Brief Bit of Clarity

I just noticed this again over at S-Town Mike’s (not saying he’s done it before, just saying that I’ve seen it before and seeing him do it just reminded me that I wanted to say something about it):

Why is this even getting play at “Taxing Tennessee”? Just because pastors may have to pay taxes if they publicly endorse parties and candidates? A congregation’s tax-free non-profit status is an entitlement by any other name. Instead of welfare queens, we’ve got a lot of welfare clerics running around making lots of money and not giving anything back to our common public life (and please no explanations about how proselytizing people is a public service).

This is not true.  Churches are tax-exempt.  Pastors are not.  They still have to pay income tax just like everyone else and sales tax on their own stuff just like everyone else.  When a pastor manages to conflate his private life and the life of the church so completely that he’s avoiding paying either income or sales tax, he’s committing tax fraud.

Conflating the tax status of pastors with the tax status of churches is a mistake.  They are not one in the same.  Which is, to me, why this nonsense is even more infuriating.  People do conflate pastors with their churches and do conflate the views of the pastor with the established will of the church and those are not and should not be the same thing.  A pastor is, at the end of the day, just human and just as likely to be wrong as the next person.

Taking political advice from your pastor is as wise as taking spiritual advice from your senator.

6 thoughts on “Brief Bit of Clarity

  1. Thank you. The inability of people to understand the salary difference between modern pastors and priests in 1180 AD really grates on my nerves.

    (I await nm and bridgett to clarify that I have probably also misunderstood the salary structure of medieval Catholicism)

  2. Eh, move it back to 980 and you’re on target. Part of the impulse in western Europe during the 12th century to ban priestly marriage was just that problem of conflation, though. The distinction between parish income and priest’s income was fairly clear by 1180; the conflict then was between priests and the bishops who wanted a percentage off the top (or, depending where you were, priests, bishops, and secular rulers who also got a cut).

  3. I know of several pastors who wrongfully exploit the loophole for exemption for FICA withholding. The IRS Code provides exemption only for those who have a religious objection to insurance. Some may argue that those claiming exemption aren’t doing anything wrong because they won’t get any social security benefits. However, for those who worked in non-church jobs for a sufficient period of time before entering the pastorate and claiming exemption, they WILL still receive benefits upon retirement. It is my strong opinion that certain pastors fraudulently claim exemption, somehow justifying that they are “owed” such exemption as a tax benefit extended to ministers. This really “chaps my hide”!

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