Bloody hell. The European Humanist Federation estimates that the tax advantages of the Catholic Churches costs the Italian government 6 billion euros a year — roughly $7.8 billion US.
Could that change? Well …
The Roman Catholic Church in Italy is under growing pressure to start paying taxes on its massive property portfolio, in a move that could raise up to 800 million euros (£680 million) a year and help bail the country out of its economic crisis.
Campaigners, most prominently parties on the centre left, say it is deeply unfair that Church-owned properties with a commercial function — for instance convents and monasteries that charge paying guests similar rates to four-star hotels — are exempt from property tax.
As the new technocrat government of Mario Monti seeks to slash the nation’s 1.9 trillion euro debt, attention is turning to the estimated 65,000 buildings owned by the Church.