I Want My Parsonage Tax Deduction

I’ve stayed away from the whole religious organization tax breaks issue, mostly because others have dealt with it. But this NY Times article about the parsonage exemption pisses me off to no end (the parsonage exemption allows workers for religious organizations to deduct the cost of their housing). Here’s why: I work for a secular non-profit so I don’t get to deduct my rent (with the tax deduction, I would be refunded three months of rent). Quoth the Grey Lady:

He did not address the pastoral poverty argument in his court briefs, but in an interview, he noted that poorly paid inner-city teachers and day care workers do not benefit from the parsonage exemption, despite their service to society.
Nor do people at secular nonprofit organizations engaged in humanitarian work. Action Against Hunger U.S.A., based in New York, finances relief programs in Africa, but its director, Cathy Skoula, pays taxes on her entire salary, including what she spends on housing. So does Lawrence Rosenblatt, executive director of the Bowery Residents’ Committee, which provides food, shelter and counseling to sick, needy people in Lower Manhattan.

What really infuriates me is that the pastors who, by opposing the HPV vaccine for four years and consequently will kill over 11,000 women through cervical cancer, are getting their murderous sectarian asses subsidized by my tax dollars. It’s often hard to evaluate an organization’s effectiveness, but I can say with certainty that my organization hasn’t advocated policies that will result in the death of 11,000 people.
And we were actually joking about becoming a Jewish-aligned non-profit. Not only would we get the parsonage exemption, but we would get a crack at all of the international development money that is being funneled to faith-based organizations (at the expense of experienced secular organizations, naturally). Besides, these federally-funded Christian faith-based organizations need a Jewish fig leaf. I could handle being a ‘court Jew.’ It couldn’t be any worse than being a gay Republican…

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5 Responses to I Want My Parsonage Tax Deduction

  1. Roger says:

    You’re right the parsonage exemption is a benefit. However religious workers do have to pay social security on the value of housing. And the exemption is also for military workers if I remember correctly. But it is unfair. It encourages congregations and religious institutions to pay their workers unfairly because they’re not getting taxed and there’s no real reason why non-profits that aren’t religious shouldn’t get the same deduction. The idea behind it seems to have been that religious workers are doing good works, but aren’t all non-profits supposed to be doing that same thing?

  2. Garrett says:

    What would we have to do to get FSM recognized as an official religious organization?

  3. pastordan says:

    I actually agree with you on the subject, and I take the tax break. I’d like to see it expanded to secular non-profits, though I have no idea how that would work.

  4. Pastordan,
    I’m not sure how to make that work, although MA allows all renters to deduct a very small amount of their rents. One idea might be to allow employees of 501(c)3s to deduct their housing expenses too (with maybe a cap on the maximum deduction).
    By the way, I read your posts over at DKos. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. mirc says:


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