As a result of the election last week, it seems we will be in a mode for what are euphemistically labeled 'revenue enhancements.' For Podunk First and Last Baptist Church folks that would be tax increases.
Would it be better for country to raise the tax rates or flail away at the tax codes to eliminate some of the staggering numbers of loopholes and special treatments?
And can we not conjure here some haughty and righteous indignation over the scandal of tax loopholes for those disgusting that special interest groups?
Wait a sec. I almost forgot. We clergy have a very special loophole of our very own, the Minister's Housing Allowance, which frees up a pretty good chunk of the paycheck of every ordained SBC minister, teacher, and administrator from any income tax exposure at all. Not only that, we get to double up by taking the housing allowance and also deducting mortgage interest.
As I have said, 'What a great country!'
Call it our very own special interest red, white, and blue tax dodge.
Got great church which compensates you sufficiently to have a million dollar home? Write that sucker off, brother! Let some poor unordained sap pulling down $800 weekly pick the slack caused by your removing, oh, maybe $100,000 from liability for income taxes.
A very talented SBC minister near me was featured recently in a news article. He has a great church and does wonderful ministry. I'm sure with the size church he has that he is paid quite well. That is their business. Doesn't cost me a dime. God bless 'em.
Oh, look there he is standing in front of what is described as his $1.2 million home. Hmmm, there seems to be some pungency in the air and I'm getting a whiff of a mammoth housing allowance.
Don't blame me. I did not write the article and he didn't have to pose in front of his mansion but since he did, I can speculate that his housing allowance deduction alone is more than the combined total income of several lesser paid SBC pastors.
So, I ask:
1. Is there some church/state, First Amendment problem with means testing the Housing Allowance?
2. Is there some practical reason that clergy should oppose means testing? The military housing allowance has a cap and, as I recall, is variable based on rank. What would be wrong, objectionable, about this being applied to clergy in the same manner?
Would it cause any harm to religion in America if the housing allowance was not allowed for clergy whose income was, say, twice the SBC average, or about $115,00. That too low? How about means testing it to step it down beginning at $150,000 and be eliminated at, say, $250,000 in income?
What's the problem with that? OK, index it for inflation if our monetary policy is destroying the value of our currency.
It is tough for me to empathize with a pastor whose salary is $250,000 and who whines about losing his tax break. I'm just not feeling that pain and the gift of mercy isn't kicking in on that issue.
One wonders, what would our SBC lobbyists in DC do if a proposal to means test the housing allowance was on the table this year? Would they go to bat for the handful of folks in our convention whose income is north of $250k? Would there be a spirited defense of our loophole for the top earning one percent of clergy?
I don't know but if so, that would be a good way to create some additional Democratic voters, and I'm thinking we already have enough of those.
Consider me wide open for someone to explain what the problem would be with means testing our housing allowance. You can even do it anonymously without being photographed standing in front of your $1 million plus house.