Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Why do taxpayers fund churches?

It is a common practice for churches that are registered charities to give tax receipts to those who give to them.

What does this look like in a typical church of 100 people? They will often have a building and pay a minister to look after the affairs of the church and preside over some form of religious service. They may provide care for the poor but not necessarily.

Much of what happens at the church is for the primary benefit of those who are members. The members are essentially giving to themselves. This is not so much charitable giving as it is paying for services rendered.

These members will get a tax receipt, which can save them as much as 43% of what they gave to the church.

If the church’s budget was $100,000, it is possible that taxpayers would pay $43,000 towards that budget through the benefits that members received as tax deductions.

There is nothing wrong with people forming groups and paying someone to look after the group.

I simply don’t know why taxpayers should pay for this.


Jamie A. Grant said...

Oh, snap!

With your example, we could argue that $43,000 should be given to those in need to make it justifiable as charity. The counterpoint is that things like Sunday School and Nursery are providing services to the community free of charge.

But wow, that's a serious blow. Very few people give money to their church as it is, so how many people would give if there was no charitable receipt for it? Ouch.

David Grant said...

1. Good point. 50% to those in need would change our world.
2. It shouldn't change giving habits as people shouldn't give to get.
3. Ministries that genuinely do help the poor would potentially benefit.
4. People would take more personal responsibility for their giving.

I'll write another blog sometime called 'seduced by a charitable receipt.'

Jamie A. Grant said...

For posterity's sake, I wanted to ntoe that my dad posted this as a Letter To The Editor on the London Free Press' website.

There was one response from "John Zylstra." I'll quote it here for the record...

"From a social point of view, churches are as valid as arenas, fine arts centers, community centers, community swimming pools, and parks. Churches get no government funding whatsoever, while all these other buildings and centers do. These other organizations also get tax deductions for donations in most cases, on top of direct governement grants and funding. But, besides the social impacts of churches, they also provide direct assistance for the poor, camps and classes for children, foreign aid or domestic aid for needy situations, help for orphans, and care for elderly and other needy members or community people, for which they do not get paid. They have an impact on reducing costs to governments for social needs. It is also true that those who donate to churches tend to also be the same ones who donate more to all other causes as well. Certainly churches deserve tax reductions as much or more than an art museum, or a wildlife fund."