Under current tax law, members of the clergy are entitled to receive a housing allowance upon which they are not required to pay taxes. This so called “parsonage allowance” allows clergy members to receive thousands of dollars per year from their church to be used to pay for their housing but this money is not classified as part of their salary and is thus exempt from taxation.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation has filed suit over this practice, arguing that churches and clergy are receiving special treatment that is not available to other non-profit institutions and Gordon Klingenschmitt, not surprisingly, is vehemently opposed to FFRF’s effort to end this exemption, arguing on his “Pray In Jesus Name” program today that it is not fair to make members of the clergy “pay extra taxes” by ending this practice.
As Klingenschmitt sees it, no churches should be required to pay taxes because the donations it receives have already been taxed once when the money was first earned by the people who donated it.
“Everyone who goes to church and has a job,” he explained, “already paid their taxes back home on their income and then they gave whatever was left over to the church. So should the church then have to pay taxes on top of that?”
By the same token, Klingenschmitt says, a pastor who receives thousands of dollars from the church to pay for housing should also not be required to pay taxes on that money because the pastor has already paid taxes on his or her salary.
“Because [the housing allowance] is still funded by the church, it should not be double taxed,” Klingenschmitt argued, “since the pastor already paid his income taxes as an employee of the church … That doesn’t mean he ought to pay extra taxes for the simple fact of living in a church-owned or church-rented property”:
Of course, the entire point is that most people pay taxes on their salary and then have to use that salary to pay for their housing, but members of the clergy receive a salary on which they pay taxes and then thousands of dollars in the form of a housing allowance upon which they don’t. But to Klingenschmitt, not giving clergy members this tax-free allowance amounts to double taxation.