One issue the Secular Coalition of America (SCA) is working on in Washington DC is secular tax reform. Churches and other religious groups have advantages under the current tax code that other nonprofits don’t. The SCA would like to see the rules applied equally to all tax exempt groups. You can help out get the message to Congress.
The tax code grants numerous benefits to churches that are not available to all other 501(c)(3) organizations, such as awarding 501(c)(3) status without application, removing the requirement to file annual IRS reports, and providing insulation from auditing through the Church Audit Procedures Act. The combination of these exemptions ensures churches receive substantial tax benefits while remaining shielded from any public or government review.
These exemptions have an unjustifiably high cost. Simply enforcing compliance by churches with the same rules that apply to all other nonprofits, could generate billions of dollars in additional tax revenue. Removing these exemptions does not threaten religious liberty rights as the financial reporting required does not involve matters of religious belief or practice. However, if a house of worship objects to the inquiry, they are free to forego the exemption and limit IRS access to their records. Courts have repeatedly held that 501(c)(3) status is a privilege, not a right to which houses of worship are entitled.
In a recent update e-mail the SCA said that there is still time for people to let Congress know they should apply the tax rules equally:
The Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees continues to seek public comment on Tax Reform issues and have received approximately 900,000 comments. We are asking all supporters to please go to taxreform.gov and file a comment regarding the need for churches to file 990 disclosure statements with the IRS, these public comments are limited to 140 characters or less.
Not sure of what to say? Take a look at our tax policy page with information on financial disclosures, faith-based initiatives subsidies and the parsonage exemption. There you will find more of our briefing papers, including Secular Tax Reform Lobby Paper, SecularTax Reform Issue Statement, Comments Submitted to the Charitable/Exempt Organizations Tax Reform Working Group on April 15, 2013. Still not sure what to write? Here’s one suggestion: “Level the playing field for secular and religious nonprofits by requiring the same tax forms and rules for all.
For information on secular tax code reform policy, check out the Secular Coalition’s Tax Policy page.