Why Are These Christian Non-Profits Telling the IRS They’re Churches?

By Hemant Mehta

Every non-profit organization in the country has to file a 990 report with the IRS explaining (among other things) how much money they took in, how it was spent, and how much their top staffers made in salaries. It’s a public document, too, a way to keep tabs on whether a non-profit really is living up to its mission.

There’s an exception to the Form 990, though. Religious institutions, despite being non-profits and not having to pay taxes, do not have to fill out the form or make it public. That means we don’t always know how much money big-name megachurch pastors make — or how much of the congregation’s money goes right into his pocket. We don’t know who’s donating to those churches, either. Without being forced to release the information, many churches choose to avoid transparency. Easier to fool the sheep that way.

That shouldn’t matter when we’re talking about Christian non-profits like Focus on the Family or the legal defense group Liberty Counsel. They’re not churches. They’re regular non-profits. In the view of the IRS, they’re no different from Planned Parenthood. All of them have to file the 990s each year.

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