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Should Orthodox Churches Seek Tax Exempt Status?

Gebre Menfes Kidus

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(If this belongs in politics, feel free to move it there.)

We complain about the government dictating what we can teach, preach, and practice. But shouldn't we strive to be as free as possible from such governmental regulations and control? Why should our Orthodox Churches seek tax exempt status? Don't we have enough resources amongst ourselves to provide for the needs of the Church without relying on the government in any way? I say "render unto Caesar" and then be free to preach, teach, and practice the Faith without governmental stipulations. Obviously, there will always be some measure of conflict between the government and the Church; but by reliquishing our tax exempt status we will at least be free to preach, teach, and practice our Faith within the walls of our own Churches without the government restricting our speech.

What say ye?


Selam

 

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What essential Christian teaching can only be made by relinquishing the tax-exempt status? I can't think of one. Some though would like to be able to endorse candidates from the pulpit.
 

admiralnick

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If a church decides to not be tax exempt, they would be subjected to the laws of the Internal Revenue Code as they relate to corporations. Under those rules, churches would be required to pay 35% of their donations received to the government to cover corporate taxes. In addition, any fundraisers undertaken by the church would be taxed at the 35% rate. Purchases by the church would be subjected to Sales and Use Tax in the state they are located in addition to state tax if applicable. All told you could end up with a church paying nearly 50% of their "income" to the federal or state governments.

This is why churches seek tax exemption and why the IRS has made it relatively easy for a church to obtain it. It should also be noted that in most cases a Diocese or National Church obtains tax exemptions for all of their child parishes rather than each parish obtaining it on their own.

-Nick
 

BTRAKAS

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How has the American government attempted to restrict the free speech of religious institutions?

What stipulations has government imposed upon religious institutions?

I've felt an obligation to the local government to which my church does not pay property tax?  I've supported allowing the Board of Elections to use our facilities as a Poll Location, but others on the Parish Council wouldn't agree because we rent our church school to a local pre-school and they felt it too dangerous to expose the children to the public.  But I've succeeded in allowing the city to use our back property for a soccer field at a token cost and in exchange for their mowing of the lawn in the area they use for the city's young people to play soccer.
 

genesisone

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Closely related to this is the concept of allowing charitable donations to be used as deductions in the calculation of income tax. Just this past Sunday I was involved in discussion with a parishioner who was unaware that a $1000 donation to the church (or other charity for that matter) would add about $400 to his income tax refund. (At least that's the rule of thumb for how it works out here in Canada.) He seemed impressed that this would give him an extra $400 to donate to the church.
 

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The government limits on speech for nonprofits are actually rather low. Most people don't want to hear churches endorsing specific candidates anyway.

There's no restriction on teaching us principles and the Orthodox view of contemporary issues, so I don't have any concerns at this time about government entanglements.

If the rules ever change to restrict nonprofits' ability to teach what they want, there will be tons of lawsuits and it won't go anywhere. But if it somehow did, then yes, we should then reevaluate things. I don't think that's likely to happen, despite increasing secularity and cultural hostility towards Christians.
 

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I say take the benefit afforded to us and preach the gospel without limitation.  If the government takes that benefit away at some point for certain reasons, continue to preach the gospel without limitation.
 

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The only way a church should pay taxes, IMO, is if they are actively and publicly being political. If a church is just having liturgy, minding its own business, and helping others like they should be, then they should be tax exempt. I dont think Churches should ever endorse candidates from the pulpit.  Wayyy too divisive.

As other have mentioned, I dont see how the govt has bullied the Church due to its tax exepmt status. There may be something I dont know about, but ive never heard of anything.
 

Gebre Menfes Kidus

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KBN1 said:
I say take the benefit afforded to us and preach the gospel without limitation.  If the government takes that benefit away at some point for certain reasons, continue to preach the gospel without limitation.
Amen. Well said. I think this sums it up well.



Selam
 

podkarpatska

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admiralnick said:
If a church decides to not be tax exempt, they would be subjected to the laws of the Internal Revenue Code as they relate to corporations. Under those rules, churches would be required to pay 35% of their donations received to the government to cover corporate taxes. In addition, any fundraisers undertaken by the church would be taxed at the 35% rate. Purchases by the church would be subjected to Sales and Use Tax in the state they are located in addition to state tax if applicable. All told you could end up with a church paying nearly 50% of their "income" to the federal or state governments.

This is why churches seek tax exemption and why the IRS has made it relatively easy for a church to obtain it. It should also be noted that in most cases a Diocese or National Church obtains tax exemptions for all of their child parishes rather than each parish obtaining it on their own.

-Nick
Quite true - then you really are paying for items you find contrary to Christian teaching ranging from abortion services to excessive militarism. You can't have it both ways so be practical and take the tax exemption. If your teachings are true and consistent then there is no need for the Church to tell you how to vote.
 

HabteSelassie

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Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

admiralnick said:
If a church decides to not be tax exempt, they would be subjected to the laws of the Internal Revenue Code as they relate to corporations. Under those rules, churches would be required to pay 35% of their donations received to the government to cover corporate taxes. In addition, any fundraisers undertaken by the church would be taxed at the 35% rate. Purchases by the church would be subjected to Sales and Use Tax in the state they are located in addition to state tax if applicable. All told you could end up with a church paying nearly 50% of their "income" to the federal or state governments.

This is why churches seek tax exemption and why the IRS has made it relatively easy for a church to obtain it. It should also be noted that in most cases a Diocese or National Church obtains tax exemptions for all of their child parishes rather than each parish obtaining it on their own.

-Nick


Makes sense.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
 

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On a related note, "Pulpit Freedom Sunday" was a farce.
 

JamesR

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How has government 'restricted' or made its way into our worship? If this is about the election, I am not so sure I agree with you that the government is prohibiting us from speaking about it. Protestant/Evangelical Churches bring up politics all the time in their Churches and try to sway people to vote right-wing and even protest politics they do not like. Protestants have pushed their tax exempt status way over the line but the government does not stop them.
 

yeshuaisiam

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501c3 in America makes the institution a corporation.
Corporations are considered "people" under the law with full rights. 

So, I don't know if that has any theological implications or not, but it is kind of strange.
I don't know about other countries though.
 

admiralnick

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HabteSelassie said:
Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

admiralnick said:
If a church decides to not be tax exempt, they would be subjected to the laws of the Internal Revenue Code as they relate to corporations. Under those rules, churches would be required to pay 35% of their donations received to the government to cover corporate taxes. In addition, any fundraisers undertaken by the church would be taxed at the 35% rate. Purchases by the church would be subjected to Sales and Use Tax in the state they are located in addition to state tax if applicable. All told you could end up with a church paying nearly 50% of their "income" to the federal or state governments.

This is why churches seek tax exemption and why the IRS has made it relatively easy for a church to obtain it. It should also be noted that in most cases a Diocese or National Church obtains tax exemptions for all of their child parishes rather than each parish obtaining it on their own.

-Nick


Makes sense.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
There seriously needs to be a "like" button for this post.

-Nick
 

admiralnick

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yeshuaisiam said:
501c3 in America makes the institution a corporation.
Corporations are considered "people" under the law with full rights.   

So, I don't know if that has any theological implications or not, but it is kind of strange.
I don't know about other countries though.
Umm, it depends on how you define corporation.....

In the annals of tax law, that is true and false. Since all entities are covered under section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code, they are all corporations for purposes of the Internal Revenue Code. However, since Religious institutions fall under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, they are defined as

"Religious, Educational, Charitable, Scientific, Literary, Testing for Public Safety, to Foster National or International Amateur Sports Competition, or Prevention of Cruelty to Children or Animals Organizations" -Notes from my class on Non-Profit Taxation

Note that at no time is the term corporation used in the heading. Therefore, 501(c)(3) organizations are more correctly referred to as entities for tax purposes including exemption.

-Nick
 
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