1. Religion & Spirituality

Tax Exempt Churches: Religious Freedom vs Tax Exemptions

Should churches receive tax exemptions on their property? Should religious organizations be tax exempt in their businesses - even those which compete with for-profit companies? Should individuals receive tax deductions for expenses at private religious schools? It is important to understand what sorts of exemptions exist, why they exist, and how the various court cases have proceeded. The more you know, the better informed your judgment will be.

Religious Tax Exemptions: Overview of Current Laws
Tax laws are more complicated than the average person can readily understand; tossing into the mix various things tax-exempt organizations might or might not be allowed to do threatens to make the task of understanding superhuman in nature. In reality, however, the issue isn't all that complicated and the restrictions on what churches and religious organizations can do aren't hard to adhere to.

What are Religious Tax Exemptions for Churches?
To what extent, and even if, tax exemptions should be given to religious organizations and churches depends on why tax exemptions exist at all. If you think tax exemptions exist because charities provide public benefits, you may be suspicious of giving exemptions to churches. If you think tax exemptions exist because charitable organizations have no net income, then churches will should qualify.

Why Taxation of Religion Matters
Tax exemptions may not be the most common issue facing courts in arguments over the separation of church and state, it is one of the most fundamental. Initially it appears to be a form of government support for religions and religious activities; on the other hand, the power to tax is the power to restrict or destroy, so is exempting religions from taxation a means of ensuring their independence?

Do Churches Deserve Tax Exemptions?
Based upon court rulings on how tax exemptions for charitable groups work, we cannot be conclude that churches and religious organizations automatically deserve exemptions. Even if one believes that their religion and their church provide a necessary public service, it does not follow that all religions and churches necessarily provide a public service which merits support through tax exemptions.

Are Tax Exemptions a Church Subsidy?
One of the key arguments offered by those who oppose tax exemptions for churches and religious organizations is that tax exemptions constitute a type of subsidy for these groups. Subsidies for religious organizations are unconstitutional, however, because they represent a means by which churches are able to obtain public, taxpayer support for their religious goals.

Tax Exemptions vs. Church Political Activity
By not taxing churches, the government is prevented from directly interfering with how churches operate. By the same token, those churches are also prevented from directly interfering with how the government operates in that they cannot endorse any political candidates, they cannot campaign on behalf of any candidates, and they cannot attack any...

Church Tax Exemptions: No Political Campaigning
Not all churches and religious organizations have been content to live within the rules. Quite a few have attempted to evade the rules, either secretly or very openly, in order to allow churches and religious groups to participate actively in political campaigns even while retaining their charitable tax-exempt status.

Religious Tax Exemptions vs. Government Policies
Most people are aware that a church or religious organization can lose their tax exempt status for engaging in partisan political activity, like endorsing a political candidate. What many aren't aware of, though, is that the same can happen for promoting or engaging in things contrary to government policy. Tax exemption is a privilege, not a right.

Backlash Against Religious Tax Exemption Laws
It is a fact of law that charitable organizations, including churches, which have tax-exempt status are not allowed to participate in political campaigns on behalf of political candidates. A focus of current efforts is to make a direct change in how the laws read in order to ensure that churches can become fully active in political campaigns.

Tax Exemptions Available to Churches
America’s tax laws are designed to favor non-profit and charitable institutions which presumably benefit the community. Churches benefit the most from tax exemptions because they qualify for many of them automatically, whereas non-religious groups have to go through a more complicated application and approval process. Why?

Commercial Tax Exemptions for Church Businesses
Tax exemptions on church property used for specific worship purposes or religious work may be most easily defended because of the charitable and community work performed. Serious problems come into play, however, when church property is used for commercial purposes. To what extent should the business activities of a religious organization be tax exempt?

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