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In Texas, there is a demonstration at the state capitol today.  They’re demanding that their state leaders begin taxing megachurches in the state in order to help local schools.  The project is headed by the state’s American Atheists.  Their director, Joe Zamecki, has released a statement stating why he thinks this is a good thing.  Read it, and see if he makes his point: Public education in Texas is in a financial crisis. This year’s state legislature is about to slash spending on education, to include the laying off of possibly hundreds of teachers, and the closing of public schools all over the state. Apparently the state budget is short this year, by billions of dollars. Right now, parents, students, teachers and others are rallying around their schools, and speaking out about the very real need to keep the teachers and schools we have now, as one of our state’s top priorities. Meanwhile mega-churches and televangelists in Texas are doing very well. So the recurring theme of church taxation is in the air again, although it’s still a somewhat shocking idea to most people. Not so shocking as in the past. Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church alone is doing famously well, operating in the physically largest church building in the USA, tax-free. Like so many Texas mega-churches, Joel and his church have the ease of marketing that some corporations have, so we feel that they and other successful mega-churches could help with public education too. We’ve proposed just a 1% tax on profits taken in by just the top 1% of the most profitable mega-churches and televangelists in Texas. They can easily afford it. Not the small, poor churches we hear about so much. This is not an idea to harm or hinder any churches in their operations. We feel that giving churches blanket tax-exempt status is giving them a special privilege. The overwhelming financial success of some of those churches has some economists standing in awe. The idea isn’t new, and it isn’t going away, as long as Texas’ children have a grossly inferior system of education, a financial balance like this is needed. Studies show that our state is lagging behind in education very badly, and knowing that the current legislature with the Texas governor are working hard together, it’s clear that spending cuts will happen before any tax increases or new taxes are implemented. So without that normal financial balance, Texans are considering alternatives. This is one idea for an alternative that could solve the issue of insufficient tax funds. As unusual and unpopular as this type of idea is, it just needs to be said again, loudly. And for those who feel that a church tax would invite churches and religious activists into the public schools, the legislature, and other areas of secular government existence: too late. They’re already well established in those institutions, which is one reason why we have a state/church separation movement. They just need to pay their admission fee, finally. It would really help the people of Texas. So… they don’t want to tax the ‘small, poor churches’ just those that large churches that need to ‘pay their admission fee’. No word on how they would decide which churches are poor and which ones are rich. They’ve vowed to protest every weekday outside the Texas capitol until lawmakers take action. What[box type=”info”]What do YOU think? Should churches be taxed? Why or why not? And regardless of your answer to that question… do you think laws will ever be changed to require churches to pay taxes?[/box] Todd More information here…

Current Events
The 2011 Church & Clergy Tax Guide by nonprofit tax expert, Richard Hammar, J.D., LL.M., CPA, releases today. Included in this annually updated, exhaustive tax guide are all of the last-minute changes that will affect churches throughout the United States. Here are some of the developments Hammar highlights in this book. A few of the changes you’ll want to find out more about are:
  • Beginning in 2010, the new Healthcare Reform Legislation will grant small employers, including nonprofits, a refundable tax credit as inducement to obtain health insurance for their employees. After 2012, legislation changes will put a limitation on employee health flex spending arrangements.
  • Congress passed the Creating Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, which, among other things, removes cell phones from the definition of listed property, and imposes penalties of up to $50 per return for not issuing forms W-2 or 1099-MISC on time with the IRS. This legislation also increases the maximum amount a taxpayer may expense under section 179 to $500,000.
  • In 2010, Congress enacted the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act. The act provides two new tax benefits to employers that hire workers who were previously unemployed or only working part-time. Churches and most other tax-exempt organizations all qualify to claim the payroll tax benefit for eligible newly-hired employees.
For comprehensive details on these and other late-breaking 2010 changes, see the 2011 Church & Clergy Tax Guide, by Richard Hammar. Christianity Today International is a not-for-profit Christian media ministry founded by Billy Graham in 1956, with nine publications and an award-winning website reaching more than 2.5-million unique visitors monthly.