Paul L. Caron

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Tax Court Disallows Evangelist's Charitable Deduction For $40,000 Of Claimed Ministry Expenses

Tax Court (2017)Don't Mess With Taxes, Evangelist's Almost $40,000 in Deductions Disallowed as Personal Expenses, Not Charitable Gifts:

Robert A. Oliveri, a self-described devout Catholic, spent almost $40,000 in 2012 traveling across the country conducting evangelical activities. The money went toward meals and gifts to strangers and acquaintances to further his religious outreach. ... Oliveri claimed myriad expenses totaling $39,979 as charitable contributions. ... [W]hen he tried to deduct those expenses from his federal income taxes, the IRS said no.

Last week, ... Tax Court Judge [Colvin] agreed with the tax agency, ruling that Oliveri's expenses didn't count as tax deductible charitable contributions and denied almost all those deductions [Oliveri v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2019-57 (May 28, 2019)]. ...

Oliveri argued that the charitable deductions were part of his ministry and evangelizing. In the court's findings of fact section, it states:

[Oliveri] seeks to spread the teachings of the Catholic Church through random interactions with members of the general public. He considers all of his contact with members of the public to be opportunities for evangelism. He wears a large and visible crucifix at all times which identifies his religious affiliation and commitment to evangelism. [Oliveri] evangelizes people he happens to see when he engages in otherwise personal activities, such as when he eats in restaurants, travels, and pilots private planes. He usually does not know in advance whom he will evangelize. [Oliveri] evangelizes and discusses his faith with friends, members of his extended family, and members of the religious organization that he founded, … and the Catholic Church.

Such continual proselytizing in all aspects of his daily life, argued Oliveri, justified the deductibility of the gifts. ...

"Petitioner [Oliveri] cites no authority for this sweeping proposition," Colvin added. "At a minimum, we can easily conclude that there is no exception to section 170(f)(8)(A) for self-created organizations."

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