MARY MCBEE, TAMA Contributing Writer Religious organizations have long enjoyed huge tax exemptions in our country with a current estimation that churches in the US avoid paying $71 billion in taxes annually. Religious institutions pay no taxes; local, state, or federal. They pay no taxes on extensive investments, interests earned or capital gains, neither on religious endowments accounting for hundreds of billions of dollars. They pay no sales tax on supplies, cars, travel, or even income tax for businesses “furthering religious objectives.” Most important, religious organizations pay no property taxes, a primary source of funding for local services such as firefighters, EMT’s, and police, not to mention schools and other infrastructure. A study done in Manatee County, Florida, population of 300,000 that has a mixture of rural and urban areas typical of average counties nationwide, found that if religious organizations paid just their share of standard property taxes alone, as required of other commercial and residential properties, it would add $8.5 million to the tax revenue of that one county annually. Over recent years, many religious organizations, especially evangelicals, have increasingly violated separation of church and state practices and membership in traditional churches keeps dropping. Do they still deserve these huge tax exemptions?
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