I was surprised to find this headline last week: “IRS ‘Church Parking Tax’ Sparks Questions and Concerns.” Parking tax on churches? I guess I was asleep when the Republican-majority U.S. Congress of 2017 wrote this new law signed by our president.

A little research on the subject reveals that the IRS has published a complicated 24-page booklet to help churches (and other nonprofits) calculate whether or not they’re required to pay the tax. I found that document, hoping to read through it, but remembered after one or two paragraphs why so many Americans cannot understand the tax code. What a sham has been foisted on nonprofits! One person, studying the complexity of the legislation, concluded many congregations will spend more to hire an accountant to figure the tax than to pay the tax itself.

Congress is looking everywhere to find money, but this is a very bad precedent. Churches and nonprofits are saving the government basketsful of money every day. To levy a tax on their parking lot/parking spaces is ridiculous.

Bordering on the pathetic, one suggestion for how a church with a parking lot could avoid the tax on their clergy parking is to simply remove the “Reserved for Pastor” signs in the parking lot. The tax is based on the assumption that clergy and staff are getting a benefit by having their own dedicated parking spaces.

(A side note I can’t resist adding: I am opposed to “reserved for pastor” designations anyway. I never thought the shepherd of the flock should have an exalted place to park. On most occasions, the pastor arrives at the church earlier than the rest of the congregation anyway and has the pick of the spaces. On Sunday mornings I always parked as far from the church doors as possible. I wanted the best spaces available for latecomers or elderly church members. Even better, when I lived in coastal Savannah, I mostly rode my bike to church on Sundays, avoiding parking spaces altogether.)

The country church or county-seat town church will never have to worry about this new law, I suspect. And I hasten to add that I am no CPA or tax lawyer. But it’s a sad day when Congress tries to squeeze a few more tax dollars out of this country by taxing a nonprofit’s preferred parking spaces. Most religious organizations are upset both because of the law itself and because of the implications it might hold for the future of taxation on religious organizations.

I hate to be too dark, but churches of even the smallest size usually have reserved seating for the pastor/rabbi/imam in the congregation. Will the next step down this road be to tax the seating in the pulpit area? I never considered such seating as a perk before, but one never knows how Congress thinks (or fails to think). By the way, how does Congress treat parking spaces for federal legislators?

Contact Creede Hinshaw at hinnie@cox.net.

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