Vatican Loses Part of its Tax Exempt Status in Italy

The financial crisis in Italy has made indulging religious economic privilege intolerable.  130,000 people signed a petition as part of making this happen:

Prime Minister Mario Monti has announced the Vatican must pay taxes on non-religious property, from which it previously enjoyed an exemption.

The annual cost could be up to 720m euros ($945m; £598m) according to municipal government bodies.

Italy’s Catholic Church has 110,000 properties, worth about 9bn euros.

It includes shopping centres and a range of residential property.

In December, the government reintroduced a tax paid by anyone who owns land or property in Italy – which the Church does not pay.

Your Thoughts?
UPDATE: I changed the title from its original to make it clearer, on advice from a comment below.

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • BT Murtagh

    Good for Italy!

  • Enkidum

    Holy shit that’s awesome.

    Ah, but I realize it doesn’t apply to property taxes on their religious properties. That would be a true revolution.

  • Steve

    Great. They should pay their taxes retroactively

  • August Pamplona


  • jws1

    Great. Next step: put the child molesters in prison. Neigh, they belong in the gallows.

  • Verbose Stoic

    I have absolutely no issue with the Church having to pay taxes on anything that doesn’t have a directly religious purpose. I’d be more uneasy if it was on things that had a direct religious purpose.

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      Why should religious things have an exemption? First, define “religious.” Do this rigorously, so your definition would stand in a law court. Then justify why “religious” things should be exempted from taxes. Again, be rigorous enough to fit a legal challenge.

      Religion has a completely unwarranted privilege. You need to justify this privilege before your “direct religious purpose” items should be considered tax exempt.

    • laurentweppe

      Why should religious things have an exemption?

      Because otherwise it would become way too easy to use the Fisc to opress religious minorities.

    • Rob

      And now you have the government defining what a “religion” is.

      I hereby declare my house a church of FSM (hmm, ravioli tonight? I think that’s what I’ll have for supper)

      Where’s my tax break?

    • laurentweppe

      It’s better to allow the possibility of a hubbardesque abuse of the term (which will eventually lead to the abusers being condemned anyway, because you cannot succesfully con people indefinitely) than to let the first biggotted politician say “Oh, yeah, see that synagogue here; the people who use this building never paid property taxes: they should pay all their taxes retroactively, and if they don’t, well, I’ve got people in uniforms and guns who can go to their homes and foreclose them“.

    • Rob


      So you say all real property formerly exempt is no longer exempt, back taxes are not due. Religious usage is not relevant to paying the taxes, if the taxes are in no way based on religion. You’re using property in the middle of town, you pay the taxes on it, no exceptions.

      Why can’t I declare my house a church? They’re oppressing a minority religion if they don’t accept that.

    • Daniel Fincke

      What is the Fisc?

  • Forbidden Snowflake

    Why the hell was the church ever allowed to have tax-free secular investments?

    • John Morales

      Mutual back-scratching.

  • August Pamplona

    But really, it seems like the title of this blog post is slightly misleading. They still have a religious exemption status. It sounds like what they have lost is a non religious exemption (no religious in the sense hat it applies to activities not directly related to worship) which they had just because they are the Roman Catholic Church. It also sounds like this exemption was a recent gift from the Berlusconi government (the fine article says it started in 2005).

    Anyone know what the rules are for this sort of thing in the US? I am assuming that they would not exempt these sorts of things and that they only apply to churches, right?

    • John Morales

      But really, it seems like the title of this blog post is slightly misleading. They still have a religious exemption status.

      “Vatican Loses Part of its Tax Exempt Status in Italy”

      (my emphasis)

    • Daniel Fincke

      John, I changed the title in response to August’s suggestion. Initially it was slightly misleading as August thought. Please forgive me for being confusing.

    • John Morales


      Nothing to forgive, Daniel, though I think it would be helpful to at least some of your readers if you indicate in the op when you’ve amended a post, and especially so if you adumbrate any such.

    • Daniel Fincke

      Indeed. I am so used to making so many minor amendments that would be cumbersome to chronicle, that I forget the importance of noting major ones sometimes.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Great! Plus, when they get caught cheating (and you know that they will cheat, and that they will get caught), it will make for great headlines. In the mean time, they will have to hash out the details, such as does a small chapel in the shopping mall exempt the entire thing?

  • Rob

    I have absolutely no issue with the Church having to pay taxes on anything that doesn’t have a directly religious purpose. I’d be more uneasy if it was on things that had a direct religious purpose.

    My house is the home of a prophet!!11!!! Praise the Lord and pass the tax exemption.

  • keith

    About time. I too wish that it would include religious properties as well, but getting even the secular use items is a great start.

  • otrame

    To me it is simple. Real estate should be taxed. All real estate.

  • laurentweppe

    The reply option is buggy…

    What is the Fisc?

    Fisc: Most of the time, the most feared ennemy of the 1%, unless they manage to control it (then you get the Greek crisis)

    • John Morales

      Perhaps check your page permissions; I have no problems with it.

  • reasonbeing

    Fantastic news. Now lets see it in the U.S.!

  • http://n/a fotoferret

    Wonderful news. It would be nice, however, if there were a way to tax the mischievous nonsense they promulgate.

  • laurentweppe

    Why can’t I declare my house a church? They’re oppressing a minority religion if they don’t accept that.

    Well, as a french Citizen, let me explain how the french Lawmakers did it to stop such a moronic attempt to swindle the state
    According to french law, a place of cult is allowed to be dispensed of taxes only if it is being used exclusively for religious gatherings: if you turn your house into a church and people come to pray once a week but you live there the rest of the time: you’ll get no tax exemptions. If your church occupies a fraction of a building and you live in an apprtment within the same building, the part of the building used exclusively for religious gatherings is exempted, but not your appartment, and if you start treating your prayer room as an annex of your appartment, the prayer room will lose its exempted status. You did not think that safeguards had been overlooked, and that proclaiming yourself religious minority and whining about is was sufficien to get your way, I hope.

    • Trebuchet

      How about a Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? Services every evening from 4:00 to 10:00. Visitors partake of communion (yummy plates of pasta with sacramental Chianti) and make offerings. Voila, untaxed Italian restaurant.

    • laurentweppe

      Why, you may try, but in this case, you’d need to keep your FSM church a non-profit organization: if you make benefits or give yourself a too big salary, Big, Scary Fisc will have a word with you

  • ThorGoLucky

    Well, it’s a start!