"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 And while he says he's a CPA and not a politico, he suspects this decision will be repealed.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.