Category : Taxes

(WSJ) Russell Moore–Stop the Tax on Houses of Worship

A little-noticed provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 now looms over faith communities in America, raising serious questions about religious freedom and the First Amendment. While this provision is a relatively small piece of the overall package, the effect of the policy it created will be felt by the faithful around the country.

This change is a new policy to tax nonprofit organizations—including houses of worship, like the Southern Baptist churches I serve—for the cost of parking and transit benefits provided to employees. This effectively creates an income tax on churches. As Michael Martin of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has noted, that has never happened in U.S. history.

The imposition of a tax burden on churches, religious schools and other charities is a shocking change in the federal government’s orientation toward these organizations of goodwill. The new tax requires institutions to file federal Form 990-T and possibly pay taxes every year—regardless of whether they engage in any unrelated business activity. In addition to the new federal requirements, many nonprofits will then face the requirement to file state returns and possibly pay state income tax.

Further, in the name of taxing parking lots, the new regulations created a new tax liability. In turn, this creates new operating costs for proper accounting and regulatory compliance at every nonprofit organization. For many nonprofits, these operations costs could exceed the amount of money actually collected by the Internal Revenue Service.

This new tax would extract $1.7 billion from the charities over 10 years….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes

(Forbes) Religious Organizations Rally To Preserve Current Tax Treatment Of Clergy Housing Allowances

The wonderful thing about this litigation is how it brings different faith communities together in their desire to protect their cherished tax benefit. Not yet available is the brief from the following amici – Christian Legal Society, Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, National Association of Evangelicals, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, Council of Churches of New York City,  and Queens Federation of Churches.   Last time around there was a brief that included The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Commission (Southern Baptists, the second largest denomination in the United States probably have the most skin in this game) and   The International Society for Krishna Consciousness and The Islamic Center of Boca Raton.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Housing/Real Estate Market, Inter-Faith Relations, Law & Legal Issues, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes

(Post-Gazette) Religious institutions wait to see what tax reform does to their place in people’s budgets

The conventional thinking is that most people who donate to places of worship are not primarily motivated by tax benefits.

For many, giving is a core value based on religious teachings and a sense of gratitude.

This could be the year when those assumptions are put to a test.

The new federal tax law has cut taxes for working American families, but it also could have the unintended consequence of reducing the financial incentive for many people to donate to religious and charitable organizations.

The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy estimates roughly 30 million households earning between $50,000 and $100,000 will be less likely to itemize deductions on their taxes due to the new law. With less incentive to donate, researchers predict the amount those households give will decline.

“Tax incentives do affect how much people give,” said Una Osili, associate dean for research. “If it is more expensive to give, they give less.”

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Personal Finance & Investing, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes

(NYT) A $76,000 Monthly Pension: Why States and Cities Are Short on Cash

A public university president in Oregon gives new meaning to the idea of a pensioner.

Joseph Robertson, an eye surgeon who retired as head of the Oregon Health & Science University last fall, receives the state’s largest government pension.

It is $76,111.

Per month.

That is considerably more than the average Oregon family earns in a year.

Oregon — like many other states and cities, including New Jersey, Kentucky and Connecticut — is caught in a fiscal squeeze of its own making. I

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Posted in City Government, Ethics / Moral Theology, Labor/Labor Unions/Labor Market, Pensions, State Government, Taxes

(BBC) Archbishop of Wales: Better services must come from ‘people’s pockets’

The Church in Wales may have to argue that better public services require people to pay “a bit more tax”, the Archbishop of Wales has said.

The Most Rev John Davies warned there were “dwindling services” and a “disintegration of communities”.

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Posted in --Wales, Church of Wales, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes

(Christian Today) Holy Sepulchre closed because Israel’s Christians believe they are under threat, says Bishop of Southwark

The Bishop of Southwark has called on Christians around the world to show ‘solidarity’ over the indefinite closure of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre in protest at a bill affecting church lands and new taxes on churches that are ‘unfair, inappropriate and arbitrary’.

Speaking to Christian Today from Galilee on the final day of a pilgrimage with 84 people from the south London Anglican diocese, Bishop Christopher Chessun also expressed his disapproval of a bill in the Knesset, or Israeli parliament, supported by Israeli settlers, that would allow the state to expropriate land in Jerusalem sold by churches to private real estate firms in recent years.

‘The bill going through the Knesset is of course at the instigation of particular groups and it is very important that the powers that be recognise the significance of the status quo which governs the relationship formally between the church and the state,’ Chessun said.

‘So if there are actions taken by different groups of settlers or whatever else and that leads to poor leadership by the powers that be then there will be massive consequences.’

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, Ethics / Moral Theology, Israel, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Taxes

(eNCA) South African Anglican bishops slam VAT increase

In a terse statement, the Synod of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa said the Anglican Church of Southern Africa was very concerned about the one percent VAT increase, announced by finance minister Malusi Gigaba in his budget speech on Wednesday.

“It is distressing to us that the ordinary citizens of South Africa are being called upon through increased VAT to fill the gaps in government finances which are partly a result of massive maladministration and corruption, especially in state-owned enterprises,” said the statement….

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, Ethics / Moral Theology, Religion & Culture, South Africa, Taxes

(US News) Clayton Rose–Colleges Make America Stronger–Selective universities aren’t too elite, they are the key to career preparation

Yet, there is growing skepticism about the value of this model here at home. The recent tax reform bill was a wake-up call that our strongest colleges and universities are under assault by some in government. The initial proposals would have made education unaffordable for many by taxing tuition waivers for graduate students and ending deductions for student loan interest. Thankfully, these provisions were ultimately stripped from the bill, but lawmakers let stand a new excise tax on the investment income of a select group of colleges and universities. None of these provisions were designed to raise much revenue. They were intended to make a statement.

While these attacks are motivated by misguided ideas, those of us in higher education need to do a much better job of explaining why these claims are not true and why what we do is valuable to our students and society. We cannot take for granted that any of this is obvious.

The data are clear: a liberal arts education is great career preparation, both for excellent lifetime earnings and for satisfaction with the work. George Anders, business author, former Wall Street Journal feature writer, and contributing editor at Forbes, and Randall Stross, a professor at San Jose State University’s School of Management who has written extensively about technology businesses and Silicon Valley for this publication, The New York Times, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal, among others, both have new books that underscore these points. This education develops the skills of critical thinking, rigorous analysis of data and facts, communicating with the written and spoken word, understanding of cultural differences and issues, and the ability to keep learning. The fact is that liberal arts graduates do extremely well in every imaginable field, and I know this from personal experience. Before entering higher education, I was a senior executive in the private sector; I saw that this education provides skills and knowledge that are in high demand, and I know how well it prepares students for long-term professional success.

On the issue of free speech, without question there have been incidents on campuses where speakers were impeded or prevented from delivering their views, or worse. I have consistently made the point that the ability to express and engage all manner of ideas, even offensive ones, is central to our mission, and I find these incidents deeply troubling. But they are the exception.

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Posted in * Economics, Politics, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Taxes, Theology, Young Adults

(The State) Cindi Ross Scopp–South Carolina Needs Thoughtful Overall Tax Reform not Simplistic Tax Cuts

Like a good stock portfolio, a good tax system relies on a balance, with different types of taxes behaving differently throughout the economic cycle, and affecting different types of people in different ways. For both stability and fairness, economists agree that the best state tax system relies about equally on the income tax, the sales tax and the property tax. South Carolina already relies less on income taxes than the sales or property tax. Cutting income taxes by more than 15 percent would further unbalance our tax system.

Our sales tax, by contrast, is the 16th highest in the nation. The main reason it’s so high is that it’s all about mollifying special interests by giving them special tax breaks. We exempt more than we tax: We have around 120 exemptions written into law, and on top of that we tax far fewer services than most states. House members say they can cut the state sales tax from 6 percent to 3 percent if they address both of those problems, and technically that’s true. The problem is that they’re not going to tax all goods and services, and they probably shouldn’t, because some prevent taxing the same thing twice, and some of the biggest exemptions (think electricity and groceries) serve primarily to make the sales tax a little less regressive than it otherwise would be.

Still, any effort to eliminate some exemptions and tax more services — and use the additional revenue to cut the tax rate — would be a smart step toward a lower, flatter tax system, one that is less volatile and more fair. Which is the opposite of where cutting the income tax rates — and creating yet another large tax exemption — would take us.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Ethics / Moral Theology, State Government, Taxes

(Chicago Tribune) Chicago-area clergy defend housing allowance as it faces legal challenge

Chicago clergy are fighting a federal judge’s recent ruling that tax-free housing allowances for clergy violate the separation of church and state.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago will be asked to weigh in on the challenge to the so-called parsonage allowance — an Internal Revenue Service benefit that allows clergy to exclude from their tax returns the compensation earmarked for mortgage payments, rent, utility bills or maintenance costs.

The ministerial tax break has been on the books for more than 60 years and is cited by many houses of worship, particularly smaller, independent ones, as an important financial underpinning to carrying out their mission.

But it has become the latest target of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a self-proclaimed guardian of church-state separation based in Madison, Wis., that challenged the tax break, and won, in a Wisconsin court.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes

(CT) Evangelical leaders warn of ‘devastating’ impact of GOP tax plan on the charitable deduction.

Evangelical leaders have raised concerns that the current reform bills in the House and Senate would reduce the incentives that compel givers to donate to churches and other nonprofits.

Currently, taxpayers must itemize their deductions in order to take advantage of the tax breaks for charitable giving. Since the proposed GOP tax reforms would increase the standard deduction, fewer Americans are expected to itemize as a result—dropping from 30 percent of taxpayers to just 5 percent, according to the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Doubling the standard deduction means 30 million Americans would no longer benefit from a deduction for their charitable giving, a change that is predicted to reduce giving by $13 billion annually, according to Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Politics in General, Religion & Culture, Stewardship, Taxes

A Picture is Worth 1000 words–The baby Boombers are Reaching Retirement

Posted in * Economics, Politics, Aging / the Elderly, America/U.S.A., Budget, Children, Economy, Health & Medicine, History, Marriage & Family, Medicaid, Medicare, Pensions, Personal Finance, Politics in General, Social Security, Taxes, Young Adults

(CT) A federal judge (again) has declard that the longstanding clergy housing allowance violates the 1st Amendment

Once again, a federal judge has declared that the longstanding clergy housing allowance violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

Offered only to “ministers of the gospel,” the 60-year-old tax break excludes the rental value of a home from the taxable income of US clergy. It’s the “most important tax benefit available to ministers,” according to GuideStone Financial Resources.

It’s also the biggest: American ministers currently avail themselves of the tax break to the tune of $800 million a year, according to the latest estimate by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Wisconsin district judge Barbara Crabb first ruled against the housing allowance in 2013, finding that the second part of Section 107 of the IRS tax code provides “a benefit to religious persons and no one else, even though doing so is not necessary to alleviate a special burden on religious exercise.” Her ruling “sen[t] shockwaves through the religious community,” the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability stated at the time.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Personal Finance & Investing, Religion & Culture, Taxes

(AP) South Carolina Gas Tax Increase Becomes Law After Senate Overrides Vet

The South Carolina Senate has voted to override Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto of the gas tax that raises money to fix roads, meaning the measure will now become law.

The final vote was 32-12. It came nearly two hours after the House also overrode the veto by 95-18 vote.

The move means the measure is now finally approved, and will officially become law on July 1

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Posted in * South Carolina, Economy, Energy, Natural Resources, State Government, Taxes

(Local Paper Front Page) Some bet on casinos to fix South Carolina’s crumbling infrastructure

With the chances of a gas-tax increase to pay for road repairs dwindling, advocates of bringing casinos to South Carolina think they have found a winning hand.

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster declared last week that he would veto raising the state fuel tax for the first time in 30 years to fix crumbling roads and bridges. He favors a plan to borrow $1 billion, which would cover a small portion of the state’s repair tab and comes a year after lawmakers already agreed to borrow $2 billion for roads.

But there’s another roads-funding plan, one favored by a majority of South Carolinians, that’s on the table.

Casinos in the Myrtle Beach area and along the borders of North Carolina and Georgia could have South Carolina cashing in a potential $500 million a year while not raising gas pump prices or adding to the state debt load, legalized gambling backers say.

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Posted in * South Carolina, Gambling, State Government, Taxes, Travel