Mon Dec 17, 2012, 05:14 PM
ashling (22,604 posts)
A Religious Rescue from the Fiscal Cliff
Politicians are working themselves into a frenzy trying to prevent the much feared "fiscal cliff," a term used to describe a bundle of momentous federal tax increases and spending cuts that will happen later this year if government officials fail to act. But as the White House and Congress consider ending middle-class tax breaks like the payroll tax cut while also reducing valued programs like Medicare, they may be missing an opportunity to level the playing field among religious and philosophically-based organizations in a way that would also have a big impact on our nation's ability to return to fiscal solvency.
It's time to reconsider the huge tax benefits and government subsidies that are provided to government-recognized religions in this country. Beyond the obvious constitutional issues of the state giving preferential treatment to religious organizations, it just makes sense that in these times of budget tightening, the government can no longer afford to subsidize religious groups, their leaders, or their programs.
One of the big gifts from our government that religious groups and their leaders receive is something called the parsonage exemption. This exemption allows religious leaders who receive a home from their religious congregation to exclude almost all the costs of home ownership from their taxable income, at the expense of the American taxpayer. This exemption isn't open to leaders of secular and charitable organizations, just those who lead government-recognized churches. So that means that if you are one of over a hundred thousand priests, ministers, rabbis, and imams in America, you can get your house paid for through the taxes of Americans who may not even believe in a god. Pretty unfair, right?
This exemption is pretty broad, and allows religious leaders and their organizations to not pay taxes on things like the down payment on the leader's home, principal and interest payments on its mortgage, real estate taxes, liability insurance, and rental payments. These religious leaders can also exempt things such as utility and internet bills from their taxable income just because they work for a church, mosque, temple, or synagogue. But that's not all. Religious leaders are also exempt from paying personal property taxes, which is a huge steal for them considering how nice some of their homes are.
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A Religious Rescue from the Fiscal Cliff (Original post)
|No Compromise||Dec 2012||#1|