Challenges to tax exemption for churches

A spat in our own Mission, Kansas made the Huffington Post.  It’s not just the local interest that prompted me to write about it here.  Rather, I bring it up because it highlights a disturbing trend: people and governments calling into question the sanctity of tax exemptions for religious and nonprofit groups.

The argument between the City of Mission and churches in the area boils down to this question: “When a community needs to rebuild crumbling roads, should houses of worship pay fees for the number of times their congregants drive on them?”  I don’t want to weigh in on the debate here, but you can read the whole article if you want to know more.

To understand what’s going on here, remember that a church has typically enjoyed two favored tax benefits: (1) donations are deductible for those who give them and (2) the organization’s income is not taxed.  Both are under attack from various sources.  We have all heard that President Obama proposed limiting the charitable deduction for high-income families.  (Note also, the shift from talking about “tax exemption” to calling it a subsidy.)  And now cities like Mission and Houston are levying “fees” on churches.

What can a ministry do?  It seems we have a few appropriate responses: (1) speak out publicly; (2) vote; (3) become increasingly savvy with fundraising (we’ve written on this topic before – see Bill’s post from 2010 about giving trends).  Also, consider getting plugged into an initiative like Mission Increase.  It offers strategic training around fundraising as a transformational aspect of a ministry, rather than a means to an end.

Servant is hosting a training soon.  Here are the event details:

The Journey to Transformation
Thursday, February 3, 2011
9:00 AM to 4:00 PM


Sylvester Powell, Jr. Community Center
6200 Martway, Mission, Kansas

Register online

Posted in For Givers, Giving in the News. Tags: , , , , , . Comments Off on Challenges to tax exemption for churches
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