The New Morning Star Baptist Church is reportedly no longer used for religious services but as a storage facility for old automobiles. Thus, the church risks losing its tax-exempt privilege.
Unused House of Worship
The Meridian Star reported that the topic was brought up for the first time during a board meeting held on April 3. The managers at that time looked at images from August 2013 that showed the property was well-maintained and gave the impression that it was being used, as well as more recent photos that showed a run-down building surrounded by abandoned vehicles. Attorney of the Board of Supervisors Lee Thaggard stated that he visited the property before the public hearing on Monday, May 15, and discovered that the church's front door was open. After seeing inside the structure, he indicated a significant hole in the floor, and the roof had collapsed.
The trustees for the church, George Mosely and Cleveland Burkes, who attended the hearing, informed the court that the presence of pre-owned automobiles on church property was not approved and actions would be taken to rectify this situation. Moreover, Thaggard mentioned that for a church to maintain its tax-exempt status under Mississippi law, the building must be utilized for activities directly related to the church.
He asserted that without any new information indicating that the church was being used for religious reasons, his recommendation to the council would have to terminate the church's status as a tax-exempt organization. Additionally, payments of taxes are scheduled to start with the fiscal year 2023, with deadlines set for January 2024. The attorney also said that the New Morning Star Baptist Church is free to reapply for tax-exempt status at any time in the future because nothing in the state statutes prevents them from doing so. The property's tax exemption could be reinstated if the trustees were to make the necessary repairs to the structure and begin using it once more for church-related activities.
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Religious Tax-Exempt Status on Churches
Nonprofit organizations, which include places of worship such as churches, synagogues, and mosques, are exempt from paying taxes on their net revenue unlike for-profit organizations since nonprofit organizations do not have net income. The Tax Foundation reported that in any given year, a religious organization may have revenue that is more than its expenses, yet, it does not have shareholders or owners who may benefit from profits in the value of the business, earn payouts, or otherwise capitalize in any other way from the church's income cycle.
As per Library CQ Press, the issue of tax exemption is rising to the forefront of discussions inside churches while the constitutional foundation upon which the exemption is based is being tested in the legal system. As a result of recent rulings made by the Supreme Court that have drawn a more precise line under the Constitution separating church and state, the possibility that church tax exemptions could be reduced is no longer as remote as it once appeared to be. However, a few churchmen are willing to go so far as to propose a total cancellation of exemptions; the sentiment that the advantages resulting from the privilege have grown too great for the ultimate welfare of the community or the church is growing stronger.
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