival churches in their charitable giving.

https://holysoup.com/the-shocking-truth-of-church-budgets/

In my town we have several thousand churches and maybe a half dozen of the much-celebrated “soup kitchens”. Some of these kitchens require religious participation as a condition of receiving food. The number of congregations paying for billboards and TV broadcasts is greater.

So yes, churches are a different type of thing than a nonprofit altogether. Unless you consider religious activity to be a charitable good in itself, they aren’t charities.

The tax code made them this way.

^ This.  The amount of money churches spend on anything a reasonable person would consider "charity" is almost a budgetary rounding error.  In addition, churches do lots of things that sound charitable, like re-settling immigrants, but they do so in the role of paid government contractors. 

The only reasonable solution is to hold churches to the same reporting and accounting rules as other non-profits.   There is no logical justification to have special carve-outs for churches.   

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #67 on: May 22, 2019, 05:02:19 AM »

That's fair, I have seen articles and individuals calling for the complete removal of non-profit status I just didn't see where anyone in this thread was suggesting it. My guess would be that if most of the people who advocate for complete removal were to be involved in a conversation like this they would take a more nuanced stance but as it is they are probably just scratching the surface of the issue and looking at the big picture. Plus articles that argue both sides of an issue tend not to get people riled up the way a strong one sided stance does and therefore they're less likely to get published :(

I think the situations where individuals are taking advantage of the system in ways that were not intended are relevant to the conversation because it is the current law which allows them to do so. The very hands off approach of regulating what a religious organization can and can't do is what makes this abuse so easy. There is abuse of charitable non-profits too, it's just not as easy to do when you're required to track where dollars are going and get IRS approval for your activities. If someone argues that all churches should lose their tax exempt status in relation to charitable activities because others have abused the system, then of course, that's an unfair conclusion.

That's a good point. I think I have somewhat created a strawman for people on this board with my arguments because of what I assumed the other side would be because of the articles and things that I've read. I don't think we're all really that far off because most all seem fine with leveling things out to equivalency of churches with other non profits and leaving it there (please correct me if I'm wrong, internet masses :) ). I may be wrong on this, but no one except GuitarStv's humorous comment below has directly called for removal of non profit status. I do think that your point about equivalent reporting is a good one as it would go a long way to making people that are willing to have reasonable discussions less concerned about churches as non profits.

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #68 on: May 22, 2019, 05:03:20 AM »
I'd argue that all churches should lose tax exempt status until they meet the same reporting requirements that other non-profits must.  Otherwise you're just throwing the door open to the kind of fraud that exists in churches acting as non-profits today.  Don't believe me?  Good!  You can prove me wrong when the financial records of churches are available and shown to be above board.

A wise man once said that he had an inherent distrust of organizations.  Don't trust a church to do the right thing out of the goodness of their hearts.  Make them prove that they are.  Like every other kind of non-profit must do.

Lol. To this I'll just say, I don't think I've ever been called a wise man before :).

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #69 on: May 22, 2019, 05:04:28 AM »

There is a natural human tendency to disfavor exercise of rights appurtenant to institutions one dislikes. To check this illiberal bent one needs to be heedful of  Justice Black's admonition for what it says about hated ideas and cherished ideas  is equally applicable to disfavored rights and favored rights. Deference to exercise of disfavored rights fosters a pluralistic milieu that supports exercise of favored rights.

I'll just say that I very much agree with this as a concept.

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #70 on: May 22, 2019, 05:19:37 AM »
I’ve seen this belief stated a dozen times here that churches do all sorts of great charitable work in their communities. Actually they spend less than 6% of revenue on programs that benefit others. The vast majority of church budgets go to salaries and facilities (overhead) and the vast majority of the benefits are enjoyed by the members. Churches have a business model that looks more like a country club than, say, the Red Cross or Rotary Club. There are college fraternities that apply more of their revenue to social service, and corporations that rival churches in their charitable giving.

https://holysoup.com/the-shocking-truth-of-church-budgets/

In my town we have several thousand churches and maybe a half dozen of the much-celebrated “soup kitchens”. Some of these kitchens require religious participation as a condition of receiving food. The number of congregations paying for billboards and TV broadcasts is greater.

So yes, churches are a different type of thing than a nonprofit altogether. Unless you consider religious activity to be a charitable good in itself, they aren’t charities.

The tax code made them this way.

This is not a crazy point, however, you're missing a lot of the nuance. I skimmed the article that you copied, but I'm wondering if you read the comment section, because it provides a great counterpoint to the overall concept that I'll copy here:

"While I agree that congregations need to better spend their money, your comparisons are way off. How can you compare charities that have millions in donations with a congregation that takes in only 40, 000 to 60, 000 in donations. Of courses their percentages are lower."

Percentages can be skewed with larger donations (shouldn't be a foreign concept, it's the whole MMM mindset of don't brag on yourself for saving X percentage, talk about how much you actually spend because if you're saving 25% on $500k salary...not that impressive), and yes, the fact that a huge majority of churches are trying to maintain existence means that the percentages of money that goes beyond subsistence is going to be affected.

I'll give you another example, as well. A church I was involved in performed a children's clothing giveaway. The church had an attendance of around 15-20 and donations of around 40k. It was operating at subsistence levels. The money spent on the children's clothing ministry was still a small percentage of that budget, but that was not indicative of the help provided. First, it was subsidized by many, many volunteer hours to go to thrift stores, sort through clothing in bulk to get the right kinds, and buy the clothing by the pound, purchased very cheaply because of this aspect. Secondly, for a church of 15-20 people - really around 10-12 adults, literally dozens, probably 100+ of families were helped a year with free children's clothing. Churches, especially small ones, are very thrifty and can get a whole lot more bang for their buck on helping out people because of thrift and willingness to volunteer beyond the money by people that can't support as much financially. Again, things like that are the nuances that are left out of the above perspective.

RetiredAt63

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #71 on: May 22, 2019, 06:42:30 AM »
Churches, especially small ones, are very thrifty and can get a whole lot more bang for their buck on helping out people because of thrift and willingness to volunteer beyond the money by people that can't support as much financially. Again, things like that are the nuances that are left out of the above perspective.

That is also true of small non-profits.  I belong to 2 non-religious groups, one a non-profit and one a charitable organization.  Our budgets are small, and except for outside speakers (who are paid an honorarium) the activities are all done by volunteers.   

ChpBstrd

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #72 on: May 22, 2019, 09:10:29 AM »
I’ve seen this belief stated a dozen times here that churches do all sorts of great charitable work in their communities. Actually they spend less than 6% of revenue on programs that benefit others. The vast majority of church budgets go to salaries and facilities (overhead) and the vast majority of the benefits are enjoyed by the members. Churches have a business model that looks more like a country club than, say, the Red Cross or Rotary Club. There are college fraternities that apply more of their revenue to social service, and corporations that rival churches in their charitable giving.

https://holysoup.com/the-shocking-truth-of-church-budgets/

In my town we have several thousand churches and maybe a half dozen of the much-celebrated “soup kitchens”. Some of these kitchens require religious participation as a condition of receiving food. The number of congregations paying for billboards and TV broadcasts is greater.

So yes, churches are a different type of thing than a nonprofit altogether. Unless you consider religious activity to be a charitable good in itself, they aren’t charities.

The tax code made them this way.

This is not a crazy point, however, you're missing a lot of the nuance. I skimmed the article that you copied, but I'm wondering if you read the comment section, because it provides a great counterpoint to the overall concept that I'll copy here:

"While I agree that congregations need to better spend their money, your comparisons are way off. How can you compare charities that have millions in donations with a congregation that takes in only 40, 000 to 60, 000 in donations. Of courses their percentages are lower."

Percentages can be skewed with larger donations (shouldn't be a foreign concept, it's the whole MMM mindset of don't brag on yourself for saving X percentage, talk about how much you actually spend because if you're saving 25% on $500k salary...not that impressive), and yes, the fact that a huge majority of churches are trying to maintain existence means that the percentages of money that goes beyond subsistence is going to be affected.

I'll give you another example, as well. A church I was involved in performed a children's clothing giveaway. The church had an attendance of around 15-20 and donations of around 40k. It was operating at subsistence levels. The money spent on the children's clothing ministry was still a small percentage of that budget, but that was not indicative of the help provided. First, it was subsidized by many, many volunteer hours to go to thrift stores, sort through clothing in bulk to get the right kinds, and buy the clothing by the pound, purchased very cheaply because of this aspect. Secondly, for a church of 15-20 people - really around 10-12 adults, literally dozens, probably 100+ of families were helped a year with free children's clothing. Churches, especially small ones, are very thrifty and can get a whole lot more bang for their buck on helping out people because of thrift and willingness to volunteer beyond the money by people that can't support as much financially. Again, things like that are the nuances that are left out of the above perspective.

If this organizational format can only devote a maximum of maybe 1-5% of revenue to providing tangible help for non-members, and spends far more on infrastructure, salaries, and marketing, is this organizational format more like a business than a charity? Again, there are country clubs, labor unions, and fraternities/sororities that give back a greater percentage of revenue.

The point about labor mobilization is an interesting one, but also represents a retreat into an area that is harder to measure. What percentage of the total labor that goes into running and participating in a religion goes toward tangibly helping people outside the organization? 3%? 5%? 1%? It would be hard to pin down an exact percentage. Given the interchangeability of time and money, I would estimate the time spent on actual charity to match the percentage of money spent.

Donations to the hyper-efficient United Way go a lot farther toward tangibly helping people outside the organization than donations to your local church. Similarly one could argue that all those people spending millions of hours of labor per day to maintain elaborate temples, perform rituals, engage in marketing, and to study their own dogma could be more productively using their time as volunteers for charities and non-profits.

Wolfpack Mustachian

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #73 on: May 22, 2019, 10:05:56 AM »
Churches, especially small ones, are very thrifty and can get a whole lot more bang for their buck on helping out people because of thrift and willingness to volunteer beyond the money by people that can't support as much financially. Again, things like that are the nuances that are left out of the above perspective.

That is also true of small non-profits.  I belong to 2 non-religious groups, one a non-profit and one a charitable organization.  Our budgets are small, and except for outside speakers (who are paid an honorarium) the activities are all done by volunteers.   

Oh absolutely. Smaller organizations of all types can make really positive changes. I'd rather spend my time helping out at those organizations than the bigger ones for this fact.

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #74 on: May 22, 2019, 10:10:40 AM »

That's fair, I have seen articles and individuals calling for the complete removal of non-profit status I just didn't see where anyone in this thread was suggesting it. My guess would be that if most of the people who advocate for complete removal were to be involved in a conversation like this they would take a more nuanced stance but as it is they are probably just scratching the surface of the issue and looking at the big picture. Plus articles that argue both sides of an issue tend not to get people riled up the way a strong one sided stance does and therefore they're less likely to get published :(

I think the situations where individuals are taking advantage of the system in ways that were not intended are relevant to the conversation because it is the current law which allows them to do so. The very hands off approach of regulating what a religious organization can and can't do is what makes this abuse so easy. There is abuse of charitable non-profits too, it's just not as easy to do when you're required to track where dollars are going and get IRS approval for your activities. If someone argues that all churches should lose their tax exempt status in relation to charitable activities because others have abused the system, then of course, that's an unfair conclusion.

That's a good point. I think I have somewhat created a strawman for people on this board with my arguments because of what I assumed the other side would be because of the articles and things that I've read. I don't think we're all really that far off because most all seem fine with leveling things out to equivalency of churches with other non profits and leaving it there (please correct me if I'm wrong, internet masses :) ). I may be wrong on this, but no one except GuitarStv's humorous comment below has directly called for removal of non profit status. I do think that your point about equivalent reporting is a good one as it would go a long way to making people that are willing to have reasonable discussions less concerned about churches as non profits.
I entertained the notion in the first thread reply (and would be curious how that would work) but ultimately decided far better to not throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Equivalence of churches with other non-profits (and churches conforming to the standards non-profits have to prove their status) would be great.

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #75 on: May 22, 2019, 10:29:56 AM »
I’ve seen this belief stated a dozen times here that churches do all sorts of great charitable work in their communities. Actually they spend less than 6% of revenue on programs that benefit others. The vast majority of church budgets go to salaries and facilities (overhead) and the vast majority of the benefits are enjoyed by the members. Churches have a business model that looks more like a country club than, say, the Red Cross or Rotary Club. There are college fraternities that apply more of their revenue to social service, and corporations that rival churches in their charitable giving.

https://holysoup.com/the-shocking-truth-of-church-budgets/

In my town we have several thousand churches and maybe a half dozen of the much-celebrated “soup kitchens”. Some of these kitchens require religious participation as a condition of receiving food. The number of congregations paying for billboards and TV broadcasts is greater.

So yes, churches are a different type of thing than a nonprofit altogether. Unless you consider religious activity to be a charitable good in itself, they aren’t charities.

The tax code made them this way.

This is not a crazy point, however, you're missing a lot of the nuance. I skimmed the article that you copied, but I'm wondering if you read the comment section, because it provides a great counterpoint to the overall concept that I'll copy here:

"While I agree that congregations need to better spend their money, your comparisons are way off. How can you compare charities that have millions in donations with a congregation that takes in only 40, 000 to 60, 000 in donations. Of courses their percentages are lower."

Percentages can be skewed with larger donations (shouldn't be a foreign concept, it's the whole MMM mindset of don't brag on yourself for saving X percentage, talk about how much you actually spend because if you're saving 25% on $500k salary...not that impressive), and yes, the fact that a huge majority of churches are trying to maintain existence means that the percentages of money that goes beyond subsistence is going to be affected.

I'll give you another example, as well. A church I was involved in performed a children's clothing giveaway. The church had an attendance of around 15-20 and donations of around 40k. It was operating at subsistence levels. The money spent on the children's clothing ministry was still a small percentage of that budget, but that was not indicative of the help provided. First, it was subsidized by many, many volunteer hours to go to thrift stores, sort through clothing in bulk to get the right kinds, and buy the clothing by the pound, purchased very cheaply because of this aspect. Secondly, for a church of 15-20 people - really around 10-12 adults, literally dozens, probably 100+ of families were helped a year with free children's clothing. Churches, especially small ones, are very thrifty and can get a whole lot more bang for their buck on helping out people because of thrift and willingness to volunteer beyond the money by people that can't support as much financially. Again, things like that are the nuances that are left out of the above perspective.

If this organizational format can only devote a maximum of maybe 1-5% of revenue to providing tangible help for non-members, and spends far more on infrastructure, salaries, and marketing, is this organizational format more like a business than a charity? Again, there are country clubs, labor unions, and fraternities/sororities that give back a greater percentage of revenue.

The point about labor mobilization is an interesting one, but also represents a retreat into an area that is harder to measure. What percentage of the total labor that goes into running and participating in a religion goes toward tangibly helping people outside the organization? 3%? 5%? 1%? It would be hard to pin down an exact percentage. Given the interchangeability of time and money, I would estimate the time spent on actual charity to match the percentage of money spent.

Donations to the hyper-efficient United Way go a lot farther toward tangibly helping people outside the organization than donations to your local church. Similarly one could argue that all those people spending millions of hours of labor per day to maintain elaborate temples, perform rituals, engage in marketing, and to study their own dogma could be more productively using their time as volunteers for charities and non-profits.

As an aside, you are absolutely right that the labor to money is going to be very hard to quantify. I also wouldn't make the distinction between outside the organization and inside the organization. Helping someone in need is helping someone in need. That being said, anecdotally, I would say that people spend a pretty solid amount of labor hours helping people in greater quantity than the budget percentages would show. I am pretty confident in this because older/retired people tend to help in these things that tend to have lower incomes to donate. Also, there tends to be a lot of people who own businesses or have skills that they use at their jobs that use those same skills to help others with them. They may mow grass or drive someone to a doctor's appointment for example and not charge for gas or whatever the case may be - the cost even if itemized out of the material used (which really isn't and wouldn't likely be included on these studies) is not equivalent to the cost of labor provided if it was charged for.

One other aside, United Way is an odd choice to bring out in my opinion. They have somehow wrangled it to where they have an insane competitive edge in getting donations with their incorporation into companies and direct payroll deposits. Their overhead can be reduced substantially because of this compared to other charities. I don't think they're a really good example.

I would actually say within the context of it being a non profit versus a business and how the taxes work, it's really more not like a business than like a business in many cases, especially these lower end income cases we're talking about. Businesses pay a tax on their actual profits. Money that is brought in that pays for salaries, overhead, building costs, etc. aren't factored into what's being taxed. Outflow money to these overhead items and to charitable work in churches encompass the revenue (minus savings), which is why they're non profits. In fact, the question arises of what would you actually tax if you taxed non profits in terms of their income. Would you tax it all as if all revenue was business profit? If you did, you would be setting them up in an even more stringent situation than a business.

The churches to businesses comparison I don't see as too accurate. I do understand the arguments of churches to Rotary Clubs or Masonic lodges or whatnot that themselves are tax exempt but with different tax exempt statuses. My thoughts on that were to Dabnasty - in a nutshell, the purpose of exclusively helping people in need has not been a litmus test for non profits in multiple other examples, and thus churches are not unique in this aspect.

Just Joe

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #76 on: May 22, 2019, 11:32:07 AM »
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?

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/george-lucas-donate-4-billion_n_2067145

Does that equal to a soup kitchen?

GuitarStv

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #77 on: May 22, 2019, 12:06:30 PM »
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?

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/george-lucas-donate-4-billion_n_2067145

Does that equal to a soup kitchen?

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Telecaster

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #78 on: May 22, 2019, 01:33:37 PM »
The churches to businesses comparison I don't see as too accurate. I do understand the arguments of churches to Rotary Clubs or Masonic lodges or whatnot that themselves are tax exempt but with different tax exempt statuses. My thoughts on that were to Dabnasty - in a nutshell, the purpose of exclusively helping people in need has not been a litmus test for non profits in multiple other examples, and thus churches are not unique in this aspect.

Agreed.  But here is why we are having this discussion about charity in the first place:

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.

So if the reason for the churches' tax exemptions are because of charity, then it makes sense to only allow deductions for that part that goes to charity.  Lots of organizations, by the way, are set up like this.  The Taco Bell Foundation, for example, is a non-profit funded by Taco Bell Corporation.   See also Google.org.   

Now if the reason for churches to be tax exempt is because they are non-profits (which to me makes the most sense), then they should have to follow the same rules as other non-profits.   That seems completely fair and reasonable to me. 

Indexer

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #79 on: June 02, 2019, 08:44:56 AM »
Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

(Context: I cut off the quote because the rest of that right is about Freedom of Speech which we aren't debating.)

My take on that, Congress should be completely neutral to religions, neither for or against.

I don't think they should get their own special tax treatment just because they are churches. I don't think donations should be tax deductible just because they are churches. I don't think pastors/priests/etc. should get special tax free housing allowance just because they service churches.

Many, likely most, churches are doing a whole lot of charitable work. Fine, register as a 501(c)(3), and follow the same rules other charitable organizations are held to.

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #80 on: June 02, 2019, 09:53:21 AM »



You have some good points. I'd say that churches were called out specifically because historically they have been considered good for a variety of reasons. That's part of the reason why this is so challenging of a discussion. There's no one thing that churches benefit. They do very effective charity work local and abroad. They foster a sense of community. They provide localized resource distribution for people in need within the organization and of those that people within the organization directly know. People do have lives changed that tie back to church.


In Walz, the Court set forth the "variety of reasons."

 "The legislative purpose of a property tax exemption is neither the advancement nor the inhibition of religion; it is neither sponsorship nor hostility. New York, in common with the other States, has determined that certain entities that exist in a harmonious relationship to the community at large, and that foster its 'moral or mental improvement,' should not be inhibited in their activities by property taxation or the hazard of loss of those properties for nonpayment of taxes. It [397 U.S. 664 , 673]   has not singled out one particular church or religious group or even churches as such; rather, it has granted exemption to all houses of religious worship within a broad class of property owned by nonprofit, quasi-public corporations which include hospitals, libraries, playgrounds, scientific, professional, historical, and patriotic groups. The State has an affirmative policy that considers these groups as beneficial and stabilizing influences in community life and finds this classification useful, desirable, and in the public interest. Qualification for tax exemption is not perpetual or immutable; some tax-exempt groups lose that status when their activities take them outside the classification and new entities can come into being and qualify for exemption."
« Last Edit: June 02, 2019, 10:20:40 AM by John Galt incarnate! »

John Galt incarnate!

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #81 on: June 02, 2019, 10:17:14 AM »
Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;"

(Context: I cut off the quote because the rest of that right is about Freedom of Speech which we aren't debating.)

My take on that, Congress should be completely neutral to religions, neither for or against.

I don't think they should get their own special tax treatment just because they are churches. I don't think donations should be tax deductible just because they are churches. I don't think pastors/priests/etc. should get special tax free housing allowance just because they service churches.

Many, likely most, churches are doing a whole lot of charitable work. Fine, register as a 501(c)(3), and follow the same rules other charitable organizations are held to.

In Walz, Justice Douglas, the lone dissenter argued: "Indeed, I would suppose that, in common understanding, one of the best ways to 'establish' one or more religions is to subsidize them, which a tax exemption does."
« Last Edit: June 02, 2019, 10:22:26 AM by John Galt incarnate! »

A Fella from Stella

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Re: Taxation of religious organizations
« Reply #82 on: July 01, 2019, 05:07:23 AM »
If a religious org has repeatedly proven to break the law as a matter of "best practice," then it should have its NFP status revoked or suspended.

Not a complicated matter.