By Victor Ochieng
There are many Americans who believe that a number of organizations involved in charitable works should enjoy tax breaks. Churches, in particular, have received enormous support from the taxpayer and the figure is now moving towards the $100 billion dollar mark.
According to a report released by the Secular Policy Institute, religious organizations enjoy $35.3 billion in federal tax subsidies and another $26.2 billion in property tax breaks. They also skip $6.1 billion in state income tax, $1.2 billion in parsonage, and $2.2 billion in several religious-based subsidies.
The SPI said that if “religious organizations (ie. churches, synagogues, mosques, etc.) were taxed like for-profit agencies, it was found that this could generate upwards of $71 billion per year in tax revenue.”
Churches enjoy enormous breaks and that’s why they cost the taxpayers so much. In fact, they enjoy greater leverages than nonprofits yet many nonprofits do way more than churches in charity works.
It’s been reported that “even if churches were merely held to the standards of other non-profit agencies, this could generate $16.75 billion in tax revenue per year. The report estimate for the total subsides enjoyed by religious organizations, but they do not account for tax credits like sales taxes, local sales, and income taxes volunteer labor subsidy, and donor-tax exemptions.”
The reason why churches are benefiting so much is because many Americans are convinced that these organizations deserve the breaks to get enough funds to channel to their charitable works. Contrary to that belief, a Secular Humanism study report showed that churches are actually spending so little of their income on charitable works compared to non-profits.
A good example is the Mormon Church, which reportedly spends a meager 0.7% of their total annual income on charitable causes. The study, which covered 271 congregations established that churches spend 71% in average on ‘operating expenses.’ Compare that to Red Cross that spends a whopping 92.1% of their total revenues on actual physical assistance and only 7.9% on operating expenses.
The authors of the report pointed out that Wal-Mart spends a total of $1.75 billion towards food aid to charities every year, which is twenty-eight times all of the funds the United Methodist Church spends on such works and is about double the amount LDS Church has given out over the last quarter of a century.
Even though some churches actually get involved in charitable works, they don’t spend anything close to nonprofits.
And that’s why Patheos says that “churches should be entitled to the same tax breaks as other charitable groups, as long as they are held to the same standard, and not given the free pass to tax-free status they currently enjoy.”