With the fiscal health of Seoul Metropolitan Government under considerable strain, Mayor Park Won-soon is reaching very deep to bring the administrative budget under control without austerity package or retrenchment policy. Park’s social-progressive stance does not allow to roll back on social or public services and he has expressed strong disinclination to increase tax or hike fees to meet the deficit-reduction target.
We have already reported on his head-on collision with the Seoul Metro Line 9 corporation over fare hike. As a result, his administration is coming up with new and creative methods of supplementing the budget. The media has reported his new plan to go after the well-known tax-havens such as religious organizations, which have long benefited from relaxed tax enforcement and numerous tax-code loop-holes.
This large church with 15,000-strong congregation is in arrears of $2.8million USD (280,000,000 won) of land registration tax. The head minister promised to pay back the tax but has so far broken the promise repeatedly under the pretext of ‘worsening fiscal situation.’ However, during the same time the church built the new chaplaincy worth $15 million USD (15,000,000,000 won), in addition to owning 10 private villas for the ministers.
A person close to the church explained that other priorities were in the way: ‘[H]aving to prioritize the salaries for personnel and what not, we just have not been able to pay. Once we get the bank loans for the new church building construction, we will try to pay it (overdue tax) off…’
Several Buddhist temples are also behind on tax either due to closure or simply no way of collectiing it back. The cases of tax in arrears by religious organizations are close to one hundred with the amount in excess of $5.3 million US (5,300,000,000 won). Of those $5 million USD (5,000,000,000 won) are by Christian organizations and the other $0.2 million USD (200,000,000 won) owed by Buddhist organizations.
Over 80% of overdue tax from land registration fee
If land is purchased by religious organization for religious purpose, then land registraion fee is exexmpt. However, if the acquired land is being used for something other than religious purpose, the tax will be levied retroactively.
Mr. Gwon Hae-yoon, the head of Seoul Metropolitan tax collection department explains that ‘the tax-free status is being widely abused and when levied with tax for violation, they often resort to mass protest which makes it hard for us to enforce the collection.
Seoul Metropolitan authority is considering more stringent course of actions such as confiscating and auctioning off assets, or even confiscating weekly collections against those with large sums of overdue tax. Since religious organizations are expected to exercise higher moral standard than individual or corporate entities, Seoul Metropolitan government will specially oversee the overdue taxes of the religious organizations.
Comments from Daum:
Please don’t say this is just the few bad ones… Of course they should be punished. Plus, there are not that many churches with that large a congregation, so which one is it??? Reveal the name please~!
Gae-dok $5 million, Buddhist temple $0.2 million, but the headline makes it sound as if they were equally bad. Gae-doks probably did it on purpose and the temples were probably just poor.
If we tax the religious organizations properly… we can be in welfare heaven.. really…
How much per head for 15,000-member congregation? (when you sell churches, they price it by ‘per-head’)
We must tax religious organizations. It is disheartening to see these ‘religious’ folks not observing any of the national duties and just get fat off of us.
Finally it is being done… but it’s never too late, I am happy about this. They talk about selflessness but they are one greedy bunch…
Park Won-soon for president!!!!!
Gae-dok $5 million, Buddhism $0.2 million!! They are 25 times worse
Whatever religion they practice, PAY TAX!!!!!!!!! You numb nuts, I don’t care whatever you guys are up to, but PAY TAX!!!! CHANGE THE LAW!!!! MUST GET THEM TO PAY TAX!!!!
Is Park Won-soon Christian FOR REAL? Can’t believe he is same Christian as MB????
Dare to draw sword against religion…. Park Won-soon, you are a true man, better than any hero.
90% of protestant ministers are merchants.
Park Won-soon, you are amazing. You really deserve to be a president.. best!!
No mention of Catholics…. Yes, they are quite clean…
I will vote for him no matter what if he runs for president. Really goes to show the power of vote and what it means to be a real civil servant.