November 29, 2012
Should Megachurch's Cafe and Gym Be Taxed as Businesses?
(Updated) Five-year dispute centers on $425,000 tax bill for Christ Church Nashville's activities center.
Update (Mar. 28): Religion Clause reports that the Tennessee Court of Appeals has ruled that "a portion of a church's multi-million dollar family life center is not exempt from property taxes."
According to the court's decision, the gym is eligible only for a 50-percent tax exemption, and the cafe and bookstore are not eligible for any exemption because they are retail facilities.
According to a lawyer for a Nashville-area megachurch fighting a mega tax bill, the Tennessee tax authority is forcing the church to pay up on properties that should not be taxed.
Since 2007, Christ Church Nashville has butted heads with the Tennessee State Board of Equalization over a $425,000 property tax assessed after the church added an activities center—including a bookstore, café, fitness center, and gym&mdsash;in 2004. Now, the church is appealing an earlier ruling in the Tennessee Court of Appeals, arguing that proceeds from the facilities go into church outreach—and thus should be tax exempt.
The equalization board argues that other church bookstores pay property taxes, and that "Christ Church Nashville was charging retail prices and membership fees rather than accepting donations, which would qualify the properties as businesses."
But the church's attorney Eric Stanley argued that while the facilities may appear business-like, they are run by a pastor and are integral parts of the church’s mission of “evangelizing and building up its members.”
CT previously reported that Christ Church was arguing for complete exemption last year.