Churches in the US are given a lot of benefits by the government, including tax exemptions on property tax, donations, social security taxes, and sales tax.

But did you know that preachers also personally receive hefty tax breaks from the IRS at everyone else's expense? According to ABC News Sacramento, a lawsuit filed this week in Sacramento against the IRS, Timothy Geithner, & the state of California will help determine whether it's legal for preachers to get a free pass on taxes that other citizens must pay.

According to the Freedom from Religion Foundation:

"Ministers, who are paid in tax-free dollars, also may deduct their mortgage interest and property tax payments. Under both Federal and California law, allowances paid to 'ministers of the gospel' are not treated as taxable income, unlike the situation for other taxpayers. Only 'ministers of the gospel' may claim these benefits".

No matter what your stance is on whether churches should get tax exemptions, these ministers-only tax exemptions go even further. Unlike charity laws which give tax benefits to both secular and religious organizations, these laws give benefits only to ministers. In some cases, clergy even "double-dip": they "deduct their mortgage payments and real estate taxes from income tax, even though they paid for these with tax-exempt dollars, amounting to a government subsidy solely for clergy," according to FFRF.

In a secular nation, which has a constitution prohibiting the establishment of religion, it seems both illegal and unjust that ministers of any income get a free ride on taxes everyone else has to pay. Just like everyone else, some men and women of the cloth make little money, while others are multi-millionaires. So why shouldn't they be taxed at the same rates as everyone else? The rest of the country shouldn't be made to pay more taxes to make up for this unfair exception.

Freedom of religion should allow ministers to worship, not to cheat the tax system at taxpayer expense.

As originally posted on

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Comment by IAmTheBlog on October 21, 2009 at 4:10pm
That's ridiculous about your neighbor, Steve. I think there are probably a lot of people who take advantage of this one way or the other. I haven't come across any stats on how frequent this is, but the FFRF just filed their lawsuit, so maybe more info will come out soon.

Carver, my understanding from what I read is that basically if you are a minister and you claim property as your residence, then you are eligible for the property tax exemption. So it would make sense that your son-in-law didn't get exempt for the places he was renting out because it wasn't his residence. But he would have been eligible for the exemption either if his church had a parsonage, or if there was no parsonage then on his residence.

Ida, I don't know if there's anything that can be done other than the lawsuit. I suppose if anyone's brave enough, they could write to the IRS or Treasury Department to complain about it. I would be too afraid of getting audited or getting on some list!

I personally think that churches are businesses and should have to pay taxes, but some argue that they're like non-profit organizations and shouldn't be taxed. I disagree but can kind of see that; I don't see how the ministers getting special tax breaks can be defended though.
Comment by Timo Ostrander on October 21, 2009 at 9:28am
not only that but many ministers have a parsonage which means the church pays for their house separate from the church building itself. basically, the parsonage belongs to the church but I wouldn't be surprised if some pastors have managed to ingratiate themselves enough to get it signed over to themselves.
Comment by Jim DePaulo on October 20, 2009 at 7:35pm
While I believe ministers should pay taxes (and churches property taxes), I think they are tax excempt from their mininster's salary only not on any other income they make. My son in law's father was a minister and he owned some rentals, he had to pay taxes on that income.
Comment by Ron Edwards on October 20, 2009 at 7:27pm
They should not only have to pay taxes, they should be held accountable for all the damage they have caused to humanity through their ignorant superstitions... but that's another story isn't it? LOL
It's interesting to wonder about the magnitude of the inevitable war that would be waged if ever our religious minded government or any part or person of it wised up and made an attempt to change these tax laws.
Comment by James M. Martin on October 20, 2009 at 5:53pm
Is the Pope German?
Comment by Creature on October 20, 2009 at 3:51pm
I figure that if tips are going to be taxable, and people like my mother(collects social security and disabliity) get taxed, no one should be off limits.
Comment by Ida on October 20, 2009 at 3:39pm
Wow. I didn't know this. How can we end this?

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