Tax Evasion Is Divine

27 Jun

Church Coffee For all your consumer needs – exercise, museum tours, a latte – South Korean Christian churches are an enterprising lot. Maybe, too eager.

Miral Welfare Foundation, a Christian organization that assists disabled people, was made to pay 343.39 million won in taxes. The audit revealed that the foundation runs a cafe in the basement of Miral School in Gangnam, and has built a 400m2 art museum that it rents out and a performance venue in the second basement floor that it has rented out to external users 83 times, making between 700,000 and 1.2 million won each time, bringing annual profits of at least 100 million won.

“These are profit-making operations not directly related to social welfare projects and are therefore subject to property tax,” said an official from Gangnam district office.

Somang Presbyterian Church, where President Lee Myung-bak worships, also earns money by running a café in the church building. The church didn’t report these earnings and therefore has been ordered to pay 6 million won in back taxes. The church runs a 120-seat café, as well as a bakery in one of its educational buildings in Gangnam district.

Chungwoon Church built a cultural and sports center in the basement of its main building in 2008, in which it has been operating a fitness club and charging membership fees for lectures on English and sports. Gangnam district office considered these profit-making operations to be unrelated to any religious events and levied 116 million won in property and acquisition tax from the church.  

Eight other churches in Gangnam were revealed to have profited by renting out some church buildings as office space or registered buildings in which other people lived as their pastors’ official residences, and were forced to pay a combined total of 41.55 million won in taxes.

It has also come to light that foundations and churches found to have illegally dodged taxes attempted to alter the outcome of the audit via civil servants and ward council members. “In May, when the report was being written, one civil servant came to see me and said, ‘I used to work with the current head of Gangnam district for Seoul Metropolitan Government. Please go easy on Miral Welfare Foundation in the audit’,” said one high-ranking Gangnam official involved with the audit.

I’m releived that there are fine, secular, drug dealers coffeehouses throughout Busan.

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