For a long time churches have been considered as tax-exempt religious organizations. They don't pay property taxes or, for example, income taxes. However, at present time the question whether churches should pay taxes or be tax-exempt has become an issue. Many people believe that churches should pay taxes as they function the same way just like other organizations. It should be also noted that despite the fact that churches do not aim at making money, many of them still receive donation money and revenue. Moreover, one shouldn't forget the fact that freedom of religion does not necessarily mean tax-exemption. Therefore, many people agree that churches should pay taxes.
First of all, it is important to mention that there are a lot of people who disagree with the fact that churches have the right not to pay taxes on property. Indeed, this privilege may bring a great number of problems. Thus, any kind of organization may proclaim itself a religious one in order to receive the desired property and not to pay taxes for it. Quite often the churches occupy large real estate and agricultural lands. Moreover, they stand to benefit from their services, such as roads or fire protection and pay nothing for it. At this rate, many agree that the religious community “is paying nothing and it is time they start contributing to their community, state, and Federal governments for the resources they consume” (Real Shared Sacrifice: It's Time For Churches To Pay Taxes). The fact that each church offers some services presupposes that it should pay property tax just like other businesses do. It is true that religious organizations have the guaranteed right to practice the religion. But it does not mean that they can make use of any property they want. That is why they should pay taxes. And if a church is not able to pay for the property it can freely chose the one that it can afford. It is also worth mentioning that the churches’s right to be tax-exempt greatly violates the fundamental principles of the free market. Thus, “allowing churches to buy as much land as they want, and hold it forever without paying taxes, stifles the ability of other people to make meaningful use of that property in the future and grants churches an unfair advantage when providing social services that compete with other businesses” (Lee).
It is also worth mentioning that church doesn’t have to pay income tax as well. This right is given to the church as it is considered to be a non-profit organization. Nevertheless, many churches still offer some services for which they receive revenue. In fact, many of them work practically the same way just like other businesses. Thus, churches “collect revenue in the form of fund raisers, revenue from merchandise sales and donations that are constant enough to be classified as revenue” (Top 10 Reasons Churches Should Not Be Tax Exempt). That is precisely why one cannot call churches purely non-profit organizations. Despite this knowledge, many people still claim that churches should be tax-exempt. Their main evidence lies in the fact that each church does a good work in its community. However, it seems that all these people forget that there are many other people, like teachers or nurses that also do good work. However, these people are not given any privileges and do have to pay their income taxes. Another reason why churches should pay income taxes lies in the fact that some churches and preachers may abuse their social status. Thus, there are many cases when preachers and church leaders enjoy a rather luxury and expensive lifestyle. Moreover, the privileged status of churches and their leaders leads to the appearance of fraudulent religions. It usually happens due to the fact that the government rarely investigates of how valid the organization is. It is possible to say that the main incentive of such organizations is to enjoy the benefits given to religious organizations and to derive revenue. Thus, these organizations overcharge their members, or, what is worse, they may ask their attendants to pay a great part of their income for the religion. It is clear that these fraudulent organizations have great power and constantly abuse it. Moreover, not only fraudulent organizations but some churches as well abuse their power. They deceive people and shelter themselves behind the religion’s authority. That is why it is important to adopt some measures in order to solve this problem. Thus, if the churches lose their status of being tax-exempt, it may result in the appearance of fewer fraudulent organizations and may at least partially solve this problem.
It should be also noted that the fact that churches have the status of being tax-exempt brings the situation when other people have to pay more. Thus, according to Lee, “the tax exemption given to churches harms the rest of us: because they do not pay taxes on the assets they own, all the rest of us must pay higher taxes to make up for that lost revenue” (Lee). Because government provides benefits for churches and loses a lot of money, its main task is to collect more taxes. It is usually ordinary citizens and organizations that have to pay more. Therefore, if the government wants to treat everyone equally it should make churches pay their taxes and not to make other people do it for them. Furthermore, the tax exemption given to churches negatively affects economics of the country as well. For example, “2011 statistics indicate that New York City loses close to 627 million dollars in property tax from religious institutions” (Top 10 Reasons Churches Should Not Be Tax Exempt). Therefore, it is possible to say that if the churches don’t pay taxes it may further result in economic slump.
Lee, A. (2006). Tax the Churches. Patheos. Retrieved from http: // www.patheos.com
Real Shared Sacrifice: It’s Time For Churches To Pay Taxes (2011). Politicus USA’s Archives. Retrieved from http: // www.politicususa.com
Top 10 Reasons Churches Should Not Be Tax Exempt (2014). ListLand. Retrieved from http: // www.listland.com