Saturday, September 15, 2012
Washington Post, Financially Troubled Parts of Europe Consider Taxing Church Properties:
Cash-strapped officials in Europe are looking for a way to ease their financial burden by upending centuries of tradition and seeking to tap one of the last untouched sources of wealth: the Catholic Church.
Thousands of public officials who have seen the financial crisis hit their budgets are chipping away at the various tax breaks and privileges the church has enjoyed for centuries. ...
Once an untouchable institution in some parts of Europe, the Catholic Church has come under fire for its government subsidies at a time when the continent’s economies are faltering and the population is subject to painful cuts in jobs, benefits and pensions.
Political groups have seized on the crisis as an opportunity to open up a larger debate about whether it is time to unwind some of the deals struck generations ago between church and state in predominantly Catholic countries in Europe. ...
The issue of church tax payments has been simmering for several years. In 2010, European Union regulators launched an investigation into the Catholic Church and the taxes it pays in various countries. The E.U.’s competition czar, Joaquin Almunia, has said the tax breaks could be considered state aid and illegally distort competition in the market. But the issue wasn’t at the forefront of the debate until earlier this year when Monti, the Italian prime minister, called for assessing taxes on church properties.
(Hat Tip: Bob Kamman.)