Minister backs tax on Church

Minister backs tax on Church

ROME - Agence France-Presse
Minister backs tax on Church

Pope Benedict XVI delivers his blessing at the Angelus noon prayer on Dec 8.

The Catholic Church should pay tax on commercial property it owns in Italy, a government minister was quoted on Dec 9 as saying amid rising calls for the Vatican to share in debt crisis sacrifices.

“The church should pay the IMU for commercial activities,” said Cooperation and Integration Minister Andrea Riccardi, who is also the founder of the influential Catholic community Sant’Egidio, Italian newspapers reported. Riccardi was referring to a municipal property tax that is part of austerity measures put forward by Prime Minister Mario Monti.

The minister said, however, that there should be no “big confrontation” between Church and State on the issue of taxes, adding: “It’s better to verify on a case by case basis and intervene only if there has been bad faith.”

The Italian Catholic Church pays tax on several properties it owns that are commercial enterprises but is exempt if at least some of the activities on the property are “non-commercial” - for example a chapel in a hotel.

The extra revenue from these exempt properties could be 25.5 million euros ($33.9 million) a year in Rome alone, La Repubblica daily reported, citing official figures. The Church has defended itself saying that many of its properties have charitable purposes - including soup kitchens and community centers.