Full disclosure: I didn't watch HBO's documentary on the Church of Scientology last night. We don't get the premium channel and anyway I had zombies walkers to follow.
But I plan to catch "Going Clear" when it's available on video on demand or some streaming option.
Alex Gibney's two-hour film apparently focuses more on certain specific allegations about the church, particularly in connection with two of its most famous members, actors John Travolta and Tom Cruise, than did the book upon which it is based.
From a tax standpoint, how the Scientologists came to be officially sanctioned by Uncle Sam is quite a story itself. To many, myself included, the church's tax-exempt status remains, after more than 21 years, intriguing and infuriating.
I'm not alone in thinking that.
I agree with Margo that the Scientologists' tax-exempt status needs reconsideration.
And as I wrote back in August 2013, it's time to do away with many tax-exempt designations. Heck, it's way past time.
As I noted a year and a half ago, the Internal Revenue Code section 501(c) currently allows the IRS to award tax-exempt status under seven different and wide-ranging categories.
The Internal Revenue Code section 501(c) currently allows the IRS to award tax-exempt status under seven different and wide-ranging categories.
There's the most popular 501(c)(3) designation, the category of groups to which most of us give and claim tax deductions each year.
Then there's the controversial 501(c)(4) status. We've all become familiar with this part of the tax code thanks to the IRS's bungling of Tea Party and other groups' tax-exempt applications as social welfare groups and Congress' continuing investigations.
And, of course, we have the very profitable National Football League, National Hockey League and Professional Golfers Association, all of which are tax-exempt under 501(c)(6) as business leagues. Go figure.
The remaining 501(c) numerical tax-exempt categories are:
- 501(c)(5) for labor, agriculture and horticultural organizations;
- 501(c)(7) for social and recreational clubs;
- 501(c)(8) for fraternal beneficiary societies and associations; and
- 501(c)(9) for voluntary employee beneficiary associations.
That's way too many tax exempt classifications that have been around for way too long.
Congress has periodically taken steps to eliminate or at least limit some of them, but with little success.
But we can hope, along with Margo, that maybe soon the IRS -- and lawmakers -- will reconsider not just the Scientology tax break, but all of them.