Congressional Committee Addresses Religious Privilege in New Taxation Report

Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation just released a report on recommendations to revise the U.S. tax code (which hasn’t been comprehensively revised in over 25 years).

Wait! Don’t fall asleep yet!

In one section, the committee highlighted comments and suggestions they received in regards to charitable and tax-exempt organizations, and it appears they took the advice (PDF) of the Secular Coalition for America.

It’s not quite “Tax the Church” but the message is “Don’t give churches any special privileges.”

The proposals submitted to the committee say:

Eliminate the following three special rules for churches: (1) the exemption of churches from the requirement that section 501(c)(3) organizations apply for tax-exempt status; (2) the exemption of churches from the requirement that section 501(c)(3) organizations file an annual Form 990 series return; and (3) the restrictions on church tax inquiries and audits under section 7611.

In English, that says the government should make churches apply for tax-exemptions (which they don’t have to do now if they meet general non-profit requirements), file a Form 990 (which tells the public about the church’s finances), and be under consideration for a tax audit (without the IRS having to jump through hoops to do so).

“We were pleased to see the Coalition’s recommendations included in the report and hope that the Committee will adopt the SCA’s recommendations in the final bill,” said Edwina Rogers, executive director of the Secular Coalition for America. “These are common sense reforms that level the playing field for all nonprofits.”

“Both Democrats and Republicans say they want to make the tax code simpler and fairer — if that’s what they truly want we have the perfect solution,” Rogers said. “Make it simpler by removing unnecessary language from the tax code and fairer by applying the same rules to all nonprofits regardless of religious affiliation.”

Obviously, there’s a long way to go before the recommendations become law, but it’s good to see politicians at least take these ideas into consideration. Let’s keep talking about them; let’s debate them.

There’s no reason for churches to be treating as any more special than other non-profit groups.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.