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The Atheists Are Suing The IRS Over Preferential Treatment for Churches

Posted by on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:24 AM
  • 201 Replies

http://www.atheists.org/legal/current/IRS

On December 12, 2012, American Atheists and two co-plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Kentucky demanding that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stop giving preferential treatment to churches and religious organizations via the process of receiving non-profit tax-exempt status under the Internal Revue Code (IRC) procedures and definitions.IRS

Groups like American Atheists receive tax-exempt status under Internal Revenue Code 501(c)(3) but, because the organization is not classified as religious, it costs American Atheists and other secular non-profits significantly more money each year to maintain that status. In this lawsuit, American atheists and the other plaintiffs are demanding that all tax-exempt organizations, including those characterized as religious by the IRS, have the same requirements to achieve and maintain tax-exempt status.

In order to qualify for nonprofit tax-exempt status, any religious or secular organization must demonstrate it exists to benefit the public. After that basic element is established, religious non-profits are almost always declared automatically tax-exempt under the current IRC rules and definitions. However, secular non-profits face a lengthy application and a fee, which can be as high as $850. 

Religious organizations and churches are treated differently from secular organizations. The exemptions are applied in a way that discriminates solely on the basis of whether an entity’s members express beliefs and practices accepted as religious. The IRS treats your organization better if you profess belief in a supernatural deity.

The lawsuit also covers discrepancies in how secular and religious organizations are treated in maintaining their tax-exempt statuses. Secular nonprofits complete Form 990 annually, which details information about finances, donors, volunteers, and personnel; the IRS estimates it requires 211 hours to complete the Form 990, which is then public information. Religious nonprofits are exempted from filing the Form 990, so there is no public record about their finances, donors, volunteers, or personnel.

This requirement can put organizations like American Atheists at a fundraising disadvantage compared to religious groups because many people choose not to reveal their atheism for fear of prejudice and discrimination.

American Atheists and its co-plaintiffs are asking the Court to find that such disparity of treatment between religious and secular non-profit organizations is unconstitutional and require the IRS to make the tax-exempt filing process uniform for all nonprofit organizations.

Government Motion to Dismiss

On June 7, 2013, the United States government filed a motion to dismiss our lawsuit. In their filing, the Government, among other things, challenged American Atheists' standing to bring such a suit, alleging that we had suffered no real harm from their preferential treatment of religious groups in tax filings. 

On August 6, 2013, American Atheists filed a response to the Government's motion to dismiss

The case is currently before the United States District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky.

by on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:24 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Bookwormy
by Platinum Member on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:33 AM
3 moms liked this
I hope the atheists win. I had no idea.
romalove
by Roma on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:49 AM
2 moms liked this


Quoting Bookwormy:

I hope the atheists win. I had no idea.

We have to see if they will even let the lawsuit go forward.  The IRS (and the government) has a big stake in the atheists losing here.

candlegal
by Judy on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:50 AM

Imagine that.

romalove
by Roma on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:51 AM
3 moms liked this


Quoting candlegal:

Imagine that.

I am sure you aren't shocked that an atheist group is suing.

Do you have an opinion on the unfairness they are complaining about?

luckystars2012
by Silver Member on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:51 AM
Oh for fucks sake.
romalove
by Roma on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:52 AM


Quoting luckystars2012:

Oh for fucks sake.

You think the atheists should pay fees for being a non-profit that religious non-profits don't have to pay?


momtoscott
by Platinum Member on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:55 AM
3 moms liked this

I would think leveling the playing field would generate much-needed revenue for the government, so I'm surprised that government would be considering dismissing the suit.  

I believe all nonprofits should be held to the same standards.  

Lizard_Lina
by Silver Member on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:57 AM
6 moms liked this
I'm a Roman Catholic and I hope the atheists win, but I hope the verdict is that the religious organizations have to fill out the 990. While I'm not thrilled with our awesome sauce IRS being the ones to go through it all, I think somebody outside of the organizations should be looking into things.
romalove
by Roma on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:57 AM


Quoting momtoscott:

I would think leveling the playing field would generate much-needed revenue for the government, so I'm surprised that government would be considering dismissing the suit.  

I believe all nonprofits should be held to the same standards.  

The thing is, that only happens if they charge the religious non-profits the fees.

That's not likely to happen; it's more likely that if they win they will have to eliminate those fees for the other non-profits.

I think asking the religious non-profits will become a First Amendment issue, which is why the churches don't pay taxes in the first place.

Healthystart30
by Silver Member on Sep. 17, 2013 at 7:57 AM
7 moms liked this
Same for all! Why is that so hard?
I think that every organization that doesn't want to pay taxes should have to disclose its earnings and what is being done with that money!
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