Happy Tax Day!

Here in the US, today is an important day — tax day. Personally, I’ve never really paid much attention to it since I never minded figuring out my taxes, even when I made the switch from always getting a refund to always paying. But this year, I’ve actually procrastinated until the very last day (I would have had them off last night if I owned a stapler. Dammit!) and I owe thousands of dollars. No, seriously, like $5,000. Which sucks.

Because of the extra stress this year, I’m even more inclined to rant about other people who don’t pay taxes. You know, like the Church of Scientology.

I know I’ve been ranting a lot about the Church of Scientology (CoS) lately, but I’m going to do it again anyway So sue me. (HA HA, not to be taken literally, Scientologists!)

Opponents of the CoS have long complained about the apparently for-profit business claiming to be a nonprofit enterprise. They pull in literally hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue through their “auditing” techniques. According to, auditing classes can cost thousands of dollars, with the final amount to achieve the highest level hovering around $277,000 per person. As L. Ron Hubbard wrote in Ability in 1955,

Take it cash in advance. Guarantee nothing. Make sure you stress its spiritual slant and value. Steer clear of promising cures. AND DON’T rush them into auditing. They’ll beg for it soon enough.

Actually do this to be of service to man. Try to give it away. You’ll find you can’t. Don’t use this just because it’s a ‘preclear getter’, it’s a lot more than that. It will put you in financial condition and get your church going.

Check out this article from the New York Times, which asserts that the CoS engaged in a long, heated battle with the IRS to achieve their tax-exempt status back in 1993. Here’s just one point of many:

Scientology’s lawyers hired private investigators to dig into the private lives of IRS officials and to conduct surveillance operations to uncover potential vulnerabilities, according to interviews and documents. One investigator said he had interviewed tenants in buildings owned by three IRS officials, looking for housing code violations. He also said he had taken documents from an IRS conference and sent them to church officials and created a phony news bureau in Washington to gather information on church critics. The church also financed an organization of IRS whistle-blowers that attacked the agency publicly.

The CoS responded to defend against this criticism thusly:

Church officials and lawyers acknowledged that Scientology had used private investigators to look into their opponents, including IRS officials, but they said the practice had nothing to do with the IRS decision.

“This is a church organization that has been subjected to more harassment and more attacks certainly than any religion in this century and probably any religion ever, and they have had to perhaps take unusual steps in order to survive,” Ms. Yingling said.

(Emphasis is mine.) Let’s just take a moment to check some numbers:

    Number of Scientologists murdered by a government: 0 (in 54 years of existence)
    Number of Jews murdered by a government: 5 or 6 (million, 1939-1945)

Okay, glad to get that out of the way. Now go read the rest of the article for a fascinating account of a 25-year battle between the CoS and the IRS, which the CoS won. Big time.

Oh, and don’t forget to pay your taxes! Unless you’re a Xenu-fearing person.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. You know, I’ve always thought that the tax exemptions on religious organizations violate, rather than support, the First Amendment. Doesn’t that mean that religious people get special privileges over everyone else, if their organizations don’t have to pay taxes but the rest of us do? (Or, to more libertarian-minded folks like me, religious organizations get the freedom to their own money while the rest of us are punished and fined for not being religious?)

  2. I may be mistaken, but being tax-exempt is not without its drawbacks. You can only spend that money in certain ways. Churches and charities, otherwise, would be treated like buisnesses, which could severely hamper their ability to operate.

    Does that violate the separation of church and state? No, because if we did treat them like buisnesses then it would be the government’s fault that churches don’t exist in our country. They would effectively be censoring them through taxation. Since seperation of church and state means that the state can’t mandate what church you belong to, and censoring a religion through taxation would essentially force you to belong to only certain “profitable” or very popular churches, they need to make them tax exempt. Otherwise the only church around would be scientology and the catholic church.

  3. You should be careful about waiting till the last minute to do submit your taxes as you never know what may come up suddenly. Some guy just ran his car into a tree in front of my house an hour ago on his way to submit his taxes. I had to call 911 and he was carted away in an ambulance (but don’t worry, no apparent major injuries besides some cuts and a small concussion), but hopefully that is enough of an excuse for him to get an extension.

  4. Heh, I wish I could finish them that early. .. stupid banks and investment accounts take forever to mail you out all the stuff you need to finish your taxes… but I did finish it before April… Mailed it off and everything… only to get an amended document three days ago. So now I’m hoping that I don’t get audited.

  5. “…but hopefully that is enough of an excuse for him to get an extension.”

    I’d just like to point out that you don’t need an excuse to get an extension. You just have to fill out the right form.

  6. “Am I the only nerd who has her taxes done before the Superbowl?”

    I don’t even get all the paperwork I need before then.

  7. Quote from Form 4868:
    ‘File Form 4868 by April 15, 2008.’

    Extensions still have to be submitted and filled out on time. I assume there is a good chance he won’t be submitting anything today at all, so anything he submits tomorrow would technically still be late.

  8. “Extensions still have to be submitted and filled out on time. ”

    This is absolutely true. It is just that a lot of people don’t realize that absolutely anyone can get an extension until August 15th for any reason or no reason at all.

  9. Elyse – No. I’m an early nerd too. But that’s because I’m poor enough to get a nice refund, so I always get it in early so I can get my money faster.

  10. I have a suggestion…

    Children = tax deductions!!!

    I think you could find lots of nerdy guys to help you with that!

    Just kidding….

    $5K!? that is harsh!


  11. I just finished puting in approximatly 930 hours of tax work. I am so tired I’m having trouble talking straight. If anyone would feel more cofortable with an atheist/skeptic doing their taxes next year let me know.

  12. Elyse: ” Am I the only nerd who has her taxes done before the Superbowl?”

    Pretty close for me. I do love TurboTax and E-filing.

    And Rebecca, perhaps quarterlies???

  13. While there are disadvantages to living in a country with a high tax rate compared to the US (41% is Ireland’s top tax rate for income over 35Kish) at least as a non business owner I don’t have to do any tax forms! The govt happily takes my cash every month and I don’t need to do a thing! :) [Yay taxes!]

  14. An important point in regards to the CoS’s tax-free status is that it is actually greater than that of other religions. Members of the CoS can write off up to 80% of what they spend of “religious education.” No other religion is allowed to do this. This special exemption is currently being challenged in the courts by a Jewish family that thinks they should be able to write off their religious education expenses as well since the government should treat all religions equally. More info on this can be found at the beginning of this video:


  15. $5,000.00?????????????????

    Well, I did win a chunk of money last year from that little radio gig. That wasn’t taxed.

    Really, I don’t mind. It’s $5,000 that I knew I’d have to pay, and that the government let me have to save and earn interest on for several months, which I then paid back. That’s better than the reverse happening — lending the government $5,000 and getting repaid with no interest in April. So . . . meh.

    Gabrielbrawley, nice, I just might take you up on that next year! And you’ll regret you ever posted. Mwa ha.

    ItsRDC, thanks for the link and additional info!

  16. Am I the only nerd who has her taxes done before the Superbowl?

    We had ours done by mid-February. Got our refund in early March. TurboTax online is awesome.

    And yeah, if you think about it, it’s technically better to have to pay some taxes than it is to get a big refund, because you’re losing potential interest on the money the government took out of your paycheck. Solution? Adjust the withholding number on your W-4 so you keep more of your paycheck.

  17. We usually pay every year because I don’t want the Gov. to use our money. This year we had a lot of deductions so we are getting money back. Ahh the joy of home ownership.
    I am amazed that the CoS has gotten away with this tax exempt status for as long as they have. I am surprised that the other religions haven’t tried to rain in their parade and stick it to them.

  18. Not to be a picky jackass, but I believe it’s actually “Church” of $cientology, or “C”o$.

    I can’t stand those n0-tax-paying, money-grubbing, alien fearing, thetan-spinning douchebags….

  19. Hey Rebecca,

    There’s a youtube video out there where Co$ level 5 Jason Beghe seems a bit irate with Scientology…sorry I don’t have the link.

  20. “Can we start a religion based on how much we hate $cientology?”

    Why do we need a faith to do that when there are so many rational reasons to do so?

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