Churches may begin to feel pinch from new tax law

Churches may begin to feel pinch from new tax law June 26, 2018

Here’s something many people may not know about, via Politico: 

Republicans have quietly imposed a new tax on churches, synagogues and other nonprofits, a little-noticed and surprising change that could cost some groups tens of thousands of dollars.

Their recent tax-code rewrite requires churches, hospitals, colleges, orchestras and other historically tax-exempt organizations to begin paying a 21 percent tax on some types of fringe benefits they provide their employees.

That could force thousands of groups that have long had little contact with the IRS to suddenly begin filing returns and paying taxes for the first time.

Many organizations are stunned to learn of the tax — part of a broader Republican effort to strip the code of tax breaks for employee benefits like parking and meals — and say it will be a significant financial and administrative burden.

It also means political peril for lawmakers, many of whom were surely unaware of the provision when they approved the tax plan. Churches’ tax-exempt status, in particular, has long been considered sacrosanct and Republicans are relying on the faithful to back them in the November elections.

Though many organizations are still unaware of the tax, more than 600 churches and other groups have already signed a petition demanding it be repealed.

“There’s going to be huge headaches,” said Galen Carey, vice president of government relations at the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella group of evangelical Christian organizations. “The cost of compliance, especially for churches that have small staffs or maybe volunteer accountants and bookkeepers — we don’t need this kind of hassle.”

The Jewish Federations of North America is looking at a new $75,000 tax bill this year because of the change.

“A lot of people are just finding out about it and the more people find out about it, the more pressure there will be on Treasury and Congress to either delay implementation or consider changing this,” said Steven Woolf, senior tax policy counsel for the group.

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