Sunday, February 24, 2013

It's Time to Remove The Special Tax-Exempt Consideration For Churches

Want to bring down the National Dept level quickly without sacrificing Medicare, Social Security, Education or Healthcare?  What to fix the money crunch that forces States and Local Communities to fire policemen, fireman, teachers, and other essential individuals?  Simple.  Remove the special tax-exempt consideration for churches and other religious organizations.


Kimberly Winston reports in a Washington Post article of 14 June 2012 that Ryan Cragun, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Tampa, says we lose as much as $71 billion a year to religious tax-exemptions.  States lose an estimated $26.2 billion per year by not requiring religious institutions to pay property taxes.  Capital gains tax-exemptions for religious organizations may be as much as $41 million a year.  And U.S. clergy may claim as much as $1.2 billion in tax exemptions annually via the parsonage allowance.  All that dough would relieve a lot of money problems in our country.  Maybe we could stop borrowing funds from China.

Cragun, who specializes in the sociological study of religion, states he wouldn't completely revoke the tax-exempt status of non-profit religious or secular organizations whose services the government would have to supply if those institutions disappeared.  As he states, "It makes little sense for a group like the Red Cross to pay taxes because what they are doing is truly a benefit to all society.  But if we took away tax-exemptions from religious organizations , would the government say 'We really need religious-based charity, so we are going to step in?  I don't think they would.'"

We can understand that religious institutions, like any American tax payers, want to send the government as little as they can.  But nothing?  Tom Flynn in an article in Free Inquiry magazine states, "The issue of religious tax preferment is especially relevant now because the number of Americans living outside any religious tradition continues to grow.  That underscores the unfairness of taxing all Americans to subsidize religious institutions that only some Americans utilize."

Another related problem is brought up by Dave Bohon in his article "Atheist Group sues to Stop Special Tax-Exempt Consideration for Churches" written in The New American magazine of 3 January 2013.  Bohon says that while the IRS requires non-church and certain other affiliated organizations to file "detailed, intrusive, and expensive annual reports to maintain tax-exempt status" churches and other religious institutions are exempt from submitting such reports.  In a law suite filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, spokeswoman Annie Laurie Gaylor asks, "Why should churches be exempt from basic financial reporting requirements?  Equally important, why would churches not wish to be accountable?"  Gaylor goes on to state that being granted a tax-exempt status from the IRS "is a great privilege and in exchange for that privilege, all other groups must file a detailed report annually to the IRS and the public on how they spend donations."  Shouldn't churches enthusiastically do the same?

Also according to Bohon, churches continually flaunt IRS rules which prohibits churches, Christian groups and other tax-exempt organizations from imposing their presence into the election process.  When pastors or clergy support a candidate openly from the pulpit,  the IRS is supposed to yank their tax-exempt status.  This almost never occurs.

We at Table 54 feel it's time our government suspends these special tax-exempt privileges for churches and related religious groups and uses the money collected through the IRS to help bring down the National Dept.  This is long overdue.


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