Divine taxationThe Catholic Archdiocese of Seoul has recently disclosed that its 2006 financial statements and documents were not prepared by the religious organization alone but in association with an external accounting firm. Moreover, the archdiocese will implement a policy to release accounting information in the years ahead.
This is a historic event, not just for the Korean Catholic Church, but also for all religious groups. Some Catholic and Protestant churches have printed their financial information in their weekly news sheet, but this is the first time a publicly recognized accounting firm has handled the process.
We welcome the decision made by the Archdiocese of Seoul which is the heart and soul of Catholics in Korea.
We also hope that this practice of transparent accounting spreads to Protestant churches, Buddhist temples and all other religious organizations that accept donations.
Taxation on income for religious occupations and organizations has been a hot issue for a long time.
Most people agree that taxation itself has to be imposed equally on everybody, and, in that sense, even on those who pursue religious occupations. However, very few have actively expressed this need. The government had accepted, although it didn’t elucidate why, claims that religious occupations are not the same as office worker’s or laborer’s and exempted them from any tax. The biggest reason was the strong lobbying power of religious groups. They have been free of any corporate or income tax since the establishment of the Republic of Korea.
The practice was a result of the symbiosis between politics and religion. Former governments, lacking legitimacy, needed as many votes as possible and thus offered benefits to religious groups. The groups disposed of the offerings and donations at their will without any proper supervision.
Sometimes the cash was used for personal expenses.
There have been cases where religious organizations issued false donation receipts for tax deductions. This is an insult to holy religions.
The practice of inaccurate accounting which causes mistrust has to be brought to an end.
Other religious groups must follow the course set by the archdiocese. Transparent accounting will lead to discussion of the taxation issue. In the end transparency will have a positive influence on missionary work and propagation.