TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, August 23, 2013

Taxing Churches

ChurchSlate:  We Should Be Taxing Churches, by Matthew Yglesias:

Amelia Thomson-Deveaux has a great piece about religious groups that are trying to remove restrictions on church-based electioneering. She suggests that rather than gutting the rules, there's a simple fix, "Religious leaders who want the liberty to endorse candidates can give up their churches’ tax deduction."

I would go one further. Let's tax churches! All of them, in a non-discriminatory way that doesn't consider faith or creed or level of political engagement. There's simply no good reason to be giving large tax subsidies to the Church of Scientology or the Diocese of San Diego or Temple Rodef Shalom in Virginia or the John Wesley African Methodist Episcopal Zion church around the corner from me. Whichever faith you think is the one true faith, it's undeniable that the majority of this church-spending is going to support false doctrines. Under the circumstances, tax subsidies for religion are highly inefficient.

(Hat Tip: Ann Murphy.)

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I know the spelling isn't correct but I am nonetheless amused by the name of the author of an article about churches.

Posted by: Dave Munnell | Aug 23, 2013 5:03:13 AM

"it's undeniable that the majority of this church-spending is going to support false doctrines" -- if supporting false doctrines leads to removal of tax-exemption, who will evaluate the doctrines of ALL tax-exempt entities (and under whose standards?) to determine their truth or falsity?

Posted by: dan | Aug 23, 2013 5:03:19 AM

The middle ground might be to require a 990 every year. These mega churches are a black box.

Seriously though, the easiest way for a not-for-profit to not pay any tax is to . . . not earn a profit. The real killer would be the lack of a Section 170 deduction for wealthier donors.

Posted by: HTA | Aug 23, 2013 7:32:51 AM

I'd go one further and say we need to revisit the whole 501(c)3) form.

Posted by: michael livingston | Aug 23, 2013 10:01:47 AM