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« Set the Stage for a Quick Home Resale | Main | Interview with Carl Heldmann, Author of Be Your Own House Contractor, Part 3 (And Giveaway!) »

August 05, 2007

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The reason that this wouldn't work in the States is because you have complete separation of Church and State - which is not the case in many European countries including those that collect church money through the tax system and those that do not (like England).

It is the churches that say that to be a member of their church you must pay the church tax - collection by the government is just a easy way of doing so. You can opt out of this by renouncing membership of the church in question. Since there is some blurring of Church and State, this works quite well.

I think that removing the church tax would have a big effect on church finances, especially where the popularity of the state church(es) has fallen in the last 50 or so years. On the other hand I don't think that there would be too much difference the situation overall now and that if church tax was imposed - although it might redistribute the wealth a little.

I seem to recall that a greater proportion of 'born-again' Christians contributed more than 'mainline' or 'nominal' Christians. This makes it more likely that 'born-again' churches would end up with less due to more people giving only their 1%, and churches with many 'nominal' members getting more money.

Of course, all the atheists (like me) would be better off - but I'm assured repeatedly that atheists give lots of money to charity so it wouldn't make any difference to them. They might even be inclined to give more, who knows.

As for whether or not its against the spirit of the Bible, I'm not in a good place to say but I imagine that the original (OT) tithe was essentially a tax on the people of Israel and that community pressure in the early church made the necessity to tithe as bad if not worse than a tax (imagine what would happen if you were Amish and didn't tithe). None of that is exactly in the Bible though, so I'll let you be the judge of that.

We don't have state taxes on our churches in the US, but some churches do enforce tithing as a requirement for membership. Some of the larger churches notorious for this. I have never experienced it, this is just what I've been told.

It's definitely an interesting though, but I agree with Plonkee in the assessment that it would not go over well in the US. The separation of church and state is one of the main premises on which the country was founded and the Constitution was written.

It would also become very complicated determining which religions would get how much of the disbursement of funds, and what would constitute a religion. (you just know there would be a huge upstart of cults founded under the premise of being a religion, just so they could get a slice of the pie.) I think the current system in the US is best.

If the government began taxing people to support churches, I definitely think people would give less. Economists have found this is what has happened when government moves in to provide social welfare benefits....people contibute less to charities that proivide relief from poverty if they are paying taxes for it.

For sure I wouldn't want to live in Denmark, where paying taxes to the church is required whether or not you're a member.

But I actually do pay taxes to churches. My property taxes are higher because of the church property that's not taxed, but still requires government services. My income taxes are higher because people are able to deduct contributions from their income taxes to pay for their social outlet (I'd be willing to fore go from that statement any contributions that do end up in charitable pursuits.)

No these are not direct taxes. But taxes nonetheless.

I may end up paying tithes anyway. Unless I turn away my siblings when they're older, since they faithfully tithe now but have nothing saved up for retirement. So much for the blessings of tithing.

Chris --

I've never heard of this (nor experienced it) and would be interested to hear what's going on (if, in fact, it is.) Do you have any sources I can review?

EMF --

If people weren't allowed to deduct charitable contributions here's what would happen:

1. There would be much less funding available for all sorts of charities -- cancer research, educational, etc.

2. People would demand that "the government" do something to address these issues.

3. "The government" would, like they always do, spend towards these efforts as an answer to the people's demands.

4. Your taxes would go up more to pay for these efforts.

Now, would they go up more than what they're already up to allow charitable deductions? Who knows -- but I'm guessing they would.

As far as your siblings are concerned, they need to be sure to follow the FULL advice the bible has on how to manage money -- spend less than you earn, save for rainy days and the future, etc. (the sorts of things I write about every week.) If they do these things, they can't help but become well-off.

No, I have no source. Someone just told me that they needed to give the church financial statements, etc to determine how much they need to give to the church for membership.

One thing you should mention -- and I know about such things because I have friends in Switzerland -- is that you can always opt-out of these taxes, by indicating on your tax forms that you either have no religion or that you do not wish to give any money to a religion in general.

This is actually a fairly large problem in Germany (and other countries) since most people deliberately choose not to give any money.

This being said, I currently live inb a country which does not has these taxes, and I feel a lot better knowing my tax money won't go to a particular religion.

I think that this is another very good example of why a 10% rule for tithing is arbitrary for contemporary Christians. "Hmm, well the tax is 1% now, and 70% of that goes to Christian churches, and those churches on average agree with 90% of what I think about God, so I think I'll count that as 0.63% of my income towards my tithe. Only 9.37% to go! But is that net income or gross income? Do I include my investment income? AHHH..."

Just give generously. Why make everything so legalistic and complicated?

Chris --

That's very strange. Never heard of or experienced it.

If you get more details, I'd love to hear them.

Jake --

So, can you provide me with a definition of "give generously?" ;-)

FMF --

If you'll reread my earlier comment, you'll see that I wasn't referring to the deductibility of donations to charities. Nor even to donations to churches which are used for truly charitable purposes. But I am opposed to your being able to deduct donations which support your social outlet and pass time.

As far as your sentence regarding my siblings I totally agree with the part following the "--". As far as the first part of your sentence, the bible is a very versatile book and can be used to support just about any position or justify any action. Tithing will not lead to wealth, rather the opposite. Cold hard mathematics. Tithing is spending. Making it more difficult to spend less than you earn.

If you're wealthy, it's not because of tithing, it's in spite of it. The reason you're wealthy is because you've followed your own advice and developed your career. Not because of the blessings from having tithed.

EMF --

"But I am opposed to your being able to deduct donations which support your social outlet and pass time."

I'm not sure what you mean here. Can you clarify?

On the tithing issue, if you believe there is no God and he has no influence into the matters of people, then your conclusion is correct. But if you believe differently, tithing is part of an overall, healthy net worth. It has been for me for almost two decades. Now I follow the other advice the Bible has to say about managing money too, and that's a key part of my success.

So often, people take one part of the bible (tithing in this case) and apply it hoping for a good outcome. But if they neglect the rest of the bible's financial teachings, they shouldn't expect any success. (Not saying that your siblings are doing this, but I've seen it happen over and over again, so it's rather common.)

I disagree that tithing does not lead to wealth. Theist or atheist, I just don't think it is all about cold hard mathematics.

If you are giving 10% of your income, you are already ahead of the game in the financial department. For one, you obviously keep track of your income, have some kind of financial strategy for allowing such a portion of your income to be spent, etc. That alone, I think, makes you more aware of your financial situation than, say, someone just living paycheck to paycheck and basing all their spending on what they get per month.

Since churches are typically local institutions and often bring communities together, you are investing in your community. You make contacts, improve your social skills, etc., all which can help bolster your career.

I'll refrain to express my own opinion on tithing, but I think it certainly has more value than what the cold hard math shows.

The Mormons require tithing. I assume there are others.

FMF --

My hobbies are paid for with after-tax dollars, whether it's the equipment, the facility, whatever. Someone whose hobby is religion gets to deduct the cost of their hobby from their income tax. Being able to attend weekly services, bible studies, socials, etc. is a pastime just like a hobby. IMO, the only donations by the donor that should be tax deductible are those that are truly charitable and given without regard to the recipient's religion. Donations for church buildings, preacher salaries, and outreach programs to recruit new members should NOT be tax deductible.

Chris --
That's the key (2nd sentence of 2nd paragraph of your comment), having to keep track of your income. Take someone who's spending 105% of his income and sliding deeper and deeper into debt while spending 35% of his income on crap. That person takes stock of his spending, stops spending money on crap, so he can tithe 10% of his income and have 20% for debt reduction and savings. His financial health will improve. If he didn't tithe, and put 30% of his income to debt reduction, he will get out of debt even faster. The point about making contacts in church to bolster your career is a weak one. There are other organizations where that can happen, Jaycees, etc.

FMF and Chris --
You both express the idea that tithing without otherwise following good financial practices will not lead to financially health. I won't disagree with that. On the other hand, I'm financially healthy without having tithed, except when being forced to when still living under my parents' roof. Your statements, my observations, and my experience not to mention common sense indicate that tithing does not help your financial health.

FMF, since your finances are good and you want to tithe, I would not suggest that you stop.

Everyone else --

If you are deeply in debt, I would advise you to clean up your financial act and follow good practices in the future. I would further advise that you NOT TITHE until you have your financial house in order.

I think the better question to ask is where does the money actually go? The Catholic church recently paid out 600 Million for child abuse lawsuits. That money obviously doesn't fall from thin air, but more likely the tithings of all the followers.

EMF --

That's an interesting perspective. I never thought of my faith as a "hobby."

I assume you'd also disallow the salaries of employees and administrative expenses of all charities -- including those that fight diseases, offer disaster relief, provide education, etc. since these are not directly benefitting anyone either. Is that correct?

On the other point (tithing), we're not going to reach agreement. You say you've been successful without it. I say I've been successful with it (and I started tithing before I was well off financially.) You believe faith/God is a "hobby" while I believe it's a lifestyle/personal relationship. So we're never going to agree on the issue -- our worldviews are simply too far apart.

But I can understand your point of view and, of course, respect your right to have and voice it (that's one of the things to me that makes America great) -- and even voice it on my blog. ;-)

FMF --

No, I would not disallow reasonable overhead expenses of a genuine charity. And if a religion operated a charity, I'd also accept the deductibility of reasonable overhead expenses that related to that charity.

Thanks for letting me express my views on your blog.

I don't think you have to see faith as a "hobby" to get EMF's point, though.

Suppose that I find my sense of meaning in life, my purpose, in, oh, say, writing. Writing may well define my lifestyle; I may take a less demanding but also less prestigious/well-paid job so that I have time to write, etc. It may, in fact, be the most important thing I spend time on. Yet I don't get to deduct any money I may put towards this pursuit.

Whereas, of course, religious people who find the meaning of their life in their service to God can. I don't think it's trivializing faith to point out that we subsidize it in a way that we don't subsidize the equivalent for those who do not believe.

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