Italian government plans to tax commercial property belonging to the Catholic Church. Overdue.
Bed & Breakfast hotel run by a convent in Rome
Over the years, the Italian government has quietly passed scores of laws that benefit the Roman Catholic Church, but it is rare for it to issue a public statement announcing it intends to strip the church of privileges. The government of Prime Minister Mario Monti took that step on Wednesday, telling the European Commission that it intends to change Italian law to ensure the church pays property tax on the parts of its buildings used for commercial ends.
The church owns vast amounts of property in Italy, and the move is aimed at making sure that convents that offer bed and breakfast or church buildings that rent space to shops pay their full share of taxes.
The change — once it is formally drafted and approved by Parliament — could result in revenues of $650 million to $2.6 billion annually, according to municipal government associations. It could also set an example for other debt-strapped European countries — most notably Greece and Spain — where there is growing popular resentment over tax breaks for the church.
It would set an example for the United States – not only for Old World religions but the all-American bible belt crowd.
Even in Catholic Italy, the proposal shows the churchgoing Mr. Monti’s ability to read the national mood. Faced with their own belt-tightening and tax increases, Italians are increasingly fed up with what they see as unfair privileges — be it of the political class or the church. After new austerity measures were passed in December, 130,000 people signed an online petition calling on the government to revoke the church’s tax-exempt status…
Today, many church buildings fall into a gray area, taking advantage of a tax exemption for religious organization’s buildings even if they are largely commercial in use…
Overdue? It’s all overdue.
The only exemptions religions should have from taxation are those befitting non-profit charitable works. Period. End of discussion.
Take the time to discuss this with most folks and even the most thoroughly brainwashed True Believer will generally understand the sense of fairness that should discipline the funding of necessary government. It’s an all-in proposition. Certain work – like charity – might be exempt. Not individuals or organizations just by definition of their belief system.