Religion and Tax Exemption
What About the Money?
Ever wonder why there's a blanket tax exemption for churches and religion-associated schools (hospitals are another story)? These exemptions requireALL American taxpayers to support religion, regardless of their own personal philosophy or religion of choice. That seems to be a violation of church and state, doesn't it?
How many millions (maybe billions-who really knows) of dollars a year would be generated if churches and these private schools were required to pay property taxes? There is really no way to know, at least not by the average taxpayer who could use that information to argue that his/her own property taxes could be greatly reduced when these organizations pay their fair share. After all, don't they receive the same benefits as home and business owners who pay property taxes?
While the federal government doesn't have a property tax, state and local governments could certainly use the extra funding for all of the services which these entities provide every citizen. Of course, this means that these “non-profit” organizations would have to collect more donations to pay those taxes. If they are really worth being supported, the donations won't disappear. After all, Americans are the most generous people on this planet. Whether it's a disaster or heart-warming story seen on TV or the internet, we respond quickly and with great generosity whenever there is a need.
How many “mega-churches” exist which primarily benefit the “men and women of God?” That's hard to know since none of these entities will open their books to the public and explain why that well-dressed TV evangelist is expensive suits and driving (maybe even with a chauffeur) an expensive vehicle. Many of these churches or “ministries” are on television, some daily. They wouldn't be there if it weren't “profitable” to do so. While they may not always directly ask for money, the inference is certainly there.
When these “religious based” organizations provide “gifts” for donations, the reality is that there is a profit being made and should also be taxed, both by sales taxes and income taxes. They are required to pay their “employees” according to withholding laws, meaning social security and medicare, along with any required insurance. That makes them businesses; therefore they should be treated entirely as businesses.
Personally, I would not require these entities to pay income taxes on the donations that they receive unless there were strings attached. However, there are many people who believe that should be the case. In the United States alone, there are over a half million “ministers, priests, reverends (so-called men and women of God)” who are being paid (either through salaries and benefits or through “stipends”) like any other employee. Combine that with the cost of offices, administrative assistants, office help, janitorial and maintenance services, security, utilities, travel expenses, and all the other expenses associated with any business operation. It's a long way from one-room meeting houses which small churches used to be, which made sense in terms of true religious worship! I don't believe that the Amish have this problem, yet that particular form of worship costs practically nothing.