Some individuals feel a call to devote their life to preaching the ministry of Jesus and spreading the Christian religion. Devoting oneself to a worthy cause like religion can bring peace, contentment, and spiritual wealth to a community. Pastors, priests, and other members of the clergy may hold themselves out as representatives of a particular congregation or simply generally represent their faith.
While some pastors and religious workers may take an oath of poverty or forego certain luxuries, not all denominations require such acts of sacrifice. In fact, some forms of Christianity actively preach that members should work to accumulate wealth. Individuals are free to pursue their own interpretations of religion, however, they must always comply with all aspects of the U.S. Tax Code. Claims that paying taxes violates one’s religious conscious are well-known frivolous tax arguments. Religious organizations that play fast and loose with taxes will not be shielded from an investigation due to the nature of the organization.
For decades, preacher Benny Hinn and his company Benny Hinn Ministries have spread the “prosperity gospel” through the United States and foreign countries. The “prosperity gospel” is based on the belief that people can find good health and financial and personal success through a combination of adherence to Christian teachings and tithing to the church. Hinn’s website implores visitors to donate noting that “[God] is the ultimate Giver!” and promises to absolve the sins of those who donate. It is believed that Hinn’s organization’s income is around $100 million annually.
The church is also known for its harsh views on homosexual Americans and for believing in faith healing. In the late 1980s, Benny Hinn predicted that, by 1995, God would destroy the gay community in the United States. For faith healing attempts, Hinn accepts only individuals with non-physical “invisible” maladies and impairments. A 2001 documentary failed to find any person healed through a “miracle” performed by Hinn. The organization also made national headlines in 1999 after collecting millions of dollars to build a “religious healing center.” The center was never built.
While the church was frequently in the news for it controversial views in the 1980s and 1990s, the organization had recently flown under the radar. However, the church was investigated in the mid-2000s for suspected tax fraud. The IRS and Department of Justice declined to take any action following that investigation.
Reports from local newspapers indicate that “crews have been taking boxes and other items out of the trucks and placing them inside the [IRS] building.” Some reports indicated that the search of the facilities had entered into the second day. One IRS agent stated that “Today, we are here on official business, we are conducting a search warrant on the premises, basically that’s all I can tell you today.” Another agent was more forthcoming and indicated that his unit is tasked “primarily [with] investigating Title 26, which is tax evasion and general fraud against the government.” Thus, we have a good idea that the raid was related to suspected tax fraud.
While government officials have not revealed their exact line of inquiry or suspected tax crimes, we may be able to take educated guesses regarding the types of behavior that may have attracted attention. For one, news reports have indicated that IRS and DOJ agents have been working with the Trinity Foundation. The Trinity Foundation is a religious organization devoted to monitoring religious fraud. These reports would square with earlier Congressional investigations into the organization. The 2007 Congressional investigation uncovered concerns regarding the personal use of religious donations to the organization and misuse of the ministry’s private jet for personal trips and vacations. The report also noted a lack of financial oversight of the ministry’s board. The board is composed of Hinn’s family members and friends.”
The organization denies any wrongdoing and states that it is cooperating fully with authorities. The organization released a statement recognizing and predicting that “The ministry has undergone intense scrutiny over the years, and we remain confident that there will again be a positive and speedy outcome in the days ahead.”
The IRS will pursue criminal tax charges regardless of the reputation or community standing of those it suspects of engaging in fraud or tax evasion. If you are concerned about how you or your organization has handled income taxes, payroll taxes, foreign account disclosures, or any other tax obligation the lawyers of the Tax Law Offices of David W. Klasing are ready and willing to help. To schedule a confidential reduced rate initial consultation, call 800-681-1295 or schedule online today.