Should Churches Pay Taxes?

Doug Rea, the pastor at Connections Albany, is one of the most genuine men I’ve ever met, in any walk of life – much less as a Christian and pastor. Considering the company I’ve kept over the years, that is truly one of the highest compliments I can give a person, and I mean every word of it.

Much like other pastors I’ve looked up to – such as Jeff Hill at Calvary Baptist in Ball Ground, Chris Altman and John Sullivan somewhere in northwest Georgia, and even Albany’s Tony Haefs of Gillionville Baptist – Doug has made me think about things in a way I really never had before, and I will be forever grateful for that.

Doug leads a church that is so organic and genuine that they don’t even like to use the word “church” to describe themselves due to the word’s abuse over the last couple of millenia. So much like Ted Dekker’s “Circle“, they call themselves simply a “Gathering”. They don’t have a “sanctuary” or even church offices – their entire building is one room, in the same building as Charlie B’s – which led to some interesting times with the Albany City Commission, which Tom wrote about back in April. (Hard to believe, but that post was actually among Tom’s first!)

Doug and Connections challenge traditional Christianity, and turn much of it on its head. I plan to interview him soon – more than likely AFTER Election Day – about these, but he condensed the basics down into a few twitter comments to me a couple of weeks ago, and given our recent discussions in other thread, I thought I would bring them out for discussion here:

These tweets specifically regard the tax exempt status of churches:

#1 – govt and church should not be in business together
#2 – obviously they are not using the tax code 2 benefit society -they’d never build those cathedrals if they had to pay taxes on em
#3 – it’d halt the tax benefits for “religious” organizations that are not US friendly

I’ve talked to him a bit about this already, and one key thing he said sticks with me: Churches, like many “charities”, spend the vast majority of the money they bring in on salaries, buildings, and basically “looking good”. Meanwhile we have people starving in the streets because the church MIGHT spend 10% of its total revenues on actually reaching out to people.

So I put the questions out to y’all:

1) Should churches pay taxes?
2) What would happen if a church was treated just like any other business?

8 Replies to “Should Churches Pay Taxes?”

  1. If they’d like a voice in politics, they should pay taxes.

    Otherwise, the church and the donor both gain advantage of representation without taxation. The donor gets the advantage of a tax deduction, and the church pays no tax on their “income.”

    And with the various PACS representing religious causes, who again don’t pay any taxes, it goes on and on.

  2. What about the churches that don’t spend 10% of their revenue to reach out? All churches, circles or gatherings aren’t alike, any more than all non-profit entities are alike. It’s enticing to look at mega-churches that seem to have no financial challenges and suggest taxation. However if they are lavishing the staff with salaries, those income taxes are not exempt. Different folks like different churches. One size doesn’t fit all. Large churches with a lot of money can sponsor mission projects, disaster relief, produce movies that no one else will produce, and outreach programs that smaller churches cannot accomplish. Smaller churches (like the one described in your article) tend to be less top heavy and many do not even have full-time staff.

    One is no more righteous than the the other. Many churches of all sizes are on mission, with dedicated staff and members. Many churches do benevolent things with their money that you will never know about. God’s guiding hand has been instrumental in forming and shaping this nation. Many of the problems we suffer today are the result of our nation turning its back on him. Why would we hobble, one of the mechanisms which has established and still contributes to this nation’s stability, reverence, benevolence, and tradition.

    Not all churches, as organizations, desire a voice in politics. But what document declares that someone who believes in God, is not entitled to an opinion on the direction of their country? If the majority of the membership harbors political leanings, should they be prohibited from talking among themselves until they leave the premises?

    One of the main reasons: I am against any new taxes. After 233 years of America, why do we need to get creative and tax churches all of a sudden? The government’s involvement in religion should be minimal. Taxation has morphed into a tool of control. It does not need to be applied to churches. We do not need politics and politicians controlling religion.

    Instead, we should be encouraging our country to embrace God. Teachers and children should not be forced to hide their beliefs when on school grounds. We should not be thinking of ways to dissuade churches. Heck, we ought to consider providing free utilities to attract churches, like we do to attract manufacturers. What community was ever worse off because it had too many churches?

    Taxing churches? What’s next? Taxing the Salvation Army, American Cancer Society, or the Lord’s Pantry out of existence?

  3. I’ve never been inside a black church, but I’d be willing to bet my last dollar that THEY preach politics.

  4. Intresting question, indeed. And one that warrants serious debate. But first, lets deal with issues which are far more imporant, and demand immediate attention. Such as, 1- Dealing with illegal immigrants who are bankrupting our country by draining our schools and health care system dry. Most are in cash businesses and pay no taxes at all. 2- Stop granting tax breaks to businesses that buy off our politicians for their companies personal gain. 3- And for our own state, lets abolish Georgias state capital gains tax. It would lead to growth and investment in our state which we badly need. So,before we start taxing churches, lets deal with the issues at hand , instead of attacking our religious institutions which are providing wortwhile services to communities throughout our great state.

  5. Generally, I don’t support taxing churches. But, I fully support taxing business activities run by churches and the part of its property that supports the money making effort.

    Although there are churches that appear questionable or even illegitimate, only God is qualified to sort out the “good ones”. So I will have to take a pass on validating “good”.

    However, there are non-profit charities that do need to be taxed because their contributions to society are dwarfed by their accumulated wealth.

    One of my favorite non-profit charities with religous values is Boy Scouts. Basically, scouting teaches boys how to be good men. No problem with Scouts at the troop level where volunteers do the work with money they raise. This is where the “good things” happen.

    But, although extremely wealthy, the BSA National Council, which espouses scouting values others are to follow, does not seem to see a need to share its money with those who operate the program at troop level.

    At the end of 2007, it had $678 million invested in stocks and bonds. And would you believe the Head Scout makes $4 million in salary and benefits? The accumulation of wealth at the expense of the boys and the unpaid leaders and volunteers is absolutely sickening!

    Want another great not-for-profit with a charity offshoot to look at? Try AARP for starters. A real puker.

    Although the above examples are not churches, most folks do not know charities with seemingly valid missions accumulate and retain great wealth

    And although churches,including the national components, complete non-profit paperwork, they don’t report on money. So, do we really know whether unnecessary wealth is being accumulated and not used for its intended purpose? Nope. If we did, we might support taxation.

  6. I would tax all churches that don’t give away 40% of their intake. I mean stockpiling money to build fancy building or have the latest and greatest technology doesn’t do it for me. If a church is really small under 250k-500k a year they could remain exempt.

  7. Not a bad approach, Vman.

    Like charities, churches should be expecteed to “give away”, or put to good use, a large percentage of their revenues over and above expenses. If not, why not tax them? Perhaps this would encourage more “good works” than we sometimes see.

Comments are closed.