Translation: Anton Hein, ReligionNewsBlog.com
The Ministry of Finance and the Tax Department have, with regard to the Scientology Church, wobbled on their policy for much too long. So says M. van Overbeeke professor in fiscal rights at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
“It is high time that the ministry [of finance] is going to act more forcefully and says: this is not at all a church, but merely a commercial enterprise. And that fiscally they from now on are to be treated as a commercial institution,” says Van Overbeeke, who among other things is specialized in the relationships between churches and the tax department.
“Scientology purposely positioned itself in the grey area between a church and an enterprise, and that area simply asks for clarity. As a government you can put this on the back burner for a long time, but there comes a time when you have to solve it. The finance minister is qualified to finally make a singular decision: we, the Dutch State, consider Scientology to be a business, not a church. No doubt they would take legal steps [against such a decision], but that is of later concern.”
Since the seventies, the Scientology Kerk Amsterdam steadfastly presents itself to the tax department and the public as a ‘religion’ and a ‘church’ that (just like traditional churches) would be entitled to tax exemption.
Over the years, the Ministry of Finance, the Tax Department and tax judges have strongly varied the way they have handled this issue: sometimes they have considered Scientology to be a church, and other times a commercial business.
“That wobbling is due to the fact that tax inspectors and judges aren’t always constant in their opinions. Sometimes they are bamboozled by fine stories regarding freedom of religion. Sometimes it is difficult to determine where the line is between a commercial institution that pretends to be a church, and a genuine church. That is why there is a need for clarity,” according to the academic.
Every once in a while, churches that do not use such exorbitant rates as employed by Scientology, are taxed. “Monasteries that brew beer, for example. In that case the monastery is not taxed, but the brewery is. But Scientology is another story altogether. At the most, it is five percent church and for the rest a commercial institution that charges money for services – and not a little bit either.”
The Ministry of Finance does not want to respond to this issue.