Italian Church contemplates paying property tax
The Catholic Church in Italy may start paying up to £700 million in taxes on properties across the country in response to Italy's economic crisis.
Following new Prime Minister Mario Monti’s austerity proposals, which include the reintroduced property tax on first homes, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, leader of the Italian Bishops Conference, said that the Church is likely to review their current tax exemption.
“The current norms are correct in that they recognise the social value of activities carried out by many non-profits, among them church ones, especially is used for social, cultural or educational reasons,” Cardinal Bagnasco (above right) said. “It’s also correct that if there have been concrete cases in which a tax that should have been paid wasn’t, we should verify the abuse and end it.”
The Catholic Church in Italy owns around 65,000 properties—more than one fifth of all publicly owned properties in the country—including churches, cathedrals, schools and hospitals.
They have been exempt from property tax since 1982, and a recent amendment in 2006 extended this to cover any private bed and breakfast accommodation and treatments.
Properties belonging to the Vatican are exempt from Italian taxes altogether as they are considered to be part of a separate sovereign state under the 1929 Lateran Treaty.
The call for tax on Church properties is likely to come across resistance from the Monti government, comprising of academics, bankers and lawyers with strong Catholic credentials.
The current tax exemption was defended by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, saying that: “The Church supports the weakest of society and performs an activity in favour of society.”
Cardinal Bertone also added that the tax issue was ‘a particular problem which needs to be studied,’ and added that ‘sacrifices are part of life.’