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

Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper

18 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2016

See all articles by Joel S. Newman

Joel S. Newman

Wake Forest University - School of Law

Date Written: December 01, 2015

Abstract

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

Newman, Joel S., What is a Church? A Look at Tax Exemptions for the Original Kleptonian Neo-American Church and the First Church of Cannabis (December 01, 2015). Lexis Federal Tax Journal Quarterly, December 2015; Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2714965

Joel S. Newman (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University - School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

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