— Kendall Harmon (@KendallHarmon6) October 12, 2017
Category : Taxes
(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.
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
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.
Churches are generally tax-exempt, but New Hampshire’s highest court ruled the parking spaces are taxable because they were rented to students for “their own private and secular purpose.”
Todd Selig, Town Administrator of Durham, said “this was not in any way an effort on the part of the town to bring in more revenue. It was simply an issue of equity and fairness.”
The Bishop of Birmingham, Rt Revd David Urquhart, has issued the following response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement:
Bishop David said: “The political turbulence of the past year and lower growth forecasts have meant the Chancellor has been given limited economic room for manoeuvre. But I welcome the emphasis in the Autumn Statement on long term stability, investment in innovation, in our national infrastructure and on supporting regional growth. To be a nation living within its means is an aspiration worth keeping, even if the revised figures for deficit reduction mean that the goal of its achievement has been moved slightly further away.
The Government is to be commended for wanting to address the situation of those who are ‘just managing’ and for its emphasis on work as being an important route out of poverty. The increases in the National Living Wage and a partial reversal of planned cuts to Universal Credit announced in today’s Autumn Statement are welcome and will offer some help. But at a time when the cost of living is set to rise, more on the lowest incomes will still struggle to get by and they might benefit from more targeted assistance than further increases in the tax free personal allowance, which mostly benefits better off families, as the recent report by the Centre for Social Justice points out.
As the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have highlighted, the four-year freeze on working-age benefits is looking increasingly out of date, especially with rising inflation.
A key feature of American exceptionalism has been the propensity of Americans to create voluntary organizations for dealing with local problems. Tocqueville was just one of the early European observers who marveled at this phenomenon in the 19th and early 20th centuries. By the time the New Deal began, American associations for providing mutual assistance and aiding the poor involved broad networks, engaging people from the top to the bottom of society, spontaneously formed by ordinary citizens.
These groups provided sophisticated and effective social services and social insurance of every sort, not just in rural towns or small cities but also in the largest and most impersonal of megalopolises. To get a sense of how extensive these networks were, consider this: When one small Midwestern state, Iowa, mounted a food-conservation program during World War I, it engaged the participation of 2,873 church congregations and 9,630 chapters of 31 different secular fraternal associations.
Did these networks successfully deal with all the human needs of their day? No. But that isn’t the right question. In that era, the U.S. had just a fraction of today’s national wealth. The correct question is: What if the same level of activity went into civil society’s efforts to deal with today’s needs””and financed with today’s wealth?
The advent of the New Deal and then of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society displaced many of the most ambitious voluntary efforts to deal with the needs of the poor. It was a predictable response. Why continue to contribute to a private program to feed the hungry when the government is spending billions of dollars on food stamps and nutrition programs? Why continue the mutual insurance program of your fraternal organization once Social Security is installed? Voluntary organizations continued to thrive, but most of them turned to needs less subject to crowding out by the federal government.
This was a bad trade, in my view.
What should the church commissioners, who are responsible for its Â£7 billion investment portfolio, do? They are charity trustees. They have a duty to make a return on the funds entrusted to them. And every penny they can raise means another pound from the collection plate can be used for something else. The answer is, of course, that they must exercise judgment.
The good news is that they are already allowed to. The church commissioners do not, as a result, invest in pornography, tobacco, gambling, non-military firearms, high interest rate lending or human embryonic cloning. But on tax abuse, surely the clearest measure of a company’s social responsibility, they’re not so clear.
Their advisers stated three years ago that “tax ethics should be a subject for investor engagement where it appears that a company’s approach is blatantly aggressive or abusive”. In other words, investment in such companies is permitted so long as the church makes clear that it expects high ethical standards on tax. In this respect, the commissioners have clearly failed.
Read it all (requires subscription).
In American politics, raising taxes is seen as a sure way to provoke a voter revolt. But in Germany, some politicians see taxing Muslims as a strategy to keep them from becoming radicalized.
The standard-bearer for this unexpected idea is a politician from the Christian Social Union, the folksy right-wing party known for desperately wanting to keep Muslim immigrants from the Middle East from pouring in to its traditionally Catholic southern state of Bavaria.
Strange as it might seem, there are Muslim leaders in Germany who think a religious tax might be a good idea, too. If they can get over the grumbling, mosque-goers may agree.
After the Obergefell decision, Time magazine writer Mark Oppenheimer was quick to declare that the state should “abolish, or greatly diminish” property tax exemptions for churches that “dissent from settled public policy on matters of race or sexuality.”
Punishing “dissent” seems a strange new role for the American government. In the mid-twentieth century, the Catholic church was a leading advocate against anti-miscegenation laws. The church was able to take a stand contrary to the state on marriage and not be penalized for it, a position now almost unquestionably supported by Americans. And despite the confidence of those like Oppenheimer, the dissenters aren’t even a minority in the more recent marriage controversy. Most Americans favor religious liberty, and a plurality oppose Obergefell.
Allowing conscientious objection is an acknowledgment that the state does not have all the answers. The state has an obligation to make laws, but the state has no obligation to be correct. The independent voices that critique the state make the state better, and should not be silenced. Lose churches, lose the independent voices that prevent the state from having an absolute say in complicated moral matters.
Since the financial crisis of 2007-08, which Western leader could boast of spreading ownership in any important way? In the U.S. and Britain, the percentage of citizens owning stocks or houses is well down from the late 1980s. In Britain, the average age for buying a first home is now 31 (and many more people than before depend on “the bank of Mom and Dad” to help them do so). In the mid-’80s, it was 27. My own children, who started work in London in the last two years, earn a little less, in real terms, than I did when I began in 1979, yet house prices are 15 times higher. We have become a society of “have lesses,” if not yet of “have nots.”
In a few lines of work, earnings have shot forward. In 1982, only seven U.K. financial executives were receiving six-figure salaries. Today, tens of thousands are (an enormous increase, even allowing for inflation). The situation is very different for the middle-ranking civil servant, attorney, doctor, teacher or small-business owner. Many middle-class families now depend absolutely on the income of both parents in a way that was unusual even as late as the 1980s.
In Britain and the U.S., we are learning all over again that it is not the natural condition of the human race for children to be better off than their parents. Such a regression, in societies that assume constant progress, is striking. Imagine the panic if the same thing happened to life expectancy.
Taxpayers in the UK donate Â£2.7 billion a year in aid to countries where Christians are suffering some of the most extreme religious persecution in the world, figures show.
Analysis of official aid statistics shows that four out of five countries listed on a global human rights watch list, charting attacks or official suppression against Christians, receive money from the overseas development budget or through other official agencies.
David Cameron said last year that Christianity is now the “most persecuted religion around the world” and said Britain should be “unashamed” in standing up for religious freedom.
After the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, religious leaders feared that religious universities, nonprofits and other institutions could lose their tax-exempt status. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen has promised the Senate Judiciary Oversight Subcommittee that his agency would not go after the tax-exempt status of religious colleges and universities that oppose gay marriage.
During a hearing Wednesday conducted by the Senate Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts, Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) asked Koskinen whether the IRS would “not, in the absence of a directive by Congress or by the courts,” take action to remove religious schools’ tax exemption.
“I can make that commitment,” Koskinen said, explaining that “we see no basis for changing our examination criteria as a result of this Supreme Court case.”
Read it all from the Washington Post.
What does this show us? Three things, I think.
It shows us that tolerance is over. I’m not breaking new ground here”“but this must be said. Tolerance is dead. Oppenheimer’s piece ran all of two days after the SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage. He wants to crush those who dare to stand against the fullest possible acceptance of what Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield has called “samesexuality.” Sexuality liberated from any constraints is now a full-blown worldview. This is paganism, 21st-century version. The body is all; sex is all.
The hippies now wear steel-toed boots. The earlier “free love” movement was all about doing what you want”“live and let live. Today’s version of this pagan impulse is militaristic”“live and you better approve. There’s a menace, a fury, in this cultural momentum. There will be no tolerance. There will be no dissent. Churches and organizations that stand bravely against the rushing tide of the late stages of the sexual revolution will be crushed.
It shows us that churches and organizations doing much good are imperiled.
Today, a new “cloud tax” takes effect in the city of Chicago, targeting online databases and streaming entertainment services. It’s a puzzling tax, cutting against many of the basic assumptions of the web, but the broader implications could be even more unsettling. Cloud services are built to be universal: Netflix works the same anywhere in the US, and except for rights constraints, you could extend that to the entire world. But many taxes are local ”” and as streaming services swallow up more and more of the world’s entertainment, that could be a serious problem.