In the U.S., we have a problem where the IRS never seems to investigate churches even when their pastors endorse political candidates from the pulpit, blatantly violating the rules by which all non-profits must abide. More broadly, churches are getting away with breaking the rules.
They may be cracking down on those very problems starting this May in Puerto Rico.
According to the group Ateístas de Puerto Rico, Secretary of the Treasury Juan Zaragoza says his department will soon begin auditing churches that, like other non-profits, receive broad tax exemptions. They’re specifically looking for places that operate as non-profit churches, but really do plenty of for-profit work without paying taxes on that income:
“The problem is that there are churches that are family businesses and where people are making a profit. You can have a church for profit, like any other, just like a shoe store. You can operate a church as a for-profit entity, and every year you should file returns with your profits and pay”, he said.
“The message we’re sending here is that we have a responsibility and will oversee all groups. This is not an attempt to demonize anyone. On the contrary, we are not giving privilege to anyone, which is entirely something else.
What happens is that there are sectors who have enjoyed privileges for inaction and (when) the Department of the Treasury gets up and takes action against them, they have a normal defense reaction, saying ‘why are they pointing at me?’ The thing is I cannot favor anyone.
I oversee everyone”, said the official.
Churches that are playing by the rules and providing services to the people of Puerto Rico have nothing to worry about, of course. This isn’t some anti-religious practice. This is simply about making sure all non-profit organizations, including religious ones, are being honest. And honesty shouldn’t be a problem for the religious, right?
You can read a Spanish-language article about this matter right here.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Maru for the link)