A More Capacious Concept of Church

Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Vol. 56, No. 4, forthcoming

Invited piece for a Festschrift honoring Ellen Aprill, Professor of Law, Loyola Law School, LA

U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2023-14

41 Pages Posted: 10 Mar 2023 Last revised: 14 Mar 2023

See all articles by Samuel D. Brunson

Samuel D. Brunson

Loyola University Chicago School of Law

Philip Hackney

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law

Date Written: March 9, 2023

Abstract

United States tax law provides churches with extra benefits and robust protection from IRS enforcement actions. Churches and religious organizations are automatically exempt from the income tax without needing to apply to be so recognized and without needing to file a tax return. Beyond that, churches are protected from audit by stringent procedures. There are good reasons to consider providing a distance between church and state, including the state tax authority. In many instances, Congress granted churches preferential tax treatment to try to avoid excess entanglement between church and state, though that preferential treatment often just shifts the locus of entanglement. But those benefits and protections come with cost both to individual churches (by making these organizations susceptible to tax shelters and political activity shelters) and to our democratic order (by granting churches to a higher status than other organizations). Does Congress get the balance right? We think the balance struck is problematic but justifiable. In this Essay we only note the problems and suggest some actions churches and religious organizations might take to protect against some of the dangers.

Keywords: Church, Religion, tax exempt, nonprofit, tax policy, Internal Revenue Code, IRS, democracy, political equality, freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, separation of church and state, exempt organization, section 501(c)(3), section 7611, church audit

JEL Classification: K2, K34, K23, L31, L30, L52

Suggested Citation

Brunson, Samuel D. and Hackney, Philip, A More Capacious Concept of Church (March 9, 2023). Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review, Vol. 56, No. 4, forthcoming, Invited piece for a Festschrift honoring Ellen Aprill, Professor of Law, Loyola Law School, LA, U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2023-14, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4383517

Samuel D. Brunson

Loyola University Chicago School of Law ( email )

25 E. Pearson
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Philip Hackney (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412.643.0434 (Phone)
412.648.2649 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.pitt.edu/people/philip-hackney

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
137
Abstract Views
964
Rank
387,211
PlumX Metrics