Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down One Big Religious Tax Exemption

From Forbes
"The Freedom From Religion Foundation has won a stunning victory in the United States District  Court For The Western District Of Wisconsin where Judge Barbara Crabb has ruled that a substantial tax benefit enjoyed by many thousands of clergy – ministers, priests, rabbis, imams and others – is unconstitutional.  Code Section 107(2) provides that the gross income of a “minister of the gospel” does not include:
the rental allowance paid to him as part of his compensation, to the extent used by him to rent or provide a home and to the extent such allowance does not exceed the fair rental value of the home, including furnishings and appurtenances such as a garage, plus the cost of utilities. . .
According to the Joint Committee on Taxation Estimate of Federal Tax Expenditure the exclusion is worth about $700,000,000 per year.  The estimate is not broken down between in-kind, which remains intact, and cash, declared unconstitutional.  Over the decades, churches have moved away from owning parsonages to paying cash allowances, so I would hazard a guess that more of the lost revenue comes from the cash allowance."
There's a lot more at the link.   The writer, Peter J. Reilly says the obstacle for those challenging this law over the years, has been lack of standing.  The Freedom of Religion Foundation got around this by paying their staff housing allowances, which their staff can NOT take deductions for.  And while he says he's a CPA and not a politico, he suspects this decision will be repealed.  And that there is likely enough religious support on both sides of the aisle in Congress to pass new legislation.

I'm sure the professional Christians will loudly proclaim this is one more attack in the war against Christians in the US.  But, of course, others might see this as a special privilege religious groups have enjoyed and the Right hates special privileges, unless they go to them.  And besides, this ruling also affects Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists.

In August, another Wisconsin judge ruled in favor of a church tax exemption:
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Christopher Foley has found that the Jerusalem Empowered African Methodist Episcopal Church, 9540 W. Good Hope Road, had met the legal requirements to be tax exempt. And Foley declared a portion of state law governing certain nonprofit benevolent organizations to be unconstitutional.


  1. Ah, forgot to sign in when I set up the new browser. I think this should post and am testing it by sending this along...

  2. That was it. It's a little, tiny box in the upper right-hand corner on the screen and I didn't see and then didn't remember I should have ticked the box, reinitialising my profile after setting a new browser.

    I wasn't going crazy and I wasn't being stupid -- only unobservant!

  3. Note to other readers: Jacob emailed me that his comments had disappeared before he even got to the Captcha code.
    Jacob: I don't think there has ever been a time when people had to learn so many different new things so often just function in daily life. Observation is only part of it. Built in usability from the programmers is another big part.


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