Tax the Non-Profits



Tax the Non-Profits

Taxes, taxes, taxes. What are we going to do about them? Who wants to pay them? Who should pay them? Why are we paying so much? Why am I paying so much and you so little? How are we going to pay for services if we don’t pay more taxes? Why can’t someone else pay the taxes – that is, anyone who earns or has more than I? Why can’t I get a tax break, everyone else seems to? Oh, why, why, why?

  That’s why we have a federal tax code that runs 56,000 or is it 86,000 pages. Whatever. Open any page and there’s something for some one either on the give or the take side. Not that anyone really knows what’s in those pages, not even the Internal Revenue Service. One report a couple of years ago said that of inquiries made to the IRS, the IRS answered incorrectly 25 per cent of the time, or something like that. Anyway, it’s a mess to which we add more mess each year.

          That’s just the Feds. Anything that hasn’t been taxed by them gets taxed by the state and local governments. Anything means anything. I guess that makes for some equality in taxes. Everyone seems to pay something through sales taxes, utility taxes, excise taxes, head taxes, shoulder taxes, feet taxes. I made those last two up, but I could be proven wrong. We used to have window taxes.

          So, what to do? I’ll talk about the Fair Tax and a Flat Tax later. I’m talking today about leveling the field a bit. Let’s start with the churches. Churches are tax exempt. They don’t pay property taxes for one. Yet, the big churches own millions of acres of property. Billions of dollars of taxes aren’t being paid even while the churches require police, fire and road services. They pay their utility fees, of course, but not property taxes. This is consistent throughout the country. There wouldn’t have been a problem in Clearwater had the Church of Scientology not been tax exempt. And, no, I’m not anti-church. I have served on church boards. Fair is fair.

  While you could spend a day discussing property holdings and businesses of churches, churches are a small part of the booming and expanding world of non-profits.  There are non-profit statuses for organizations dealing with human and civil rights, animals, children, seniors, land conservation, refugees, medicine, education, health, diseases, military and fire and police departments. And, that isn’t a comprehensive list. If we could spend a day discussing church properties and holdings, we could spend a year discussing these other organizations.

  All these organization utilize space, community time and attention, and often own buildings and complexes and often employ highly paid people (they are not tax exempt). They utilize public services. Wouldn’t it be fair if they paid something? At least toss something into the pot. After all there are towns in the U.S. where 40 per cent of the town is tax exempt. Not fair particularly when citizens in other communities with fewer tax-exempt entities utilize that community’s tax-exempt services.

  Add to these groups’ pay-ins a nominal contribution from those 47 per cent who pay no federal income taxes (30 plus per cent of them actually receive a check as a refund of taxes they never paid), and maybe governments would be able to pay their bills better. That is, if they could ever stop spending, spending, spending. But don’t get me started on that.

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