- 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 over 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 become a trend, alongside claims that Osteen does not pay taxes. As it turns out, those claims are probably not entirely true.
“Joel Osteen pays a lot of taxes because his book sells,” Ryan Burge, pastor and associate professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, told Insider.
Osteen, one of the most famous pastors in the country because of his great reach emissions, 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 probably mistaken for the fact that his church – which would have can gross over $ 80 million in donations and had $ 90 million in operating expenses – is largely tax exempt. 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 “prosperity gospel“or 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 would be $ 200,000, according to the Indy Star, but he hasn’t drawn this 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 The publisher’s weekly. the Christian Post reported that the multi-million dollar deal for his second book was greater than the $ 8.5 million obtained by Pope John Paul II.
In addition to his Ferrari, Osteen owns a $ 12 million home according to an extended profile 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 exempt from taxes, with the exception of paying payroll taxes and payroll taxes 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.
“It is possible to exclude a certain amount of gross income if it is structured as providing a parsonage for a pastor or a housing allowance for a prime minister,” 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 likely pays taxes, outrage over wealth inequality and unfair taxation comes 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 inspired backlash, especially amid Osteen’s personal wealth accumulation and the church’s operating budget and donation apparatus.
In a statement to mediaChurch spokesman David Iloff 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 against “ostentatious wealth”.
“You will always have individuals, whether they are ministers or leaders of other organizations, who draw negative attention for it, and that is not surprising. But that does not mean that there is a tax problem. “