William James

William James
We must get by on what truth we have today, and be willing to call it error tomorrow.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

On The LDS Church's Tax Exempt Status

In reaction to a story that the LDS Church's Preston, England temple had caused the loss of tax exempt status, the comments were made:

"'but tax exemptions are considered a subsidy, even though no money is collected, the subsidy is being able to keep the money that otherwise would be collected.'
That's because for decades the we've been inculcated with the idea that to not raise taxes = a tax cut. This is flawed logic. A tax cut is to lower existing taxes.
The same principle applies to a subsidies. Not collecting a tax does not equal giving money.
That's bureaucratic doublespeak."

To which I responded:

While I understand the sentiment behind your comments (about not wanting to concede the notion that the Government should have such great power over private property that private parties should view themselves as "getting something back" when the Government elects not to tax them), you are missing the point that was trying to be made, which I think is this:

In any society in which the government provides some kind of service (i.e., national defense, etc.), there will always have to be a way to pay for it, and the most common way is through a compulsory taxation system. If the pool of tax-paying entities/individuals shrinks by virtue of some of them having tax exemptions, then necessarily, the remaining entities/individuals will be shouldering more of the tax burden. Just as I would not feel particularly enthused, hypothetically, about some Neo-Nazi Church raising tons of money and not having to pay any taxes, I can understand and appreciate that some people oppose the idea of any church, including the LDS Church, having tax exempt status. I echo some of the sentiments of Tarski, in that the basis for a tax exemption should be an organization's predominant concern for charity in the objective sense. In trying to come up with a fair taxation system, we will have to make value judgments about how much organizations contribute to society.

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