Should religious institutions be taxed? Why or why not?

  1. They should have the same rules as everything else. If they can prove they're charitable and not for profit, they should be exempt from tax. If they can't prove that, or they refuse to, they should be taxed.

  2. Note that secular nonprofits don't have to be charitable per se. You can have a nonprofit dedicated to spreading awareness or a nonprofit singing group or lecture circuit.

  3. Charities and non-profits are not necessarily the same thing. Legally, all charities are non-profit organizations. But not all non-profits organizations are charities.

  4. As a current pastors son, I agree. A lot of churches these days use their stage for personal profit. That's not why we do this and is completely against the Bible that they supposedly follow.

  5. Exactly. Whether an institution is "religious" or not shouldn't be even slightly relevant under the law. Everyone should play by the same rules.

  6. Such as these mega churches seen on TV. Send your "donation" and they will send you this lovely porcelain dove OR a little sealed bag of "holy water" with a promise to pray for you.🙄

  7. I think the simple solution is all business of any kind should be taxed, with provisions for people doing things that duplicate what taxes pay for to apply for breaks.

  8. All entities should be taxed. There should be no such thing as a nontaxed nonprofit. BUT, let them deduct charitable gifts, direct expenses of charitable activities, and reasonable wages related to charitable activities. Let's move the locus of the taxation decision from the entity to the activity

  9. If you have a church that has a food pantry, clothing closet, etc... that is great! But if you have a church that is only in it for the money then yes they should pay taxes just like everyone else.

  10. I like this because churches can do great things for their community but there's a lot of them that just rake in tax free cash and give lip service in return.

  11. Yeah, I don't care about the local church that's barely scraping by. But I've been to churches that own timpani sets (orchestral drums that cost thousands of dollars each). Your non-profit shouldn't be out-classing what we provide in public schools.

  12. My church used to be a part of a financial council/organization that included many churches. Essentially all it did was keep tabs of our finances and made it available to the public.

  13. I often forget that branch of Christianity exists. Wealthy preachers in Texas making millions and the church looks like a warehouse outside and a concert hall inside. My church is a little colonial building with a max capacity of like 100 lol

  14. I agree, with one clarification - that like other tax-free entities this should not extend to local taxes, and most importantly property tax, both real and personal property. They should pay for the services of the communities they're in, just as every other enterprise.

  15. Most of them already do this. Or I should say, every church I have been a member of, which spans both evangelical congregations as well as Catholicism. In my current parish, they hold an annual open meeting for anyone to attend in which they go through church spending for the past year in explicit detail. They advertise this meeting at the end of every mass for 2 months prior, and they hand out a summary of spending in the mass bulletin after the annual meeting.

  16. This. I have no problems with any non-profit being tax free as long as they can prove their worth to society and earn their privilege

  17. They also should not be able to push stuff like who to vote for and stuff like that. If they do immediately revoke the tax free status.

  18. My small run down church was closed but they opened a really nice new one near by. It's doubles as a community center because we hold lots of festivals around this time.

  19. It would be silly to have weekly lectures on morality, but without the ability to practically apply it.

  20. But then taxing them would then seem to be an invitation for churches to be political institutions and would incentivize political activism from religious organizations. So be careful what you wish for.

  21. Money making for whom? For the pastor? Well, he is paying tax on that income. For the staff? They are also paying taxes on it.

  22. Yeah, and to everyone thinking " but my church isn't a money making business", let's just make it a progressive tax.

  23. And this is precisely the problem. You make rules that differ based on congregation size, you will effectively have some religions being promoted over others. At least in the US, I don't see how it could be legally adopted, even with a liberal Supreme Court, much less the current conservative one. Meanwhile a flat tax would unfairly impact smaller congregations. The only fair option is no tax at all.

  24. As a former Jehovah’s Witness, it was so disheartening to find out how they hide their profits. They basically put it all into real-estate or send it over seas. They do very minimal for the community. They even took credit for food baskets that they spread to their own members during covid when in reality that food came from the federal government.

  25. Donations should not be taxed. Making money off of buying/selling land and property, selling merch / raising money from events etc. like you see in the mega churches should absolutely be taxed.

  26. That's a little disingenuous. The argument is over whether the everyday operations of a church—which, if you're religious, means connecting people with god and counselling them—qualifies as charity. If you're religious, of course you'd endorse that sentiment; if you're not, you wouldn't. And since people are not in agreement over whether god exists and his message is therefore important...

  27. Playing devils advocate….. people willingly give money to churches. But they also give willingly to other things such as The Red Cross or SPCA. Shouldn’t those be taxed too?

  28. The difference is where the money goes. Red Cross, SPCA, and actually the majority of churches act like charities should, giving to their community and not hoarding donations.

  29. You're not playing devil's advocate, you're willfully ignoring the conversation. Many churches are not legally living up to the burdens required to qualify for non-profit status. The Red Cross and the SPCA are the definition of transparency and very much do take pains to own their responsibility. There literally is no similarity between those organizations and how, let's be honest here, most churches operate in this slanted system.

  30. but that would be part of business expense, and are usually deducted from income anyway.... don't know how tax code work in European countries but if your expenses are higher than your income, then you are not taxed anyways...

  31. I think this is the main issue, if we have a true separation of church and state they should be exempt from taxes. However, as soon as they start to get political then they are not abiding by that separation.

  32. No, because while I stand against the type of hypocrisy religion breeds, I also stand by the fact that taxation is effectively armed robbery, and thus that the government should be treated as an armed robber in the home when they try to tax people.

  33. Yeah this question is karmabaiting lol. "People of reddit, would you support [something that is overwhelmingly supported on reddit]? Why or why not?" This type of question pops up almost daily here, and people upvote it because echochamber.

  34. As long as they stay out of politics and act as a church. As soon as they tell their members how to vote or endorse any political figure, they must be taxed.

  35. Yes, this. Doctrine is one thing, but when a church releases statements on how a proposed policy should be interpreted by its members (and therefore advising how to vote on it), I think it crosses a line. Especially since religion hinges on its followers upholding its teachings in order to receive eternal salvation. It’s like saying “vote for X or pray you have time to repent on your voting sin” or something. It’s like voting blackmail, only with your soul and whatnot.

  36. I had an argument with my brother-in-law about removing their tax exempt status if they’re caught politicking. He argued that the 1st amendment protects them - full stop. Nothing I said could convince him that the 1st amendment isn’t a shield for churches to do what they want without consequences. But he argued that as soon as you “go after” churches you’d be in violation.

  37. The reason is separation of church and state. To tax churches means that the government has a financial interest in keeping churches around and profitable. That would increase the amount of power churches have.

  38. I think it depends. Big commercial groups and mega churches? Hell yea. That small harmless rural place where elderly people gather? Maybe not. Am agnostic atheist, btw.

  39. I've worked in law for almost 3 decades and have created many non-profits, including religious organizations, community service entities, foundations and educational funds. I feel that any entity that utilizes more than 20% of its donations on overhead should be taxed.

  40. If they make profits, yes. If they don't make profits, no. They should be treated like any organization/business, if you are classified as a 501(c)(3) but make profits, you should have it revoked.

  41. Let them stay tax exempt if they use their money for what it's meant for, helping people. Spend a cent on politics, and tax them. Separation of church and state only works if they stay seperate.

  42. Why shouldn't they be taxed? What are they doing that gives them the right to avoid tax while the rest of us can't?

  43. My church spends an amazing amount on outreach. We also as a church have a bi annual meeting where we vote on raises for the top tier staff as well as vote on where we put a vast majority of our funding. They are incredibly open about all of it. If we were taxed, we wouldn’t be doing much outreach.

  44. No taxation without representation so if you tax them you'll need to take their opinions into consideration. They'll be donating to campaigns just like corporations and buying politicians.

  45. Yes. Why should religious activities be exempt from taxation? Most people say charity. I have no problem with charitable works being tax exempt. Let them claim their charitable works on their taxes, just like everyone else.

  46. Everybody, including religious institutions, should pay taxes for the government resources they consume. For example, people who own aircraft should pay to fund the FAA. Those who drive on public roads should pay to build and maintain those roads. Those who live in a given city should pay for the police in that city. Everybody should pay for defense.

  47. No, and a whole bunch of you are thinking about churches in the wrong way. Most churches are effectively cost-sharing arrangements. The church needs to pay for the building, pastor, supplies, staff, payroll taxes (which they pay), etc. The cost of all that is shared by the parishioners, who contribute money. If you build a surplus, you either increase your expenses (i.e. hire more staff), stash it away, or make charitable donations.

  48. “If churches paid taxes,” runs a popular claim on social media (hashtag #taxthechurches), “everyone would only have to pay 3 percent taxes.” Other claims put the forgone tax revenue haul at $76 billion or $85 billion, oddly specific figures conspicuously lacking a meaningful citation but likely stemming from an error-ridden calculation in Free Inquiry magazine. Whether spurred by a belief that government is improperly favoring religious institutions, an antipathy to wealthy celebrity pastors, or a hope that taxing houses of worship could bring down personal tax bills, the taxation of religious bodies is hotly debated online, but barely on the radar of actual elected officials.

  49. The mega-churches should be. Why? They buy land and don't pay property taxes, they build buildings and don't pay taxes. Small churches that are barely making it shouldn't be taxed, but I really doubt anyone that can afford that much land and those mega buildings could really be considered a charitable organization. Tax those rich mega-things that really aren't churches.

  50. How do you define a mega church? If you want to say that it’s by congregation size, than you’re effectively giving preference to one sect or religion over another, because Catholic Megachurches will be taxed while Ba’hai Temples won’t be. That creates a serious freedom of religion issue.

  51. I think that any money they send directly to other charitable institutions should be exempt from taxes but all other income should be taxed the same as small businesses. So if they give 100k to Doctors without Borders, that would be a tax deduction but money they give to another religious organization would be taxable.

  52. Eh this sets a weird precedent for possible religious discrimination. If the government doesn’t think your religious group is worthy, they can punish you with taxes.

  53. No. While I loathe the mega-churches drowning in money as people sit destitute outside their doors, it’s simply too easy for government to abuse.

  54. What is fundamental about certain organizations not having to pay taxes everyone else pays? No one is suggesting that religious institutions be forced to close. Just pay your own club fees.

  55. Yes. I can’t believe they are tax free just for believing in a sky fairy creationism. Should be taxed double for stupidity.

  56. Hell yes they should. Any religion that tries to influence Politics and remove abortion rights like the CATHOLIC CHURCH has, they should undoubtedly be taxed!

  57. The JW Jehovahs Witnesses should be taxed because they don’t do any charity at all, never and ever they help anybody, they are so rich and only take advantage of the followers

  58. 100%. They’re basically businesses and most are now breaking rules by endorsing political parties and candidates. Of course they’re mostly lying, cheating conservatives.

  59. Yes. All monies except those they actually dole out to charitable functions should be taxed, just like any other entity.

  60. “Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.”

  61. They should get tax deductions for costs associated with doing charitable work. Hoarding wealth, political lobbying, discriminating against gay people, interfering with women’s rights, performing fairy tales for a congregation, and child-rape do not count as charitable activities.

  62. Absolutely. If they want to prove they're spending income on actual charitable efforts, they can submit receipts and claim deductions, but to just not tax these multi-million/billion institutions is ridiculous.

  63. The Vatican pulls in billions of dollars a year and they have all this money for fancy attire, gold ornaments and jewelry, etc. yet there are still homeless people in abundance, people starving, people with nothing because of natural disasters, all these things that could be alleviated if that money was put in better places. Same thing with big colleges, they buy up houses and property that are only accessible to students and when all these natives have nowhere to go they’re seeing a huge increase in rent and traffic and all the little nuances that come with people out of state attending.

  64. They have income and the US is not a theocracy. Fck double standards, and fck corporations. Religious corporations are the largest land/real estate holders in the world.

  65. Of course they should. They’re a business like any other. It’s like Disney making money off of comic books. Or WB making money off of Harry Potter. Just another fictional fairy tale.

  66. For their objectively charitable works, no. For their self promoting and political works, absofuckinglutely

  67. Yes, Christians especially because the Bible even says [Give unto Caesar what is Caesar's] Not sure of the exact verbiage or scripture but it's basically saying pay your taxes! 😁

  68. All income should be taxed. Doesn't matter if you are a stock broker, carpenter, paperboy, person or a cult. Some people call cults religions.

  69. No, and not for the reasons outlined by other commenters. Religious institutions shouldn’t be taxed at least in the USA because the constitution denies the US government from involvement in religion. Taxing them would provide avenues for suppression, in the form of taking money from religions (or even different branches of a particular one) they don’t like via “creative construction” of rules that favor some over others. We can already see examples of this sort of thing like the criminalization of recreational drugs, which at face value seems like it would apply equally to everybody but in practice disproportionally targets minorities and puts them in jail for an activity that doesn’t warrant it.

  70. It seems to me the opposite is true. Religious institutions are exempt from a lot of the laws the rest of us have to follow. I don't have the ability to refuse to hire a religious person for my business, but a religious institution can refuse to hire anyone it says is against its religion, it can avoid offering benefits other organizations are required to offer, etc. Religion has special status in the U.S. and much of the world that makes little sense in the 21st century.

  71. Yes. Iirc the catholic church got like a billion tax payer dollars during covid. They want to get help from our taxes than they should pay them as well.

  72. No. They are there to serve their community. If someone is mishandling fund, they themselves should be held accountable.

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