Je suis le percepteur! (French tax on WTS)

by ezekiel3 22 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • ezekiel3

    From the official news site for JWs (

    Notice the highlight, I wonder why this factoid was included??

    French High Court confirms 60-percent confiscatory tax measure on religious donations

    PARIS ? France's highest court of appeal, the Cour de cassation, has handed down its decision in a case between the Association Les Témoins de Jéhovah, a not-for-profit religious association used by Jehovah's Witnesses in France, and the national tax department, the Direction des services fiscaux.

    Following a tax inspection lasting 18 months, the tax department established that Association Les Témoins de Jéhovah, whose sole revenue consists of religious donations by its adherents, was run in a completely benevolent fashion, and that its activities were not commercial or for profit. Nevertheless, the tax department levied a 60-percent tax on the religious donations made over a period of four years, between 1993 and 1996. This represents, on average, five euros per donor, per month. This is the first time in their 100-year existence in France that Jehovah's Witnesses have been taxed in this manner.

    This taxation measure raises numerous objections relating to fundamental freedoms. It does not take into account the traditional practice of not taxing donations made to associations, both religious and humanitarian. It exorbitantly taxes not only religious contributions but also humanitarian donations, including those collected to help victims of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. In flagrant violation of the law respecting individual freedoms, during the tax inspection the tax department systematically compiled a list of each donor. Furthermore, this tax has not been imposed on any other religious organization in France.

    The Association Les Témoins de Jéhovah has decided to institute proceedings against this confiscatory taxation before the European Court of Human Rights.

    Media contact in France: Jean-Claude Pons (33-2-32) 25-55-55
    Media contact in the United States: J.R. Brown (718) 560-5600

  • seattleniceguy

    Hey Zeke,

    Could it be so that family heads can calculate what they "owe" to help the Society cover the tax burden? That's just cruel to expect people to cover that.

    However, it is cool that they included the factoid, because it allows us to estimate their current revenues in France. If 5 euros per donor per month represents 60% of collected revenues, then it means that gross revenues were 8.33 euros per donor per month (.6x = 5, x = 8.33). The interesting thing is, how do they know how many donors they have? After all, in a completely anonymous, voluntary system, it should be impossible to know this, let alone do the division to come up with a per-donor figure as they have done. So they must be counting each publisher as a donor.

    If we assume that per-publisher donations have been roughly the same between the period in question and the present, we can extrapolate a rough current gross revenue. According to the Society's website ( France reported a peak of 118,000 publishers for 2003. Unfortunately, the average publishers figure is not given in this chart, so we'll subtract a generous 5% (The US had a discrepancy of about 3% between peak and average publishers) to arrive at an average publisher figure of about 114,500. Multiply by our 8.33 euros per donor per month figure, and we arrive at gross revenues of 953,500 euros per month. So about a million cool a month.

    Anyone care to comment on this? Higher than expected? Lower than expected?


  • blondie
    the tax department levied a 60-percent tax on the religious donations made over a period of four years, between 1993 and 1996.

    Does this mean that the WTS has been paying the tax from 1997 to the present?

    Good thing if they have because then they would owe a lot more.

    Are these dontations by JWs to the WTS? I would think so because few donations (to the worldwide work) by non-JWs are evident in my area. I can see why the WTS moved all the printing operations out of France and into the UK. I wonder what this means for the Bethel in France?

    The WTS will survive and will average to the cost over all the publishers in France.

  • Euphemism

    I was thinking the same thing, SNG... glad you beat me to it so I didn't have to do the numbers.

    It honestly seems rather lower than I'd expect. An organization with $12,000,000 (very rough conversion from euros) of annual revenue would not be considered a large organization in the business world. I obviously wouldn't expect the French branch to match the American HQ, which made it onto a list of the 500 largest businesses in NY; but 12 million dollars a year hardly seems like enough money to finance a major printing operation.

  • Narkissos

    Link to the previous discussion on this subject (when the final French decision was taken, what follows will be in the European Court):

  • blondie

    So no money has changed hands yet, eh?

    I wonder if the US headquarters (or the UK) fund part of the printing process?

    I wonder what the laws are about bringing foreign money into France for those purposes?


  • candidlynuts

    oh dear.. if i lived in france i'd have to refrain from donating. i couldnt donate money to someone who gave 60% to the GOVERNMENT! GASP! that would be like supporting political leaders or something ! hehe

  • Elsewhere

    That article appears to be biased in favor of the WTS because they did not state WHY the tax was levied.

    I sure would like to know what regulations the WTS violated in order to be hit with this.

  • Narkissos


    Had they declared their income in the first place they would not have been taxed at such a rate (and probably not at all).

    From what I have gathered thus far, it is because they didn't declare anything that they were taxed at the worst possible rate following a tax control.

    Of course before the European Court they will plead religious discrimination, especially as politicians have uncautiously bragged over this decision as a positive example of effective anti-cult policy. But we have to see how the E.C. reacts.


    As far as I know no money has changed hands yet, but the French administration has a mortgage on the Bethel's real estate (which has become largely useless since the printing facilities have moved over to the UK).

    And I don't think there is any restriction to bringing foreign funds to France now (there was a fund control in the 80's, but it has been suppressed long ago). But imho this is the last think the WT would like to do.

  • blondie


    Isn't it the result of 2 things:

    The French Interior Ministry did not recognize the WTS (Temoins de Jehovah) as an "association cultuelle" or "association culte." Thus their members' contributions would be taxable at the normal 60% rate for gifts in France according to a 1992 law.

    That might explain why the period of time is 1992-1996. I take it the WTS either starting paying in 1996 or was not subject by that time due to legal maneuvering by that time.

    I wonder how Scientology is faring under this situation as well.


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