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Thread: Should religions be taxed?

  1. #1

    Default Should religions be taxed?

    Interesting:



    How Long Before We Start Taxing Churches?

    By DANNY TYREE

    April 20, 2016


    Citing "sin taxes" on alcohol and tobacco, the enlightened Maher strongly suggested a tax on Sunday school, which allegedly harms kids by making them stupid. Sunday school has only sharpened my son Gideon's reasoning abilities; but just for the sake of argument, let's concede Maher's point and double down on the stupidity by installing a "boob tube" in every Sunday school class. ("Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every gem that proceedeth out of the mouth of Celebrities.")

    ...
    I think the majority of atheists, agnostics and lapsed worshippers are tolerant people willing to view religion with bemusement. They see the value of soup kitchens, homeless shelters and moral teachings and balk at killing the goose that laid the golden egg. But the embittered rabble rousers are basically a bunch of Mr. Potters from "It's A Wonderful Life." When it comes to tax collections, it's like Jimmy Stewart said: "You're talking about something you can't get your fingers on, and it's galling you."

    Churches are vilified for being "subsidized" in the perpetuation of "myths". Let's levy a big tax on people who perpetuate myths such as "Throwing money at poverty cures it."


    http://www.sitnews.us/DannyTyree/042016_tyree.html

    Here's an article loaded with rationalizations for taxing religion:


    The God Business:
    Questioning Tax Exemptions

    Let's look at the city of Vancouver. The majority of people who live here are hard-working, middle-income citizens, who struggle to keep some earnings for recreation after all necessities are paid. Is it really fair to ask these people to subsidize major land holders in their community, particularly when these land holders represent big business firms which are considerably more wealthy than the taxpayers who now support them.

    After researching church property assessment figures for our Greater Vancouver, B.C. area which includes the city and 11 surrounding municipalities with a population of about 1.3 million, the loss of revenue to the communities becomes apparent. The tax exempt assessed value of churches in the 12 areas totals $854,738,500! The average residential mill rate for the group is 7.309. This represents foregone tax revenue of $6,247,280. If we do rough calculations to include the whole country we conclude that the religious loopholers are getting away without paying taxes of about $160,000,000 in Canada. We wonder why cash- starved local governments don't jump at the chance to ask the churches to participate in the community instead of riding free.

    ...


    http://www.islandnet.com/~luree/churchta.htm
    Last edited by KC; 21-04-2016 at 10:10 AM.

  2. #2

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    As much as I am tempted to say "yes", the fact that churches don't pay taxes means that the rest of society doesn't have to take their stone-age beliefs seriously.

    If churches paid taxes, they would gain political power and credibility, which I am completely against.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MrOilers View Post
    As much as I am tempted to say "yes", the fact that churches don't pay taxes means that the rest of society doesn't have to take their stone-age beliefs seriously.

    If churches paid taxes, they would gain political power and credibility, which I am completely against.
    we should absolutely be taxing churches.

    not only is not collecting those property taxes a subsidy, that subsidy is realized more than once. when those churches sell their properties, they are netting the full value of the land as commercial or residential land without having to reimburse the city for the forgone property tax revenue the city did without while still providing full municipal services in terms of storm and sanitary drainage and water and power and sidewalks and roads and transit service....

    it's the current situation that is the result of/continues the exercise of political power and credibility (seen also in the dual school board situation etc.), not the elimination of some of those things.
    Last edited by kcantor; 21-04-2016 at 12:07 PM.
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    It seems a bit odd that there is a property tax exemption. I guess a church is seen to be a like a park, so I can sort of understand that. But what about their other properties? What's the logic there? Do charities get a property tax exemption as well? If they do, I guess its fair a church is the same. If they don't, its inconsistent. Not sure what politician would touch this though (do you really want to go to war with religion?).

  5. #5

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    Do charities get a property tax exemption as well?
    Can't say as to anywhere else...but here.

    Some do/some don't...the exception, typically, has to be applied for annually and not all are accepted as there are qualifiers.

    IIRC

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    The Sunday School tax is silly however the base premiss that churches and clergy should not be tax exempt I agree with.

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    1. Religion is not a thing that could be taxed. Religions groups are, as is their property.

    2. Taxpaying status is not what confers credibility, despite the efforts of some to create that impression.

    3. I think Moa`s probably right, that churches were originally not taxed because they were considered an amenity. They still are, to a degree, but I have to agree that they should not be considered any differently than any other non-profit association. Churches are no more and no less deserving of tax-free status for their facilities than masons or rotary or ethnic clubs or sports ones. Churches should be treated in the same way those groups are.

    Ken, I don`t think that`s a double subsidy from the city, but it could be from the senior governments. It is, at best, a second opportunity to remove the subsidy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    The Sunday School tax is silly however the base premiss that churches and clergy should not be tax exempt I agree with.
    Clergy are not tax exempt, as far as I know, although I think they do get some deductions that many of us can`t get.

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    Quote Originally Posted by highlander View Post
    1. Religion is not a thing that could be taxed. Religions groups are, as is their property.

    2. Taxpaying status is not what confers credibility, despite the efforts of some to create that impression.

    3. I think Moa`s probably right, that churches were originally not taxed because they were considered an amenity. They still are, to a degree, but I have to agree that they should not be considered any differently than any other non-profit association. Churches are no more and no less deserving of tax-free status for their facilities than masons or rotary or ethnic clubs or sports ones. Churches should be treated in the same way those groups are.

    Ken, I don`t think that`s a double subsidy from the city, but it could be from the senior governments. It is, at best, a second opportunity to remove the subsidy.
    it's a "second subsidy" in the sense that it is first owned and operated "property tax free", sometimes for decades or longer, as a church. that's the first subsidy.

    after the church determines it is surplus to church needs - often as a result of moving to a new, larger property tax free site - it is sold seldom as a church but typically at full current market value for commercial or residential development and that appreciation in value is also kept by the church, not returned to the city which actually funded (directly and indirectly) that increase in value. retaining that lift on top of the previous property tax abatements is the second subsidy.
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    While the details vary by jurisdiction churches were not originally taxed as they were part of the State and/or traded authority to the State for special status. Tax status of clergy varies as well but it is common for them to receive a number of tax benefits specific to being clergy.

    My opinion is religions (encompassing members and organizations) should receive no special tax status. The simplest argument for this is the State should not be in the business of determining what is a religion and what is not. The issues that can arise from that are most evident in the U.S. where abuse of religious status is rampant.

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    ^^The city did not fund that increase in value any more than it did the increase in value on every home and business in the city. The city does not collect a capital gains tax on them, either.

    Until the city moves (back) to a land-value property tax, essentially taxing only the value created by the city (not City) collectively, rather than taxing property primarily based on the value of the specific property`s improvements it`s hard to justify any argument that the City "allowing" a property owner to keep the value of their property at sale can be considered a subsidy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    While the details vary by jurisdiction churches were not originally taxed as they were part of the State and/or traded authority to the State for special status. Tax status of clergy varies as well but it is common for them to receive a number of tax benefits specific to being clergy.

    My opinion is religions (encompassing members and organizations) should receive no special tax status. The simplest argument for this is the State should not be in the business of determining what is a religion and what is not. The issues that can arise from that are most evident in the U.S. where abuse of religious status is rampant.

    Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Televangelists (HBO)
    The whole existence of scientology as a religion is a decent argument that there are issues with the status quo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by highlander View Post
    The whole existence of scientology as a religion is a decent argument that there are issues with the status quo.
    L. Ron Hubbard said it best himself: http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/5478...on-if-you-want

    “You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.”
    Obviously, I am completely in agreement that tax exemption for religious organizations should be ended and the separate school boards should be folded in to the public ones.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by highlander View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    While the details vary by jurisdiction churches were not originally taxed as they were part of the State and/or traded authority to the State for special status. Tax status of clergy varies as well but it is common for them to receive a number of tax benefits specific to being clergy.

    My opinion is religions (encompassing members and organizations) should receive no special tax status. The simplest argument for this is the State should not be in the business of determining what is a religion and what is not. The issues that can arise from that are most evident in the U.S. where abuse of religious status is rampant.

    Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Televangelists (HBO)
    The whole existence of scientology as a religion is a decent argument that there are issues with the status quo.
    It's a bit like not legalizing drugs and so not collecting taxes on them. In the end society risks creating extremely wealthy self-serving, self-perpetuating fiefdoms (Drug Lords, Religious leaders etc.) that one way or another can hold unaccountable, un-legislated power, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by highlander View Post
    ^^The city did not fund that increase in value any more than it did the increase in value on every home and business in the city. The city does not collect a capital gains tax on them, either.

    Until the city moves (back) to a land-value property tax, essentially taxing only the value created by the city (not City) collectively, rather than taxing property primarily based on the value of the specific property`s improvements it`s hard to justify any argument that the City "allowing" a property owner to keep the value of their property at sale can be considered a subsidy.
    if you have a home and pay property taxes and sell it as a home, you are correct. there is no subsidy on not taxing the capital gain. and if you invest in changing the zoning, that is done at your cost and you incur the increased taxation that comes with that.

    but if you occupy that home and were exempted from paying property taxes and then ultimately sell it for a non-exempt higher density residential or commercial use because the zoning - put in place by the city, not secured by you - not for the continuation of the exempt use, that's not the same thing. you would remain exempt - and so would a purchaser - maintaining the same use but the sale at market value, particularly without having to repay the exempted taxes, is a second subsidy.
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    I think way back in the day when there were no social networks (welfare, E.I., disability payments, food banks) etc. churches filled in the gap to help a lot of people get over hard times. People running into hard times relied on charitable donations as there were no government programs. Religious groups collected money to build hospitals, homeless shelters etc. Governments probably gave them tax exemptions as it took the heat of them. Then there could be a part of it that if governments did not collect taxes it's one way of separating church from state, as in monies coming from religions could not be perceived as influencing governments of the day. Fast forward to present times western churches need to supply less and less relief to the masses as we now have a more welfare state. Churches are big business. Vatican City has it's own bank to launder church donations. Apparently Vatican City banks are loaded. The business of religion, tax it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by moahunter View Post
    It seems a bit odd that there is a property tax exemption. I guess a church is seen to be a like a park, so I can sort of understand that. But what about their other properties? What's the logic there? Do charities get a property tax exemption as well? If they do, I guess its fair a church is the same. If they don't, its inconsistent. Not sure what politician would touch this though (do you really want to go to war with religion?).
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    Quote Originally Posted by kcantor View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by highlander View Post
    ^^The city did not fund that increase in value any more than it did the increase in value on every home and business in the city. The city does not collect a capital gains tax on them, either.

    Until the city moves (back) to a land-value property tax, essentially taxing only the value created by the city (not City) collectively, rather than taxing property primarily based on the value of the specific property`s improvements it`s hard to justify any argument that the City "allowing" a property owner to keep the value of their property at sale can be considered a subsidy.
    if you have a home and pay property taxes and sell it as a home, you are correct. there is no subsidy on not taxing the capital gain. and if you invest in changing the zoning, that is done at your cost and you incur the increased taxation that comes with that.

    but if you occupy that home and were exempted from paying property taxes and then ultimately sell it for a non-exempt higher density residential or commercial use because the zoning - put in place by the city, not secured by you - not for the continuation of the exempt use, that's not the same thing. you would remain exempt - and so would a purchaser - maintaining the same use but the sale at market value, particularly without having to repay the exempted taxes, is a second subsidy.
    Zoning is a restriction on use, and therefore a damper on market values, not the inverse.

    The only way that tax-free status can provide a second, spin-off subsidy is if the church property is sold with to a buyer with the intention to maintain the property as a church, in which case the purchaser could be willing to pay a higher price than it would if it had to budget for property taxes, but that benefit is as likely to accrue to non-church property developers or speculators who sell land to religious groups planning a new, Greenfield facility.

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    Quote Originally Posted by highlander View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by kcantor View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by highlander View Post
    ^^The city did not fund that increase in value any more than it did the increase in value on every home and business in the city. The city does not collect a capital gains tax on them, either.

    Until the city moves (back) to a land-value property tax, essentially taxing only the value created by the city (not City) collectively, rather than taxing property primarily based on the value of the specific property`s improvements it`s hard to justify any argument that the City "allowing" a property owner to keep the value of their property at sale can be considered a subsidy.
    if you have a home and pay property taxes and sell it as a home, you are correct. there is no subsidy on not taxing the capital gain. and if you invest in changing the zoning, that is done at your cost and you incur the increased taxation that comes with that.

    but if you occupy that home and were exempted from paying property taxes and then ultimately sell it for a non-exempt higher density residential or commercial use because the zoning - put in place by the city, not secured by you - not for the continuation of the exempt use, that's not the same thing. you would remain exempt - and so would a purchaser - maintaining the same use but the sale at market value, particularly without having to repay the exempted taxes, is a second subsidy.
    Zoning is a restriction on use, and therefore a damper on market values, not the inverse.

    The only way that tax-free status can provide a second, spin-off subsidy is if the church property is sold with to a buyer with the intention to maintain the property as a church, in which case the purchaser could be willing to pay a higher price than it would if it had to budget for property taxes, but that benefit is as likely to accrue to non-church property developers or speculators who sell land to religious groups planning a new, Greenfield facility.
    you have it backwards - it is the property's use as a church which underutilizes its potential development value. the mezzo site is a recent example, mcdougal united another. their properties are worth more used as other than a church and that accrual is to the church, not the party the buys the property. it's not complicated - the party that doesn't pay something (ie the church's property taxe exemption) and/or the property that receives a higher value than would otherwise be paid (ie the church/vendor) is the benefitting party.
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    ^ If that was you, I saw nice too see you on local news about the piano last night.

    A lot of churches are also charities and receive donations from the public beyond Tythign. If churches were taxed many of them would probably not survive. Churches pay it forward in many different ways by offering food banks and youth and leadership programs. If churches were to be taxed then a lot of these programs that millions of Canadians from dozens of countries would suffer. Salvation Army offers not only spiritual salvation and as a Christian organization would suffer and maybe even become extinct. We all know the good work they do. Many Pastors and Clergy provide spiritual guidance to those in prison, and provide home and hospital visits as to the sick and dying aswell. Many Syrian refugees were sponsored by church groups. I could go on and on. From the posts I've been reading here I'm about the only Christian on this thread, so I'm biased of course

    The real interesting question should be, shouldn't environmental groups be taxed?

    So my position on this is, no churches should not be taxed.
    Last edited by envaneo; 25-04-2016 at 03:37 AM.
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    Religious groups are NOT charities, and they do not deserve exemptions as such. If a religious group does charitable work, it is fully capable of setting up a not-for-profit organization to deliver that service which will not be taxed.

    Proselytization is not a charitable exercise, and the sole purpose of religious groups is to proselytize. Charitable work is secondary, and can be executed through registered non profit wings.

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    ^^

    on the piano - perhaps, thanks.

    on the churches, why the assumption that they are more charitable or more generous than the people whose money they are taking would be with their own money?

    and if you do believe churches are more charitable or more generous, why not give it all to the most charitable and generous church instead of each one equally (which is simply a logical further extension of taking from all and giving to churches in the first place) regardless of whether they are individually charitable and generous?

    and for what it's worth, churches in this discussion are not limited to christian denominations any more than charitable giving or spiritual guidance is limited to christian denominations. those things can be found in synagogues and mosques and temples (and open fields and libraries and doctor's offices) around the world, taxed or not.
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    Churches are fully capable of setting up proper charities to handle their charitable work. In fact many do. There are also many, many fully secular charities and services doing good work around the world without using those actions as medium for proselytization. Churches are not required for that work and are becoming less and less prominent in it.

    My personal feeling is the secular charities are less prone to abuse than the churches have been over the years. The number of scandals involving churches and their 'charitable' work is atrocious.

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    I don't know. From my experience, Churches and religious organizations do tremendous amounts of charitable work. From visiting people in hospitals and jails to helping refugees, the poor, clothes drives, food banks, help in developing countries etc. When disasters strike, NGO's and religious groups have people on site often the first day whereas governments take days and weeks to get their act together.
    Last edited by Edmonton PRT; 25-04-2016 at 07:47 AM.
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    ^ They could still do that by setting up a non-profit and asking their members to donate to that cause rather than the church/mosque/temple through tithes.

    In fact that would probably allow them to help even more people because it would open up their donation base and allow more room for government assistance in the form of grants.

    Of course they won't want that because their primary goal is not charity, it is proselytization.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jaerdo View Post
    Religious groups are NOT charities, and they do not deserve exemptions as such. If a religious group does charitable work, it is fully capable of setting up a not-for-profit organization to deliver that service which will not be taxed.

    Proselytization is not a charitable exercise, and the sole purpose of religious groups is to proselytize. Charitable work is secondary, and can be executed through registered non profit wings.
    And if a religious group sets up a 3rd party fundraiser, how much of those funds do they get in return? Not much. Been there done that. I've been involved in fundraising for over 30 years. It is church members not the church who proselytize. I have seen however organized attempts of Proselytization. A few months ago on the train home from work I saw a couple of young ladies come up to somebody hoping to make a "sale" in the name of whatever church they belonged to (probably JW's) they proselytize more then anyone else in the name of their church. They remind me of Amway sales people. Seriously though proselytization is not a charitable exercise and not too many mainstream religious organizations do this like the JW's.

    For those that don't know the term Proselytization, it means to recruit somebody for the purpose of converting somebody.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    Churches are fully capable of setting up proper charities to handle their charitable work. In fact many do. There are also many, many fully secular charities and services doing good work around the world without using those actions as medium for proselytization. Churches are not required for that work and are becoming less and less prominent in it.

    My personal feeling is the secular charities are less prone to abuse than the churches have been over the years. The number of scandals involving churches and their 'charitable' work is atrocious.
    Most churches are not incorporated that way and would never go to a 3rd party to fund raise for them. There is such a thing called ethics and besides very little $ goes back to the 1st party. While I'm not a expert I've been involved in fundraising since 1976 both 3rd party and in house fundraising and lots of telemarketing. I know the mechanics of fundraising and how it works. I've never had any phone calls in all my 38 years here in Edmonton of a 3rd party fund raiser ever asking me to ever donate funds to a religious organization. I'd love to hear your experiences if you have, however.

    Really? I'm sure if one digs up through the net long enough they may find a case dating back 10-15 years ago, but could you please give me recent examples of this?
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    If Vatican City has enough money to sustain it's own bank then churches should be taxed. Religion is a business. If religious bodies can amass property, stock market shares etc then they should pay taxes.
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    ^I believe that Vatican city is its own city state outside of the Italian Government. You bring up a good point about sock market shares etc.
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    A bank isn't really an indicator of how much money you have. The USA used to have small town banks with one branch, all over. We still have a few tiny credit unions - essentially banks - that serve a specific market.

    I don't like the idea of institutions hoarding wealth, but I'm not sure what the solution is. If they were treated like companies they would still not pay taxes - in the vast majority of cases assets are not really investments, and if they do make money on investments they typically are used for programs in other sector's of the church's business - a "loss" to offset the "profit".

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    Quote Originally Posted by envaneo View Post
    ^I believe that Vatican city is its own city state outside of the Italian Government. You bring up a good point about sock market shares etc.
    Right, so the catholic church could tax itself at whatever rate it wants, and there's no effect. Most of their wealth is in buildings and art that they will never sell anyway, so capital gains aren't really an issue.

    Most other churches are run as individual congregations, which tend to disburse everything they take in each year, mostly to related charities. The exceptions that I know of are Mormons and scientologists. Anglican and other churches that are structured similarly to Catholic churches with ownership at the diocese level. Most are not rich, but a few are.

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    Quote Originally Posted by envaneo View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Turnbull View Post
    Churches are fully capable of setting up proper charities to handle their charitable work. In fact many do. There are also many, many fully secular charities and services doing good work around the world without using those actions as medium for proselytization. Churches are not required for that work and are becoming less and less prominent in it.

    My personal feeling is the secular charities are less prone to abuse than the churches have been over the years. The number of scandals involving churches and their 'charitable' work is atrocious.
    Most churches are not incorporated that way and would never go to a 3rd party to fund raise for them. There is such a thing called ethics and besides very little $ goes back to the 1st party. While I'm not a expert I've been involved in fundraising since 1976 both 3rd party and in house fundraising and lots of telemarketing. I know the mechanics of fundraising and how it works. I've never had any phone calls in all my 38 years here in Edmonton of a 3rd party fund raiser ever asking me to ever donate funds to a religious organization. I'd love to hear your experiences if you have, however.

    Really? I'm sure if one digs up through the net long enough they may find a case dating back 10-15 years ago, but could you please give me recent examples of this?
    I said nothing about setting a charity to fundraise for a church. Churches are not charities and can raise their own funds to support their regular non charitable work of preaching whichever creed they subscribe too. If churches or church members wish to do charitable work there are plenty of charities they can work with and support.

    Organizations like Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, and the Salvation Army are religious based charities organizationally separate from the churches that support them that church members can support of they can't bring themselves to support much larger secular charities like MSF or the Red Cross.

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    ^Salvation army is both, but maybe that's splitting hairs.

    What's the tax status of service clubs like Rotary? That's probably the closest parallel to churches, and a decent model of what they would have if this were changed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by highlander View Post
    ^Salvation army is both, but maybe that's splitting hairs.

    What's the tax status of service clubs like Rotary? That's probably the closest parallel to churches, and a decent model of what they would have if this were changed.
    Thanks. I had forgotten that. They're more a set of stores and service in my head, I had forgotten they are technically a church as well.

    "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong"

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    But guys, seriously. Don't give to World vision more then once or you'll get double vision.

    The tax status of the Rotary and Freemasonry most of which operate out of community leagues and single buildings. I'm a WB Mason in my lodge and we operate out of Highlands Hall. Our lodge does a lot of charitable work and its through our membership that pays for our nights in the building. Anything we raise goes towards benevolence. And we don't proselytize. In all my 14 years as a Mason, I've never recruited anyone into my lodge but that's me.
    Mom said I should not talk to cretins!

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    Quote Originally Posted by highlander View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by envaneo View Post
    ^I believe that Vatican city is its own city state outside of the Italian Government. You bring up a good point about sock market shares etc.
    Right, so the catholic church could tax itself at whatever rate it wants, and there's no effect. Most of their wealth is in buildings and art that they will never sell anyway, so capital gains aren't really an issue.

    Most other churches are run as individual congregations, which tend to disburse everything they take in each year, mostly to related charities. The exceptions that I know of are Mormons and scientologists. Anglican and other churches that are structured similarly to Catholic churches with ownership at the diocese level. Most are not rich, but a few are.
    Absolutely. I forgot about the Scientologists. I respect Dianetics, and all The local org is somewhere out in the West end in a industrial park. I flirted with them back in the early 1980's. They proselytize to an extent but you don't hear much of them at the local level since the Anonymous days. Anyway, I'd like to pick up this conversation later but after work tonight, I have wrestling to watch and a bit of hockey. I'll pop in after that and respond. Carry on
    Mom said I should not talk to cretins!

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