That’s the headline of an AP story over the weekend, here. Italian law has traditionally granted a tax exemption on real property owned by non-profits, including the Catholic Church. The exemption extends not only to property used for religious reasons, but more broadly to any property that is not “exclusively commercial” in nature — for example, guest houses for pilgrims and medical clinics. Critics argue that the exemption allows the Church (and other non-profits, presumably) to conduct commercial activities without paying tax. Given Italy’s fiscal crisis, the new government is signaling that it will reconsider the breadth of the exemption, and the Church is signaling that it may go along:
One of Monti’s Cabinet ministers, Andrea Riccardi, is one of the most prominent lay Catholics in Italy, the founder of the Sant’Egidio Community with close ties to the Vatican.
He said this week that the church should pay the property tax if commercial activity is being carried out on the property. “I think that all the all the religious and cultural activities of the church are a richness for the country and the tax shouldn’t be paid,” he told RAI state television.
But if individual cases are discovered where commercial activity is being carried out, “necessary measures should be taken.”