Monday June 21, 2010

Tax the Church? In Spain, it Saves the Govt Billions

By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman

MADRID, June 21, 2010 ( – As liberal groups continue to push governments to tax Christian churches, data recently published by the Spanish Episcopal Conference (CEE) found that the Catholic Church actually saves the Spanish government billions of dollars per year in social service expenditures.

The Catholic Church receives approximately 252.7 million euros per year ($311.8m) from voluntary taxpayer contributions, coming from only 7.2 million taxpayers who check a box indicating that they wish 0.7% of their tax to go to the Catholic Church, rather than to a government fund. The rest of its income is through private donations.

However, the Catholic bishops contend that taxpayers realize a massive return for their investment, resulting in billions of euros in savings from social programs and other services that would have cost much more if they had been left to the private sector.

Fernando Gimenez Barriocanal, vice secretary of Economic Affairs for the CEE, says that “the Church is at the disposition of society, and gives much much more than what it receives…each euro invested in the Church returns to the society multiplied 2.73 times.”

The “immense labor of assistance” by the Catholic Church in Spain involves 20,000 priests, more than 70,000 pastoral assistants and more than 60,000 volunteers, according to Gimenez Barriocanal.

The Church spends approximately 2.8 billion euros per year on assistance programs, including 68 women’s shelters to aid victims of spousal abuse and ex-prostitutes, and 870,000 poor who are clothed and fed by Catholics. In total, 2.8 million people receive such benefits from the Catholic Church.

In addition, the Catholic Church in Spain provides educational services to almost 1.4 million students, saving the government more than 4.1 billion euros annually.