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Austin Cline

Catholic Church to Pay Property Taxes in Italy

By December 24, 2012

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Starting in 2013, the Catholic Church will have to start paying property taxes in Italy. This will put Italy into compliance with EU regulations that ban certain kinds of state aid to churches. Some in the Italian government oppose the change, but the change is welcomed by many Italians.

Vatican City
Vatican City
Photo: Getty

Until now, every piece of property owned by the Catholic Church has been exempt from all property taxes so long as even a little bit of it is used for non-commercial religious purposes. Thus the presence of a small chapel will make a hotel exempt from property taxes.

Last December, after new austerity measures were adopted in the country, 130,000 Italians signed an online petition urging the government to strip the Church of its tax exemption.

"It was time that they paid, too, with all the exemptions they've had throughout the years," Marco Catalano, a 35-year-old shopkeeper in Rome, told the New York Times in February, adding that he goes to church twice a month.

"They own the most beautiful buildings in downtown Rome, on Italian soil, and rent them out at market prices. They don't give them for free or at low prices for charity."

Source: NSS

It's understandable how the current economic problems have caused Italians to turn against this sort of tax exemption. It's way too easy to abuse, even if the Catholic Church were otherwise above reproach. It also makes it harder for everyone else to compete in any business that the Catholic Church decides to get involved with.

Comments
December 24, 2012 at 1:30 pm
(1) cag says:

So if a priest rapes an altar boy at the mall, does that turn the mall into an exempt property?

December 24, 2012 at 11:00 pm
(2) Deucalion says:

About time. These people used thier exempt status to build a fortune on non-donated money, why shouldnt the government take thier fair share?

December 25, 2012 at 9:49 pm
(3) Brian Iverson says:

How did you people do it? In the U.S. churches also pay no taxes, own hospitals where they are exempt from filing income tax reports, and are now trying to dictate what federal and state regulations they can ignore such as provision of contraceptive pills and devices, not performing abortions, determine end of life treatments based on religious beliefs, and so on. And Republican legislators and elected officials are running to be the 1st to aid the “freedom of religion” of religious organizations to only provide services according to their interpretation of the bible. St. Marys Trinity Health owns multiple hospitals in a number of states, including psychiatric hospitals. In some areas they are a monopoly. In the city of Muskegon in west Michigan St. Mary’s Trinity owns Hackley Hospital and Mercy Hospital. Residents and doctors have little choice but to follow St. Marys dictates. The Michigan Attorney General – elected Republican official – has filed suit to stop the “ObamaCare” legislation from infringing on the rights of St. Marys to not provide services required by the Obama legislation if they violate their religious beliefs. People are mow calling Michigan – Michissippi – referring to the poorest, lowest paying, least educated, & most polluted state of Mississippi. Moneyed politicians and religion are a deadly combination. Religious people are all excited that the U.S. could become a theocracy. A 1st step is to take away the churches free ride relating to taxes.

December 28, 2012 at 2:41 pm
(4) mia says:

Finally, some hope for humanity! Thank you, Italy!!

December 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm
(5) tmanger says:

Brian,

Look into the Secular Coalition for America (SCA). Their URL is http://www.secular.org. They just had a conference (Dec 12, 2012) discussing religious privileging in the U.S. tax code. You can listen to the replay here:

http://secular.org/event/secular-tax-policy-summit

You should also look into joining your local state chapter of the SCA. Each local chapter works on making sure new laws remain secular. There’s also a movement to correct laws that privilege religious organizations. You should see some movement in this area in 2013-2014. But, it will require folks like you and me to jump in and get involved.

There are plenty of people who would turn this country into a theocracy if only others would sit by the side and let them!

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December 28, 2012 at 5:06 pm
(6) tmanger says:

There are several organizations in the U.S. that are actively challenging religious privileging in the tax code. They are:

Freedom From Religion Foundation – Filed a suit this year regarding the Parson’s Exemption that allows “ministers of the gospel” to fully deduct any housing allowance provided to them. This exemption allows tax free income to pass from the organization to an individual working for that organization.

American Atheists – Just filed a suit (this month) to have all 501(c)(3) nonprofits treated the same. One of their targets is the exemption that makes it unnecessary for religious organizations to fill out IRS form 990 each year. This form requires disclosure of certain income information and is required of all other 501(c)(3) nonprofits – except for religious organizations. This information is then made public. So, with this one exemption, religious organizations are allowed to keep their finances private. But, all other nonprofits must make public disclosures.

Secular Coalition for America – Recently held a conference to correct religious privileging in the U.S. tax code. They are working with multiple organizations and individuals to create an overall strategy to eliminate religious privileging in the IRS tax code.

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