Saturday, September 22, 2007

Is a church really a charity?

When we do our income taxes, we can deduct charitable giving, including giving to our church, and the church itself pays no taxes. But is a church really a charity? Does it really do anything for the community, or is it merely a self-indulgent social club?

Right now I have before me our church's budget summary for Fiscal Year 2007, trying to ascertain how much of it is actually used for charitable benefit to the community.

47.70% of the budget is for salaries and benefits to a full-time preacher, a part-time assistant preacher, an organist, and an office manager.

What do the preachers do? Primarily, they put on a grandiose show for us. They lead the Sunday morning services, attend our social events, and may perform some administrative duties. Nobody outside of the church sees any of this. It's all for the benefit of the church members. The preachers also serve as figureheads for the church in our dealings with our community, but for the most part, the people outside of the church barely know that the preachers exist. Hardly any charity here.

The organist greatly enhances our enjoyment of the church service, but that has no impact on anybody outside the church. No charity here.

The office manager is necessary for the administration of the church, but does nothing except help keep the church in existence. No charity here.

36.20% of the budget is for operating expense. It's just to keep the church in existence. No charity here.

12.47% of the budget is for buildings and grounds. Two chapels, a parish hall, a graveyard, and about eleven acres of land to do maintenance on. No charity here.

2.42% of the budget is for insurance. A necessary expense, to be sure, but it's not charity.

0.83% of the budget is for ministries support. That serves certain special needs of the congregation members, so I suppose that, by some stretch of the definition, it could be called charity, but it's only for church members, not the community at large.

0.37% of the budget is for outreach. This could be construed as charity of sorts, but it's primarily intended to extend invitations to folks to join the church, not to actually do much good. Charity? Well, maybe.

(I think the remaining 0.01% is the result of arithmetical rounding.)

In addition, some church members participate in a charity called SMILE which is run by a consortium of several of the churches of the community. None of the churches' budgets contribute anything to SMILE, however.

My conclusion is that our church is an almost purely self-indulgent social club, and we've done a masterful con job into hoodwinking the IRS into exempting the church from taxes. The tax break is actually an outright gift from the state to the church, thus constituting a breach in the traditional separation of church and state. Personally, I feel a bit guilty participating in this blatant fraud.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

my pastor does not take a wage form the church.
£1300 worth of toys was given to underpriviledged children at christmas...handbags filled with makeup, mosturiser etc to women who are in tough situations, hundreds of hampers to people who don't have as much as some of us.
a car was is held every week to raise funds for the run of a bus with disabled access and a club providing respite for the parents of the children who attend.
money is given to missions and local organisations such as the samaritans and hope etc. who work with drug addicts to help them get free.
people set aside time every week to go unto the towns to wash and iron for single mums etc. meals are provided for the elderly and the sick are visited.
the list goes on and on.......