Registered churches in Colombia drive at least $4 billion in tax-free revenue a year, according to the country’s tax office. However, the majority of religious institutions in the country fail to file a tax report.
Radio station Caracol talked to the director of the DIAN, the national tax office, who said that this money had been reported as income by some 5,000 formally registered churches.
According to DIAN director Juan Ricardo Ortega, the real income of religious institution is likely to be higher as only 40% of churches report their tax-free income to the tax office.
In spite the majority of churches failing to abide to tax law, Ortega told the radio station that “the majority of churches carry out a labor dedicated to honesty, but there are some exceptions.”
Especially the sale of religious artifacts is often excluded from tax reports, said the tax official.
According to the churches’ tax reports, the average Colombian spends 85 dollar cents a year on their religious institutions, which Caracol said the churches’ reported income i “very little” compared to what the churches really make.
The radio station calculated that if each Colombian donated 5 cents, religions institutions would receive $2.2 million. If the churches income reports are honestly, Colombians spend 85 cents a year on registered churches.
Ortega said his tax office is “beginning to look at what we can do to monitor” the religious institutions.
While churches in Colombia are exempt from paying taxes over donations and tithes, the institutions are supposed to pay taxes over the sale of artifacts like crucifixes and statues.