What is a Church? A Look at Tax Exemptions for the Original Kleptonian Neo-American Church and the First Church of Cannabis
Lexis Federal Tax Journal Quarterly, December 2015
18 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2016
Date Written: December 01, 2015
The tax definition of "church," as well as the definition of "religion," have evolved. For years, the IRS defined churches with a fourteen factor test. More recent cases and rulings, however, have used an "associational" test.
This article applies these two definitions to two "marijuana churches" -- the Original Kleptonian Neo-American Church, founded in the 1960's, and the First Church of Cannabis, founded in 2015. I conclude that both churches either would already pass muster under either definition, or could easily do so with a bit of tweaking and some lawyerly advice. Therefore, it would not be too difficult to game the system, and to create a religious organization and a church for tax purposes, even when that status is not legitimate.
However, in light of First Amendment concerns, there are no alternative definitions that would do the job any better. The risk that an occasional illegitimate organization might derive the tax benefits of being a religious organization or church is an acceptable price to pay for a robust First Amendment.
Keywords: church, religion, tax, cannabis, marijuana
JEL Classification: K34
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation