Clergy Coalition Appeals Court Decision Striking Down IRS Tax Allowance That Could Cost Churches $1B
A group of clergy are appealing a court decision that ruled an Internal Revenue Service provision exempting pastors from including their rental allowance in their reported gross income unconstitutional.
In April 2016, the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation filed a lawsuit against U.S. Treasury Department Secretary Jacob Lew and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen over the clergy housing allowance.
Represented by the Washington, D.C.-based Becket Fund, the clergy filed an appeal in the case of Gaylor v. Mnuchin on Thursday before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
According to Becket, if the repeal is upheld, churches nationwide could experience a $1 billion increase in taxation....
Talk about getting into the deep weeds! This is also a reminder of how complex taxes are. I wasn't aware of this lawsuit, nor did this article help clarify what is at stake. Right now, if the church owns not only their building but also a house nearby where the minister lives, they have to declare the value of renting the home as part of his salary, called 'housing allowance.' Right there it's complex, because how would they know what the rental income would be, unless they hire a real estate appraiser yearly to figure this out. Housing markets are different across the nation, so a church in Tampa might have a higher price than one in Oklahoma. Now, I know ministers can elect to not join the Social Security system, which is a good thing, if you consider the overall performance of the stock market over the past 70 or so years. Of course, if you read today's news and last week's drop, you might be a bit leery of doing that. Other experts use those famous financial words, "This time it's different" and say future rates of return in the market will be less than 5 percent, once you take out taxes on your profits and fees.
Peter J. Reilley wrote: FFRF is an atheist organization and you could view this lawsuit as just one more attack on religion in the public square like the suit about prayers at the school board meeting in Chino Valley, Calif or the one about a ten commandments monument in front of Valley High School in Pennsylvania. I think that view is mistaken. Lack of transparency in churches is a concern among people who are deeply religious.
The standards of the Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability require that member organizations provide audited financial statements on request. ECFA is concerned about the effect that financial shenanigans have on non-believers citing Paul's letter to the Corinthians which states "For we are taking pains go do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men."...
Most charities are subject to some level of transparency, but not churches. That leaves it up to the members to demand transparency. If you meet resistance from the leadership, maybe you might consider that rather than a sheep who is being fed, you are one that is being shorn.