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View Diary: Will We Ever See 'Political' Churches Pay Taxes? (Revised) (240 comments)

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  •  Property!! (16+ / 0-)

    And taxes on ministers salary (would not be able to shelter anything behind housing) and if they are no longer classed as a church or a charity, it might change applying for federal funds ... like all the "counseling centers" etc.

    Not sure how much true believers would even think of tax deductions.  Many don't take them for theological reasons, most don't take them because they don't make any difference in their taxes.

    "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night." Greg Martin, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida

    by CorinaR on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 04:03:51 AM PDT

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    •  Employees!! (13+ / 0-)

      Yes, ministers are allowed (along with retired career military; an odd combination) to exclude housing allowance dollars from INCOME tax. (Still subject to FICA and various state taxes.)
      The amount has to be designated IN ADVANCE each year. Go over the designated amount? Too bad. You are on the hook for all of it as ordinary income.
      OTOH are you a parsimonious parson for the year? Too bad. Any income NOT used for designated housing expenses is once again ordinary income.

      OTOH, what about that FICA tax?
      Lay folk know how it goes. You look at your paystub, and if you do the math, you'll find 7.65% of gross pay has been withheld for FICA. Most of this goes to fund your future Social Security (actually to pay out this month to someone complaining about the government full time in Sunburn Beach, FL) while the rest goes to fund Medicare.
      7.65%...which is matched penny for penny by your employER, or another 7.65%. This is up to the infamous income cap of around $113,000, at which point both you and your employER top out at 113K x 7.65% x2 and ignore all the following (millions of) dollars.

      7.65%...UNLESS you are "self-employed"! You work for yourself selling Betamax tapes out of your basement ("complete with synchronized 8-track soundtrack! Order before midnight tonight! Operators (well, you and the cat) are standing by!!"). If so you pay BOTH ENDS of the FICA tax: 7.65% as an employEE, and another 7.65% as an employER.

      What most layfolk do not realize is that the IRS ruled DECADES ago that clergy may NOT be considered employees. Take a call right out of seminary and work 45 years in the same parish at the corner of Elm and 3rd: it doesn't matter. By IRS rule you are considered SELF-employed, so you pay both ends of the FICA tax: 15.30%. Joyce the secretary (who actually keeps the parish running like a Swiss watch), who started the same week you did, and works there the next 45 years like you do? She is an employEE, and only owes the 7.65% while the congregation covers the rest. But by rule the congregation is NOT ALLOWED to treat clergy as employee.

      So, there is a "housing allowance" break for clergy...that mostly pays for the 15.3% FICA hit. In my career it was fairly close to a wash overall, depending on the year.

      So if the 'housing allowance' exemption for clergy goes, I wouldn't mind....if my employER would be allowed to pay their half of FICA (just like millions of employers across the nation do already.)  

      Shalom.

      "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

      by WineRev on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 04:45:39 AM PDT

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      •  the SE tax should be a wash in and of itself. (8+ / 0-)

        if you were an employee, the church would reduce your pay by the amount of their FICA contribution.  ie, your net after tax salary is the same whether you pay it or the church does.

      •  THIS and you did it better than I would have (5+ / 0-)

        but since I live in an expensive area, if my housing allowance goes, my taxes will go up by much more than the cost of the church covering half of my FICA.

        and we would basically have to close if we had to pay property taxes on out building.  We are located in an area that was inexpensive in 1908 and is prime real estate now.

        They would put a high rise condominium or office building on our site in a heartbeat.  And I doubt the new residents would feed 100 people a hot dinner every Wednesday.

        Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
        Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

        by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 10:05:04 AM PDT

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        •  Very good! (4+ / 0-)

          And excellent point about the property taxes on church buildings.
          Does ANYONE think imposing property taxes on, say, Central Lutheran in downtown Minneapolis, will IMPROVE the area? What you describe is exactly correct: the church would close and some Goldman Sachs/Bain Capital bastard fund would swoop in, blow up the building (not even hand-demolish to rescue the architectural bits) and put up 62 stories of Bland Moderne.
               They will have arranged (paid for) a "tax abatement" for their "work", and then will turn the building over to a rent collection shell corporation that spends its existence a) hounding the tenants while b) coming up with new and better ways to skimp on maintenance.
                Meanwhile, the Free Store will have disappeared. The meals and sheltering will be gone. The Free Clothing Closet (since 1964) will be gone, and more of the homeless of the Twin Cities will freeze to death. And NO, the increased property taxes will NOT feed them, clothe them or shelter them....

          There are times when the knee-jerk, anti-religious mania around this site is kind of hard to take. Yes, there are many things religious bodies have done wrong and must answer for. But to declare unilaterally that THEREFORE, since bad things have been done in the name of religion, ALL religion is thereby evil and deserves to be eliminated, seems to be falling off Luther's horse on the other side for sure. (And they can go look that up....)

          Shalom.
               

          "God has given wine to gladden the hearts of people." Psalm 104:15

          by WineRev on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 01:05:18 PM PDT

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          •  lots of folks here have been hurt by church (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Villanova Rhodes

            and hurt people hurt people.

            so i try to give them the benefit of the doubt and sometimes a wide berth.

            I try to speak to the people in the middle rather than engage with the hardcore.

            and there are lots of seriously hardcore anti-religious people on this blog.

            Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D.
            Drop by The Grieving Room on Monday nights for support in dealing with grief.

            by TrueBlueMajority on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 02:16:24 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  That was my question below. (11+ / 0-)

      Do they at least pay property taxes?  Because the Baptist Mega Churches around here are like Starbucks, they're everywhere.  Just in my 'hood, they are 4 within a few miles of each other.  All on pristine, costly land.

      Land that could be better used for the community.  I'd wish they tear one down in particular and make it a community park/commons.

      My neighbor is the Preacher for one.  His house is FREE... and it's a nice one.  He drives 5 cars.  One is a Mercedes.

      "Love One Another" ~ George Harrison

      by Damnit Janet on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 05:51:34 AM PDT

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      •  It is abused (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Damnit Janet

        At one time, the church was the biggest meeting place around and the community used it as a sort of town hall for general meetings, etc. so it seemed fair to balance things out.  Now many of the mega churches are like gated communities and/or country clubs.

        The other thing that happens when you lose your church/charity designation is you no longer qualify to be exempt from sales taxes.

        I think the result would be more on the local tax level but it would certainly put a dent in a church budget.

        "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night." Greg Martin, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida

        by CorinaR on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 07:41:43 AM PDT

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      •  I seem to remember talking to someone in NY (6+ / 0-)

        evidently the Mormon Church owns a ton of land and pays no property taxes, which can have a big impact on small cities or towns in particular. And this land is not only where a church is, but all sorts of property and private homes.

        Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

        by kimoconnor on Mon Aug 26, 2013 at 09:01:00 AM PDT

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