Offshore tax evasion getting added attention
Sales tax holidays on tap

Home-to-church conversion cuts tax bill

By converting his $3 million home to a church, an Illinois man has saved himself around $80,000 in property taxes.

But officials of the Village of Lake Bluff say not so fast.

Church_steeple While they try to sort out whether the new Armenian Church of Lake Bluff is indeed legitimate, they have notified home/church owner George Michael that he owes the municipality $115,000 in fines for zoning violations in connection with the property conversion.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Michael told state officials that he started the new church more than a year ago after he got an online pastor's degree. Others are welcome to worship, he said, but typically only a few close friends and family attend services.

Michael's attorney also noted that the home conversion was done so that Michael's disabled wife and daughter wouldn't have to deal with the hardship of traveling to practice their religion.

State tax-exemption OK: Last month, the state granted Michael a property tax exemption as a place of worship.

To win the tax break, reports the Tribune, Michael presented the Illinois Department of Revenue with a copy of his clergy license from the Church of Spiritual Humanism, photos of a church altar, the church's January 2007 affidavit of organization, church bylaws and copies of church bulletins.

Local officials, however, remain skeptical.

"It's a honkin' house," said Shields Township Assessor Teresia Yakes.

What about Uncle Sam? I'm also curious as how this might affect his IRS responsibilities.

Has Michael filed for federal 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for his church?

Does it still count as his personal residence for federal filing, and tax-deduction (other than, for now, property tax), purposes?

Is his main job now that of minister, a profession that has several special tax considerations? Or is he still primarily, as the newspaper reports, a bank official and the owner of a Chicago real estate firm?

The fallout, at all tax levels, from the new Armenian Church of Lake Bluff definitely will be interesting.

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