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EPISODE #120
TRENDING WITH TIMMERIE: EVERYTHING WILL CHANGE

People are fleeing California, and not because of the Coronavirus.  What can we learn about living more simply, staying within our means, and keeping family first?

Fr. Tim Grumbach joins Trending with Timmerie to discuss his experience as a priest unable to give the sacraments to the people, the good things we’ve seen come from the Covid-19 quarantine, and the things it may challenge us to do moving forward; and the ultimate sacrifice our priests are called to make.

 

Listen to more episodes at https://www.radiotrending.com/

Host Timmerie to run a workshop in your area https://www.radiotrending.com/booktimmerie

 

 

Originally broadcast on 3/29/20

A TAX-WISE GIVING OPPORTUNITY

Don was a retired businessman who volunteered as a docent at Christ Cathedral. When he heard about the need to update and provide ongoing maintenance of the Hazel Wright Organ he was excited to help in a significant way. He wanted to make a larger gift than normal, but had questions about the best way to fund his gift. He was also concerned about conserving cash resources for the future. 

Don learned about the possibility of using his IRA (Individual Retirement Account) to make a gift for this need. Because Don was already over age 70½, he could take advantage of the IRA Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) option this year and make the gift to the Orange Catholic Foundation’s Hazel Wright Organ Maintenance Fund directly from his IRA. Don knew that he didn’t really need all the income from his IRA this year. He had enough income from other sources to cover his living expenses, so he decided to direct a QCD of $100,000 from his IRA to the Hazel Wright Organ Maintenance Fund at the foundation earlier this year.  

He was thrilled to discover that he could transfer money from his IRA to a qualified charity, such as the Orange Catholic Foundation, without paying any federal income tax. The fact that his gift qualified for his required minimum distribution amount was an added bonus! 

If you are 70½ or older you are likely familiar with the IRA required minimum distribution. Each year, the IRS requires you to withdraw a certain amount from your IRA, whether you need the funds or not, and you pay income tax on every distribution you take. For many IRA account holders, the taxes can be significant and an undesirable annual burden. 

Many people have discovered that they can make a big difference to support their parish, school or ministry with an IRA QCD gift. For an added benefit, consider designating the same purpose through the Orange Catholic Foundation as a beneficiary of your IRA. 

To benefit this year, your IRA QCD gift must be made before Dec. 31, 2019. Call your IRA administrator now or contact the Orange Catholic Foundation at 714.282.3021 for more information on how to make the IRA QCD work for you. 

Don was called home to heaven this summer. Before he passed away, he left a meaningful mark on Earth and named the Orange Catholic Foundation’s Hazel Wright Organ Maintenance Fund as the beneficiary of his IRA. Don will always be remembered for his love of God, his Catholic Faith and his generosity to the Hazel Wright Organ, which honors our Heavenly Father for generations to come.

MIDEAST CHRISTIAN LEADERS SHUT CHURCH OF HOLY SEPULCHER TO PROTEST TAXES

JERUSALEM (CNS) — Protesting several recent actions they described as a “systematic campaign … against the churches and the Christian community in the Holy Land,” the heads of Christian churches announced Feb. 25 they were closing of the doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher for an undisclosed period of time.

Bewildered pilgrims milled around the square in front of the church as Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilos III — flanked by Franciscan Father Francesco Patton, custos of the Holy Land, and Armenian Patriarch Nourhan Manougian — read a short statement to the press. At the same time, the only two people allowed to close the doors — the Muslim custodian of the key, Adeeb Jawad Joudeh Al Husseini, and Muslim door keeper Wajeeh Nuseibeh — closed and locked the doors.

“This systematic and unprecedented attack against Christians in the Holy Land severely violates the most basic … and sovereign rights, trampling on the delicate fabric of relations between the Christian community and the authorities for decades,” the heads of churches said in their statement.

The church leaders were protesting the Jerusalem municipality’s intention to impose property taxes on church property, such as hotels and convention centers, not used for worship purposes. The proposal to levy taxes on some properties would run contrary to the unofficial historical tax-exempt status the churches have enjoyed for centuries.

In addition, the church leaders said they oppose a bill in the Israeli parliament that would limit the ability to sell church-owned land to private owners. The bill, whose vote was postponed following the church protest, would be specifically detrimental to the Greek Orthodox Church, which owns large tracts of land in central Jerusalem upon which many private homes are built; many of those 99-year-old building rental contracts will soon expire. The church already has sold some of the land to private owners, and homeowners whose apartments are on the land worry about losing their homes.

Rachel Azaria, the member of Parliament who sponsored the bill, said it is not meant to affect what the church can do with its property, but what happens when the land rights are sold to a third party.

As media gathered to hear the church leaders, pilgrims wandered around the church square, some kneeling in front of the massive wooden doors — the closest they would come to entering the church.

“We had one shot,” said Flavia Falcone, 25, an Italian Catholic living in Poland, who had come to Israel for four days. “This was a bad decision. Faith and politics are two different things. I came here all this way to see the church and I find it closed. It is not very pleasant.”

It is only the second time the doors to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher have been closed in the middle of the day, other than for traditional religious ceremonies. The other time was 20 years ago, when a visitor to the church began taking down crosses and candles, said Nuseibeh.

The church leaders said taxing commercial properties decreases revenues for the church’s good works and breaches “existing agreements and international obligations which guarantee the rights and the privileges of the churches, in what seems as attempt to weaken the Christian presence in Jerusalem.”

“The greatest victims in this are those impoverished families who will go without food and housing, as well as the children who will be unable to attend school,” they said.

In early February, the Jerusalem municipality announced it would begin collecting $186.4 million in property taxes from some 887 church-owned properties that were not houses of prayer.

Patriarch Theophilos has traveled to meet world leaders, including Pope Francis, on the legislative issue.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat went on social media in response to the Feb. 25 protest, clarifying that there was no intention to tax places of worship, but rather church businesses such as hotels and conference halls.

“Commercial buildings are not exempt from municipal taxes regardless of their ownership,” he said. He noted that, by not taxing commercial properties owned by churches, Jerusalem residents were missing out on revenue.

“We will no longer require Jerusalem’s residents to bear or subsidize this huge debt,” he said in a tweet, assuring that — like all churches, synagogues and mosques — the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was exempt from municipal taxes.

‘RENDER TO CAESAR THE THINGS THAT ARE CAESAR’S…’

It wasn’t exactly official, but the first basic tax code relating to religion may have been put forth by Jesus. In speaking to a group of Pharisees in the Gospel of Mark, he gives a memorable answer when asked if it was lawful to pay a poll tax to the Roman emperor: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

Today, the Church that Jesus founded—and nearly all the other churches of the many denominations and faiths in the United States—continues to pay taxes to the government. But, because of a long-standing provision in the federal tax code, the Church also enjoys exemptions from taxation that is usually applicable to profit-making businesses.

To keep that exemption, the Church and all its various entities, from charities to schools to individual parishes, must conform to a specific set of Internal Revenue Service code sections that apply not just to churches, but to all nonprofit organizations.

This has not prevented the Catholic Church, and other denominations in America, from becoming the focus of periodic calls for the government to repeal churches’ tax-exempt status. The most common arguments for this are that the exemptions prevent the federal government from collecting a large source of revenue, and that churches engage in political activity forbidden by the IRS code.

But, says Robert Redwitz, there have been no successful challenges to the exemption provisions of the tax code. “I know of none,” he says, “and I’ve been in practice for more than 40 years.”

Redwitz, the senior managing partner of Robert R. Redwitz and Co., an accounting and consulting firm with offices in Irvine, San Jose and La Jolla, says tax exemption is “a huge, huge issue, because it doesn’t only relate to churches. Churches are only one subpart of the whole tax exempt strata of entities that are at the very core of the United States.”

While churches and charities often are what many people think of when they hear the words “tax-exempt,” the IRS exempts “many different types of organizations from paying taxes,” writes Dimitri Cavalli on “The Catholic World Report” website. These include “labor unions, chambers of commerce, social clubs, and “social welfare” organizations such as the National Organization for Women (NOW), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Along with churches and charities, the IRS provides the coveted 501 (c) (3) nonprofit status to scientific, literary and educational organizations.”

In fact, according to data collected by the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the United States today, with combined total assets of nearly $5.7 trillion as of August 2012.

To remain a recognized tax-exempt organization, churches, like all nonprofits, must hew to a list of specific requirements. Nonprofits, says Redwitz, “must be organized and operate exclusively for religious , charitable, scientific, educational or literary purposes” and must pass three tests for validity:

  • An organizational test, which requires that the entity’s articles of organization specifically limit its purpose to one or more exempt purposes. This, says Redwitz, means that a church cannot operate a side business for profit.
  • An operational test, which requires that an entity must be operated exclusively for one or more exempt purposes. Again, no for-profit side businesses.
  • A private benefit test. This means, says Redwitz, that a genuine nonprofit is an “organization that…serves a public rather than a private interest. That’s pretty important. If I set up a nonprofit exclusively for my own benefit, it’s not going to qualify as a nonprofit.”

It was that public nature of religion, says Redwitz, that was likely behind the original granting of nonprofit status to churches.

“I think what our federal legislators originally were trying to do was to exempt from taxation those activities that were for the general support and benefit of individuals, as opposed to private individuals or special interest groups,” he says. “Usually there’s language that says that if it’s providing a public benefit and/or a relief of services that government would otherwise be providing—in the area of hospitals and things of that nature where it’s relieving the federal government of public service obligations—that falls into the criteria of an exempt organization.”

And, says Redwitz, “tax-exempt” does not mean that churches pay no taxes at all. Sales taxes, use taxes and public assessments such as water bonds must be paid, even if a nonprofit is exempted from 100 percent of its core property taxes (to earn this exemption, a nonprofit must “show every year that the facilities that it owns are in fact being used for exempt purposes,” says Redwitz.)

Churches “are not totally exempt from every tax that’s in our system, for sure,” says Redwitz.

Still, periodic demands for repeal of churches’ exempt status occur, often propelled by perceptions that churches are engaging in political activities that are prohibited by the tax statutes—stumping for the election of candidates or lobbying for legislation. However, churches and other nonprofits may “praise or criticize candidates, elected officials, political parties and their stands on public policy issues and controversies without specifically telling people to vote for or against them,” writes Cavalli. Also, heads of nonprofits can exercise their individual rights as private citizens without putting their organizations’ tax-exempt status in jeopardy. “If any Catholic cardinal or bishop wished to make an endorsement in [an] election, he could have legally done so by writing an op-ed for a secular newspaper or appearing in studio on a television or cable news program,” writes Cavalli.

And nonprofits can lobby, as long as lobbying is not a “substantial” part of their regular activities. “The fact that a nonprofit’s lobbying on a piece of legislation may have generated considerable media attention and even criticism—such as the Catholic bishops’ lobbying in 2009 against the inclusion of abortion coverage in ObamaCare—does not mean that it violated the IRS’ limits,” writes Cavalli.

Fortunately for churches, the U.S. government has not behaved like modern-day Pharisees, actively seeking to negate nonprofits. Since 1990, only one church—which used its own assets to buy newspaper ads in 1992 calling for Christians to vote against Bill Clinton—has had its tax-exempt status revoked by the IRS.