- Famous mega-church pastor Joel Osteen has sparked anger online after claiming he won’t pay taxes.
- But he probably pays taxes, especially on income from his books.
- Wealthy people in roles like Osteen’s often inspire negative reactions about their fortunes and positions.
- See more stories on the Insider business page.
Famous pastor and author Joel Osteen sparks anger online against a Ferrari. Twitter users are angry with the high price of the car, which some claim is a huge $ 325,000 (Osteen would own a Ferrari 458 Italia, according to the Houston Chronicle).
It also sparked a debate on the hottest topic of the summer: taxes. Following the Ferrari incident, #ChurchesTax started to be trending, alongside claims that Osteen does not pay taxes. As it turns out, those claims are probably not entirely true.
âJoel Osteen pays a lot of taxes because his book sells,â Ryan Burge, pastor and associate professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, told Insider.
Osteen, one of the country’s most famous pastors because of his high-profile shows, books and celebrity worshipers, has not received a salary from Lakewood Church since 2005, according to the Houston Chronicle . Instead, royalties from his bestselling book group are likely paying for his lavish car and house, and experts told Insider he likely pays taxes on them.
Rumors of his non-payment of taxes are likely confused with the fact that his church – which could bring in more than $ 80 million in donations and had $ 90 million in operating expenses – is largely exempt from paying taxes. ‘taxes. The hubbub around Osteen’s car is another example of a backlash, amid historic inequalities in the United States, against the ultra-wealthy pastor, who is one of the most famous figures associated with “the prosperity gospel âor the idea that financial success is the result of faith in God.
Joel Osteen Ministries did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Osteen earns a lot of money from the books and probably pays taxes on that income
The annual salary for the role of Osteen is said to be $ 200,000, according to the Indy Star, but he hasn’t fired that in over a decade.
Osteen’s larger-than-life lifestyle is likely supported by speaking engagements and royalties on his books, the first of which came out in 2004 and sold over 8 million copies, according to Publisher’s Weekly. The Christian Post reported that the multi-million dollar deal for his second book was more than the $ 8.5 million Pope John Paul II got.
In addition to his Ferrari, Osteen owns a $ 12 million home according to a profile detailed in the Houston Chronicle. He and his wife reportedly paid $ 247,000 in property taxes in 2017.
Churches pay little tax in the United States
Churches like Lakewood Church in Texas are largely tax exempt, except for paying payroll taxes and social security contributions to their staff, according to Burge.
Jared Walczak, vice president of state projects at the Tax Foundation, said the clergy pay taxes on their income. The only tax benefit available to the clergy that most other people cannot take advantage of is a “parsonage allowance” – essentially a housing allowance.
âIt is possible to exclude a certain amount from gross income if it is structured as providing a parsonage for a pastor or a housing allowance for a prime minister,â Walczak said. But he noted that this generally benefits ministers of smaller churches. According to the Chronicle, Osteen’s house is not designated as a rectory.
Outcry over Osteen’s fortunes is part of increased pressure on the rich to close growing gaps
While Osteen probably pays taxes, the outrage over inequality of wealth and unfair taxation arises at the time of the count.
The pandemic has exposed – and, in many cases, exacerbated – the gaps between the richest and poorest members of American society. As millions of Americans lost their jobs (and, in some cases, unemployment benefits keeping them afloat), it was revealed that the wealthiest taxpayers had been hiding billions from the IRS.
The Osteen Church was singled out amid debate over who or what deserved government grants when it was criticized for receiving a $ 4.4 million loan from the Check Protection Plan of pay. The news sparked a backlash, particularly amid Osteen’s build-up of personal wealth and the church’s operating budget and donation apparatus.
In a media statement, David Iloff, a spokesperson for the church, said the church did not ask for help at first, but eventually sought it out as the pandemic-induced lockdowns continued. . Iloff said the church was able to pay salaries and employee health benefits with the loan.
Walczak points out that service organizations such as religious institutions or nonprofits are often obvious targets of anger at âostentatious wealthâ.
âYou will always have individuals, whether they are ministers or leaders of other organizations, who draw negative attention for this, and that is not surprising. But that does not mean that there is a tax problem. “