Mac Hammond’s Living Word facing IRS investigation
The Internal Revenue Service is investigating whether Living Word Christian Center violated the law for favorable compensation and loan dealings it gave to church founder and pastor Mac Hammond. Those compensation and loan dealings were first reported by the Minnesota Independent in February 2007.
The church has resisted demands by the IRS to open its books for an audit, and the agency filed a petition in United States District Court ordering the church to comply.
Earlier this month, a magistrate ordered Living Word representatives to appear and explain their refusal to comply with the IRS. In response to a summons in March, a church attorney told the IRS they would not comply until “an appropriate high-level IRS official” using “reasonable belief” requested information.
At issue are financial dealings detailed in documents obtained by the Minnesota Independent in early 2007.
According to the documents, which involved a loan application in 2003 and contained more than 100 pages of pictures and detailed descriptions of the church’s real estate assets, financial transactions and administrative history, Hammond owned two airplanes, one bought from Living Word for $1.06 million on credit supplied by Living Word. He leased the planes back to the church at a total annual rate of more than $893,000. The church asserted that “the aircraft are important to the efficient management of its ministry at the present time.” Living Word also rented a hangar to store the planes, and it paid for the expenses of the planes as well.
Hammond takes on his accusers and the IRS
In a letter to his flock, Rev. Mac Hammond says the IRS and “enemies of the gospel” are trying to intimidate him.
The Rev. Mac Hammond, founder of Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, told his congregation in a letter that an IRS investigation is “politically motivated,” and part of “a very clear effort, on a national scale, to discredit, defame and intimidate ministries and preachers of what has been called the ‘prosperity gospel.'”
In his first public comments about the IRS inquiry, Hammond, who heads one of the state’s larger churches with nearly 10,000 members and reaches a greater audience through Sunday TV broadcasts, said that those “behind these attacks [are] enemies of the gospel.”
“They are fearful not only of the moral imperative communicated by these ministries, but the growing wealth and influence of those constituencies,” he wrote.
Hammond’s mention of a national inquiry into churches like Living Word refers to a request by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, for six prosperity ministries to turn over financial records. Although he’s not looking into Hammond’s church, Grassley wants to see if the other six churches are avoiding taxes. Some have complied, others have refused, including Texas preacher Kenneth Copeland. Hammond sits on Copeland’s board.