God’s big money cheaters

Make AiG’s nightmare a reality!

Churches already have so many unwarranted privileges that it’s simply being greedy when they also flout the few laws that constrain them. ProPublica exposes what we already knew was happening everywhere: churches ignoring the law to meddle in politics.

ProPublica and The Texas Tribune have found 20 apparent violations in the past two years of the Johnson Amendment, a law that prohibits church leaders from intervening in political campaigns. Two occurred in the last two weeks as candidates crisscross Texas vying for votes. The number of potential violations found by the news outlets is greater than the total number of churches the IRS has investigated for intervening in political campaigns in the past decade, according to documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Under the law, pastors can endorse candidates in their personal capacities outside of church and weigh in on political issues from the pulpit as long as they don’t veer into support or condemnation of a particular candidate. But the law prohibits pastors from endorsing candidates during official church functions such as sermons.

Violations can lead to the revocation of a church’s tax-exempt status.

Oooh, what a terrifying punishment.

Since the IRS has been unable to enforce the law, I suggest cutting through all the hesitations and simply revoke the tax-exempt status of all churches. There’s no legitimate reason that setting up a panhandling shop and calling it a god’s house should make its owners free of property and income taxes. Start rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, you know.


  1. wzrd1 says

    Poor, poor God. Ever so in need of money and political support. If only there was some Supreme being to help out…

  2. says

    The IRS has a complaint form online, which you can fill out. But given how understaffed they are its probably useless (thanks republicans!)

    In principle someone reporting a mega-church would get a percentage of any taxes recovered as a whistle-blower, but winning the lottery seems more likely.

  3. nomaduk says

    I mean, shame about the stained-glass windows and all the nice paintings, but, what the hell. Burn them all to the ground.

  4. says

    @Akira McKenzie:
    Unable. The republicans “defunded” the IRS in order to reduce their enforcement ability.

    For example, I got a bill from them for estimated taxes because they have not yet processed my 2020 tax return. My accountant and I sent a letter with the tracking info from the return and a spare copy. Every 2 months since then I have gotten a letter from the IRS saying “we are working on all of the returns and letters and hope to process yours soon!” Meanwhile, their computer sends increasingly threatening letters asking for the imagined amount, plus fines and interest.

    Now is a good time to cheat on taxes because there is a 3 year statue of limitations. A suspicious-minded person might think that is the arrangement.

  5. StevoR says

    Meanwhile here in Oz :


    A roadmap outlining how the religious right can “infiltrate” the Liberal Party with “Good Godly” candidates has been linked to a controversial former Liberal candidate and current member of the party’s state assembly in Victoria.

    Peter Killin made headlines in 2019 as the former Liberal candidate for the federal seat of Wills and was forced to resign over comments he made about homosexuality. … (snip).. “We are seeing an inordinate number of elected MPs, particularly in the Liberal Party, who come from Pentecostal backgrounds, who come from Mormon backgrounds, who come from very conservative religious backgrounds,” she (Ms Patten -ed) said.

    “And that is not reflective of where the community stands.

    “Those organisations represent a very small percentage of Victorians and Australians, yet they are remarkably, I would say, over represented in Liberal Party preselection.”

    As also noted in the Infinite Thread.

    This has also happened locally in South Australia with a religious reich faction including my thankfully former local MP Flint & anti-vaxxer and Trump fan Alex Antic ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Antic ) trying to branch stack the local “Liberal” (regressive) party. (See : https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-06-15/liberal-member-audit-defended-amid-religious-vilification-claims/100215792 )

    Yeah, the Separation of Church and State is coming under serious Christianist attack and not just over in the States

  6. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 6

    Yes, but I don’t seem to recall any enforcement of the Johnson Amendment BEFORE the fascists gutted the IRS. If they did, we wouldn’t be dealing with a theocratic takeover.

    So I’m going to say “Unwilling” because even the Democrats–the DEFENDERS of church-state separation–are afraid of dealing with dealers of the Opiate of the Masses when it’s politically inconvenient. (Just like everything else they claim to stand for.)

  7. erik333 says

    Well sure, they should be taxed… but they should also be in prison for fraud., unless they can demonstrate that god and heaven in fact do exist.

  8. Howard Brazee says

    It shouldn’t be an issue with the IRS. Churches shouldn’t make net profits.
    But community taxes should be paid. Community services are given.

  9. whheydt says

    Re: Howard Brazee @ #11…
    Noting in non-profit law bars non-profit organizations from making a net profit. What is barred is distributing those profits to individuals. Any funds spent are supposed to be spent in pursuit of the declared purpose of the non-profit organization.

  10. says

    @6 Marcus Ranum – ‘now is a good time to cheat on taxes because there is a 3 year statue of limitations.’
    Yes, in the U.S. the IRS is very understaffed and backlogged. It is best to pay $20-$50 for some tax software and file electronically. Those are typically processed in days, not months.
    Also, I was a federally credentialed tax preparer for a few years. BE CAREFUL, the 3 yr statute of limitations is no protection. If IRS flags and audits you, they will initially look back 3 years. BUT, if THEY determine they have found ANY slight irregularities, they can audit you back to your teen years! Remember, penalties and interest from $100 underpayment a decade or two ago can add up to MANY thousands owed now.

  11. says

    And, yes! tax the churches! There are so many of them (looking at you Drool Osteeeen) that are just obscenely wealthy con artists.

  12. says

    OLD story, Pastor throws money from offering plate into the air, saying, “god, you keep what you want, whatever falls back is mine’

  13. Walter Solomon says

    wzrd1 @2

    Poor, poor God. Ever so in need of money and political support. If only there was some Supreme being to help out…

    I read that as “Supreme Court” for some reason. That said, I’m certain that institution would be far more helpful to these churches than a Supreme being ever would.

  14. flex says

    I’m fine with non-profits (including all churches) being tax-exempt, so long as they maintain open account books.

    In fact, all organizations which receive public monies, which includes forgiveness of taxes, should have their accounts open to public scrutiny. I would possibly accept that only people who are certified public accountants could perform that scrutiny. Letting my uncle look through the account books of Planned Parenthood would probably only lead to inarticulate yelling. And I could see some restrictions put in place so that nuisance audits are minimized. But if an organization receives public funds, and forgiveness on taxes is a donation from the state of those monies which should have gone to the public purse, their account books should be accessible for review by the public.

    I know it will never happen.

  15. gijoel says

    I reminded when Cerebus became Pope (before Dave Sims became a raging misogynist) he’d scream at his followers that God wants all of their money.

  16. whheydt says

    Re: shermanj @ #13…
    Back in the early 1960s, my father–who scrupulously and honestly filed and paid his taxes–got a random audit letter from the IRS. For the year they wanted to audit him, they explained that the statue of limitations was about to run out and would he please grant them an extension to do the audit. He declined to do so and that was the last he heard about it.

    His attitude was that if they couldn’t get their act together to work within the legal limits, he sure wasn’t going to give them extra time to make his life difficult.

  17. silvrhalide says

    @17 Generally, any forgiven debt is considered taxable income in the US. $50,000 in credit card debt or student loans forgiven? You get a 1099-C for the forgiven debt amount and you definitely owe taxes on it. And the IRS will certainly chase you down and collect on it.
    Not owing taxes in the first place (whether nonprofit or not-for-profit, which are two separate things) is not the same thing as debt or tax forgiveness. One you never owed tax on in the first place, the other is definitely taxable income.
    Also, public monies are not the same as charitable donations. Public monies are generally money given from some level of government (but not always, just usually) whereas charitable donations are money from the public (ie., tithing to a church, donating to Greenpeace, etc.)

    Yeah, I’d like it if there were higher standards for tax preparers and accountants in general but it will never happen because Americans love the sweetness of low price far more than they dislike the bitterness of poor quality. Also, there’s no shortage of stupid and/or venal CPAs.

    Actually, I’d rather the US adopted the model that most of Europe uses, which is “the government figures your taxes & lets you know what you owe. OR you can do your taxes yourself and show your work” but there’s too much money in the US tax prep business for that to happen. Their lobbyists are too powerful. But it’s ridiculous that Americans, for the most part, have to pay to get their taxes done. It should be a free government service like it is in all the other grownup countries.

  18. silvrhalide says

    @1 & 3 The IRS had its operating budget chopped to next to nothing, same as the CDC, which in 2020, had the same level of funding as it did in 1982. Not sure why anyone would be shocked, shocked that the CDC wasn’t working miracles in the time of global plague when they were all but holding bake sales just to keep their doors open and the lights on. Same with the IRS.

    Also, it’s two forms to report someone to the IRS and to collect a portion of the money that the IRS collects on deadbeats & tax dodgers. Form 211 is the form you fill out to collect. BUT you only collect if the IRS collects.