Clergy, monks may soon face taxes

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Clergy, monks may soon face taxes

Priests, monks and other religious leaders may have to pay taxes soon as the government is considering revising the tax law, sources said yesterday.
“We plan to make an announcement about the plan to revise the income tax law this month and this could see the income generated by the clergy being put on the same level as regular labor,” a high-ranking official at the Ministry of Strategy and Finance said on condition of anonymity.

Changes usually go into effect immediately after the government announces such changes.

The government is apparently now mulling whether to include a grace period before enforcing the changes in light of expected resistance from the religious community, sources say.
Imposing taxes on the clergy has been a hot issue since Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan said last August that all members of the public should have to pay taxes without any exceptions.

Religious leaders are customarily exempted from taxes here. Some claim that their work is regarded not as labor but as a spiritual service so they should be exempt. Publicly talking about the issue has also become something of a taboo.

However, Catholic priests and some Protestant church leaders are already voluntarily paying income taxes. But many religious figures and monks have not followed suit, leading to claims of inequality.

Last year, the government sought to tax the clergy in the interest of equality but it did not include required changes in its annual tax code revision as it wanted more time to consult with the religious community.

The Finance Ministry said the government has not decided how to resolve the matter.

“How to tax the religious groups has not yet been determined,” said Baek Un-chan, deputy minister for tax and customs. “We don’t even know whether it will be included in the ordinance or not .?.?. But the ministry maintains the same stance as before in that all income should be taxed.”


By Song Su-hyun, Yonhap [ssh@joongang.co.kr]

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