Will the IRS Investigate the Watchtower Society?

by ABibleStudent 44 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • ABibleStudent

    If you feel that the WTBTS is breaking a tax law(s), you can send a letter to investigate the WTBTS to the IRS to:

    Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service MC 4910 DAL 1100 Commerce Street Dallas, TX 75242

    The IRS will investigate complaints about the WTBTS, but it will not investigate the WTBTS without compliants being sent to the IRS. If you suspect or know that the WTBTS is in violation of the Tax Code, send a letter to the IRS and ask. IRS publications are not specific as to what is or is not in violation of the tax codes.

    According to IRS Publication 1828, “Tax Guide for Churches and Religious Organizations - benefits and responsibilities under the federal tax law”, charitable organizations, including churches and religious organizations, must be :

    • Organized and operated for religious or other charitable purposes,
    • Net earnings may not inure to the benefit of any private individual or shareholder,
    • No substantial part of its activity may be attempting to influence legislation,
    • The organization may not intervene in political campaigns, and
    • The organization's purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy.

    Since "the organization's purposes and activities may not be illegal or violate fundamental public policy", I sent a letter to the IRS to investigate the WTBTS by asking if the WTBTS was in violation of the tax codes for the following:

    • Donations (i.e., monetary kickbacks) to the Society from businesses that the Society actively promotes to members to stay at when attending conventions and assemblies. Since the WTBTS stopped asking for donations for their literature, I wonder if the WTBTS makes agreements with local businesses to promote those businesses to JWs in return for donations. Donations are legitamite for only that portion of the donation that does not benefit the donor.
    • How title of real property used by a local congregation is held after a local congregation pays off loan(s) to the Society, I seriously doubt that the WTBTS holds the property inappropriately, but I thought I would ask the question. If the WTBTS were to dissolve, I believe that the assets of the corporation are suppose to revert to the government.
    • Are local congregations free to make decision to sell real property that they use (or used) for regular meetings based on local needs and how are proceeds distributed after the sale. Since mother WTBTS seems to raid local congregations' treasuries by closing congregations or forcing congregations to remodel their KHs, I was wondering if the WTBTS is doing something shady.
    • Behavioral control techniques that the Society uses to control its members and to prevent members from freely choosing to practice their religious beliefs, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. I know that this question is reaching for a lower department to make a decision, so I sent an additional letter to the Secretary of the Treasury asking more policy changing questions.

    According to a form letter that I received back from the IRS:

    "The Internal Revenue Service has an ongoing examination program to ensure that exempt organizations comply with the applicable provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. The information you submitted will be considered in this program."

    Peace be with you and everyone, who you love,


  • Iamallcool

    They said they have ongoing examination, maybe they have few JW employees in the IRS Audit Dept, they can turn a blind eye to some issues. It seems like you want to persecute the WT, Good Luck on that. BTTT this thread when IRS finally busted the Watchtower. Bill Bowen and his gang marched in NYC near Bethel and they had big signs for the FBI to investigate the Watchtower for Child Abuse Cover Up and they also talked about it on Dateline. Did they get in trouble? Well, the answer is No after 10 years. They have smart Watchtower Folks to cover their own dirty asses on variety of issues.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    I don't know the details of tax exempt investigations by the IRS. My gut tells me the IRS does investigate the WTBTS and other religions on some sort of regular basis. It gets touchy b/c of the religious aspect. Remember Nixon's Enemies List? Imagine your favorite religion on the list. Such a probe, if not tailored, can bring us back to Tudor England the the English Civil War. I suspect that other religions do these same practices.

    With such a large legal dept, I expect the Wt complies with all IRS regulations.

    Many, many Americans feel it is fundamentally nonAmerican to subsidize religion with our tax dollars. When the First Amendment was enacted, it based in large measure on the work of James Madison in the Virginia legislature before the War. He wrote a very famous Remonstrance against taxes being used for religion. Both sides in Establishment Clause cases quote from the Remonstrance. In fact, they both quote the very same words to back up their view. I don't know how the tax exemption came about. Taxing religion becomes very problematic if you separate church and state at all. In order to tax successfully, you need a lot of info and open books. Even a fishing expediton might turn government into ordering religion what to do. The European example of this was very compelling. They did everything within their power to avoid it. Also, the colonies were diverse enough that there was no major religion that any one section of the country believed more than other religions. Rather than have a religion appointed, no religion was supposed to be affiliated with the government.

    I read extensively in this area (but not tax exemption itself). My tax dollars should not go the Roman Catholic's church mission. They are. It infuriates me. The Court has swung to accomodate religion. I know the details of these cases. My idea is to conduct or join a public relations program to question Americans whether they want to subsidize any religion, when so many Americans are openly agnostic or atheist. IMO, the govt is choosing Christian religious groups over nonbelievers. This is wrong. We need to change attitudes in the legislature, judiciary, executive, and general public. Presently, faith based social welfare groups are preferred for executive and legislative appropriations over secular providers. With no real proof, both George Bush and Barack Obama have funded these groups. Faith is considered enough to tip the balance. This does not sound very American to me.

    Birth control, choice, child labor restrictions, etc. - a whole host of programs were considered unlikely to ever become part of American culture and law. Tax exemption as we know it could join the ranks if we could focus the issue. The administration and Congress will never take the iniative. When atheists, agnostics, and believers who feel as I do, donate money and vote for our candidates on the basis of ending tax exemption, tax exemption would stop.

    The legal issue that would remain is how intrusive the IRS could be in taxing religion. I am certain countless law review articles raise this issue. I don't want the Catholic Church dictating what government can do but I also don't want the government to tell the Catholic Church what to do.

    Clergy also get a lot of beneficial tax treatment. I am eager to learn how European governments deal with this issue. France is historically very anticlerical. It would be a good place to start. Also, I would get in touch with groups already lobbying to end tax exemption to find out which senators and congresspersons are sympathetic. Religion funds their lobbyists. Individuals can't fight back effectively.

    Personally, I want Beatles and Bob Dylan fans to receive tax exemption. Individual tax exemption would be nice, too.

    Taxing or not taxing is one thing. For govt. to actively give funds to religions for their mission is much more troubling. True, govt. is not just cutting checks to religion. This very moment, however, we are funding Notre Dame students to work in Catholic schools. Since the Court held that was const'l, I expect every other religion has students working in their parochial schools at public expense.

  • puffthedragon

    Would be nice, but I think the expansive legal team this religion has is VERY careful to check local laws to make sure they fly within the radar. They will do anything to protect their money from the govt. The whole reason they switched to the donation arrangement was to skirt the law. Just because they want the R&F to be dumb and uneducated does not mean they do not employ very educated powerful lawyers to do their dirtywork.

  • Sic Semper Tyrannis
    Sic Semper Tyrannis

    Not to rain on your parade, but the IRS gets complaints like this all the time from people who are aggrieved for one reason or another against an organization. Scientology is a good example of that. It's like reporting your ex to the welfare fraud line. They can see right through what you are trying to do. The IRS typically goes after ill-informed or ill-advised celebrities like Wesley Snipes, Nicolas Cage, Willie Nelson, or Marlon Brando. They might be rich, but they can't muster the legal teams that the WTS and Scientology can. The IRS picks and chooses its fights. Some aren't worth it. Especially organizations that are non-profit and 'tax-exempt'. The WTS will fight back with a full legal onslaught that will take years to litigate, and the IRS knows it.

  • ABibleStudent

    Thanks for the responses. Many of you commented on how the WTBTS's army of lawyers would protect the WTBTS. I personally am more impressed with how the WTBTS’s thought reform techniques protect the WTBTS. Even though many people today are apathetic or do not want to get involved, I feel that many former JWs are still affected by WTBTS phobias as discussed by Steve Hassan in his book “Combatting Cult Mind Control”.

    I know a former JW brother who has been out for 25 years. He doesn’t believe that the Bible is the word of God, but he believes that if there is a God that the WTBTS has the “Truth”. Now that is impressive!!

    I wrote this thread to inform JWs and former JWs of the address for the IRS and to let people know how I fell into a mind-trap. With all the Bethel closings and because the WTBTS discards older JWs, I am hoping that someone will read this thread and will overcome their WTBTS induced phobias to contact the IRS if they know of something illegal that the WTBTS did or was doing.

    About 4 months ago I realized I was in a mind-trap that I believed that the IRS was unable to investigate dangerous cults. I researched the tax codes and IRS publications. I had written Harry Reid’s office twice (http://www.jehovahs-witness.net/members/politics/221205/1/Response-from-Senator-Harry-Reids-Office-About-Tax-Exemptions-for-Dangerous-Cults) and was preparing to write more Senators and Representatives. One day I realized that I had not asked the IRS if it was aware of what the WTBTS was doing. How could I fault the IRS or condemn current laws without first writing to the Secretary of the Treasury to see if the WTBTS was violating current laws and regulations?

    Now at least I am prepared to respond to Senators, Representatives, and others encase they ask, "Did you inform the IRS". I can now say, “I have written to the Secretary of the Treasury about my concerns. Please contact the IRS, because the IRS won’t tell me whether it is investigating the WTBTS.” I have also written a petition to the White House about modifying the tax codes to protect Americans from dangerous cults like the WTBTS (see http://www.jehovahs-witness.net/members/politics/225023/1/URGENT-Please-Sign-White-House-Petition-to-Protect-Americans-from-Dangerous-Cults-Modify-USC-Title-26-c2a7-501-Tax-Exemption-Requirements). I created the petition after learning that AOPA was petitioning the White House to explain in detail why the White House wants to impose $100/use user fees on general aviation pilots.

    The moral of this thread is think outside the box and overcome your fears!!

    Peace be with you and everyone, who you love,


  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    I majored in Politcal Science and have a law degree. Our argument is more that the WT complies with current law. There are specialized tax lawyers employed by the Witnesses to make certain they are in compliance. If you have a specific instance of non-compliance, you should report it to the IRS in detail. When it comes to using personal resources, however, is that in the foreseeable future, no administration is going to spearhead an effort to "get" one religion. I can see the headlines in the New York Times and Washington Post. Such a position would be contrary to every American myth.

    Given this reality, changing the law may be more effective in the long run. Only if all religions lost the tax exempt status would such a move pass const' l muster. I doubt this could ever be achieved in the short term.

    Americans believe in the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, common called separation of church and state. The Supreme Court enforces it. The debate currently raging is where to draw a sharp line, not whether there should be a line.

    I left the Witnesses around 1968. My interest in law was motivated by political activism. I was active and remain active in civl rights and civil liberties movements. Indeed, I've worked for U.S. Senators and sat in strategy sessions plotting Supreme Court litigation and legislative efforts. If you are interested in advocating change, I commend you for it. We don't have to enlist as your cult members, however, and do exactly what you order.

    There is support for changing the tax exempt status of all religions. It annoys more and more Americans. I don't know polling numbers. I believe in thinking outside the box. The box can be viewed differently from different angles. People can choose how they want to create change. There are existing groups that have long advocated for abolition of the tax exempt religious status. I suggest that you get in touch with them to see what efforts they have tried and are trying. Perhaps you have a new angle or may want to join such a group.

    If only the Witnesses status was revoked, I do believe I would volunteer to represent my enemy. When it comes to religion, you walk on eggshells in America. Subtlety is needed. Frankly, I don't know if it is the role of the US government to prevent people from joining dangerous cults. How do you define dangerous? I prefer the American way born of the European experience.

  • JeffT

    Frankly, I don't know if it is the role of the US government to prevent people from joining dangerous cults. How do you define dangerous?


    This has been my argument from the get go on these petitions. At this point in my life I'm ambivelent about the tax exempt status of churches. I think (as Band noted) that probably removing it entirely is the only thing that would pass constitutional muster. It MIGHT be possible to to prorate the tax burden based on the amount of income that actually goes to charity, but you still have the problem of defining charity.

    I dislike anybody's attempt to use the power of the government to enforce their notion of proper religion.

  • Sic Semper Tyrannis
    Sic Semper Tyrannis

    I too believe that just yanking the tax exempt status on all churches would probably cause more harm than good. It would restrict, if not force the termination of many activities and programs that are good for the community in whole. It's organizations like the WTS that are abusing this trust. Absolutely nothing gets funnelled back into the Witness community. Kingdom Halls are like mausoleums. Would it hurt to have a luncheon at the KH every now and then to improve morale? What I'd like to see is a kind of capital gains tax levied on the religions like the WTS who hoard their assets and give almost nothing back. Provide convenient loopholes to encourge these organizations to funnel this excess money into charitable foundations which help the Witness community at large and take care of the elderly who gave their whole lives and now have little to sustain them. The buildings in Brooklyn are another example. What are the primary purposes of such buildings? Houses of worship like KHs and Assembly Halls should be exempt, but not for buildings that are being used to produce literature for which a donation is highly suggested and even strongly implied. It's unlikely to happen though. The Society will set their legal team on it and would be at the Supreme Court in no time arguing religious freedom. For countries that don't buy it, they are just going to pull out of and consolidate elsewhere.

  • ABibleStudent

    JeffT - I dislike anybody's attempt to use the power of the government to enforce their notion of proper religion
    @ JeffT don't you have a novel to publish? I encourage you to spend more time getting your novel published so that it will help to educate people about dangerous cults. That may be the best way for you to stop people like me from petitioning the government about dangerous cults.
    Band on the Run - Frankly, I don't know if it is the role of the US government to prevent people from joining dangerous cults. How do you define dangerous?

    Hi Band on the Run, According to the 1st Amendment, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” My contention is that when Congress passed laws creating USC Title 26 § 501 they inadverntly opened the door for dangerous cults to infringe on an individual's free excercise of religion and freedom of speech. Most lawyers would agree that the 1st Amendment only applies to the government and not to organizations that benefit from laws passed by the government, which is why I started to write to Senators and Representatives and to create a White House petition to discuss this issue.

    Please read the petition at www.whitehouse.gov/petitions/!/petition/protect-americans-dangerous-cults-modify-usc-title-26-§-501-tax-exemptions-requirements/ZHpbvHfx or http://wh.gov/Er4, and read the thread http://www.jehovahs-witness.net/members/politics/225023/1/URGENT-Please-Sign-White-House-Petition-to-Protect-Americans-from-Dangerous-Cults-Modify-USC-Title-26-c2a7-501-Tax-Exemption-Requirements for additional information.

    I don't know whether I have the answer or whether there are many good answers. I do believe that government should protect people from dangerous cults, as defined by Steve Hassan in his book "Combatting Cult Mind Control". I do believe that Congress should protect an individual's rights and that an individual's 1st Amendment rights supercede an organization's rights. I do believe that revising USC Title 26 § 501 to require that all tax exempt organizations and their leaders must promote an individual's rights of freedom of religion and speech would be a good start to protect Americans from dangerous cults. I do believe that the White House petition that I created is a good start for government to start discussing this issue. I do believe that if I do nothing then nothing will change.

    Peace be with you and everyone, who you love,


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