This blog intends to provide some balance in the religious debate by providing a counterpoint to Billy Graham's religious advice. On his website http://www.billygraham.org/ he responds to readers' questions by quoting from the bible. I am attempting to respond to those same queries by resorting to reason and rationality.

I must acknowledge a debt here to Jeff Hope who started in this vein but who has unfortunately taken a hiatus. His blog is http://atheistsanswer.wordpress.com/. Jeff has inspired me to continue.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Tax-Free Havens

QUESTION: Today's comes from MH...
"I just paid my taxes, and it makes me angry to see all the churches, charities and other organizations that don't pay a cent in taxes, while I have to pay until it hurts. They ought to pay their fair share just like everyone else. I know you don't agree, but that's my position."

Back in the past when tax exemptions for religions and charities were formalised it was assumed that they used all of their money (after covering costs) for charitable works. So the making of this law was reasonable to bring maximum benefit to society. However, when you look more closely, religions are stockpiling assets (been to the Vatican lately?) and using vast sums in proselytising. Moneys spent on feathering their own nest and recruiting followers are not charitable works and so should not be above the tax laws.
The recent global financial crisis brought to light how staggeringly wealthy some religions are. The Anglican diocese in my region lost a hippopotamian $160 million through poor investment decisions, yet they are operating only slightly below normal. How wealthy they are is anybody's guess. They are accountable to no one. I think the likelihood of them selling all of their possessions and giving to the poor is extremely slim.
There are even some religions which make products for sale in competition with regular enterprises, eg breakfast cereal. This is unfair as they have the advantage of not paying tax and so can compete on a playing field that is sloped to their advantage. I agree with you, MH. The tax-exempt status of religions and charities is unfair and should be stopped. The best you can do is write to your local member of parliament and keep this issue in the public domain. Perhaps eventually weight of public opinion will bring change.


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