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Miracles DO happen PDF Print E-mail
Mar 01, 2012 at 10:44 PM
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All this and MUCH MUCH more
Yes, Virginia, there can be a genuinely Italian secular government.  In an unusual and unprecedented move, the technocratic government headed by economist Mario Monti announced last week that it plans to change the law in a way that would require the Catholic Church here to pay taxes on real estate property that is used for commercial purposes. This would efectively put an end to decades of across-the-board tax exemptions for church property and make Italy more progressive than our own country where, surprsingly enough, most church property is generally tax exempt, some sources claiming that the value of untaxed church property in the U.S. may amount to as much as $100 billion dollars.

The new regulation, onced passed by Parliament, will mean that for the first time, the extensive properties owned by the Vatican in Rome or by the CEI, the Italian Bishops, Conference, throughout Italy  - and which include hotels, pensions, restaurants, shops, hostels, convents that accept paying guests and so on- will no longer be exempt from taxes. Previously, this was the case just so long as one part of  a Church-owned building had a religious function. In other words, set aside a room for a chapel, and there you are, ipso facto, not exempt from taxation. Churches, themselves, will not be affected if they are used exclusively for religious purposes and private Catholic schools, the existence of which is said by some to save the Italian State close to five billion euros a year, will also be exempt as long as any profits they accrue are poured back into the institution's didactic activities.

The change in the law was called for by the European Commission which in 2010 charged that tax exemption for the church could be considered  illegal state aid that could skewer competition. Interetingly enough, when Monti was a European Commissioner  from 1995 to 2005,  he was in charge of anti-trust issues. Estimates say that the new taxes could bring in revenues of  as much as $2.5 billion annually. The problem now is exactly to whom these monies will be given. A previous real estate tax known as ICI (from which most Church properties were exempt)  went to municipalities. The proceeds of the latest version of ICI, which is called IMU, will be divided between a municipality and the national govenment. The Monti government has apparently registered the degreeto which most Italians, now facing growing unemployment, and higher taxes, are increasingly fed up with privileges, of any sort, by politicians and prelates alike. In December, 130,000 people signed an online petition calling on the government to revoke the church's tax-exempt status.

 

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