Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Church-owned businesses get tax bills

A growing number of local tax officials are scrutinizing church-owned businesses and property to determine whether they are charitable missions or for-profit enterprises, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

This has led to lengthy disputes and court fights between some tax assessors and churches. For instance, the Journal said, Christ Chapel Community Church in Macon, Ga., ended up paying $16,000 for 2005 and 2006 taxes after disputing for 18 months a tax bill for an athletic club it had purchased for $6 million that offered tennis, basketball, and roller hockey for a fee. On the weekend, church members set up seats for 1,000 worshipers.

The changing nature of churches "forces both courts and agencies and tax commissioners to decide what's a religious or charitable use," John Witte Jr., director of the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, told the Journal.