EU appointed Italian gov’t tries to strip Catholic Church’s property tax exemption
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
ROME, October 23, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – An amendment to Italy’s tax code that would require the Catholic Church to pay taxes on all its properties has hit a speed bump, after it was overturned October 10th by the Council of State, Italy’s highest-ranking court for administrative litigation.
The Catholic Church already pays normal tax rates on all its commercial properties in Italy. However, the amendment would have required its non-commercial properties like churches, convents and charitable institutions to be taxed as well.
Despite the amendment having been overturned by the court, the issue is still up in the air, with the Italian government and EU officials reportedly working closely together within the European Union’s internal legal framework to override the court’s authority.
The attempt, announced in February this year by the new EU-appointed government, was part of a larger effort by secularist activists within the European Union, who hold that the property tax exemption on non-commercial properties like churches and convents amounts to illegal state financial aid. The Catholic Church currently owns about 20 percent of the property in Italy for an estimated value of about 9 billion Euros. This includes shipping ports, rental properties, hotels, sporting arenas and other commercial enterprises.
The proposal to introduce taxation of the non-commercial properties was prompted by an inquiry request made to EU anti-trust authorities filed by Maurizio Turco, a representative of Italy’s extreme left, and heavily secularist, Radical Party.
As an institution founded before the fall of the Roman Empire, the Catholics Church’s claims to its property rights in some cases predates the existence of the Italian state by more than 1800 years and the European Union by nearly 2000 years. Many of Italy’s towns and cities were originally built or re-built around existing structures and institutions of the Catholic Church. Much of what was later to become Western Europe exists through ancient founding decrees and documents, ratified by secular rulers like Charlemagne and still held in trust by the Vatican archives.
The move was expected to cost the Catholic Church, whose wealth lies mainly in non-liquid assets like real estate, as much as 500 million to 2 billion Euros annually. In Rome alone, tax revenues were expected to be in the range of 25.5 million Euros a year, according to La Repubblica.
Gazette de Sud online reports that “sources” from the office of EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told media that “an infraction case remains open against Italy for failing to address property-tax exemptions enjoyed by the Church.”
It is not widely understood, even in Italy, that since the ousting of former Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi, the country is now being ruled directly by unelected officials of the European Union in Brussels. The current government has ruled without an electoral mandate since November 2011. The current so-called “technocrat” government is headed by economist Mario Monti, his cabinet composed entirely of unelected professionals, with Monti also serving as minister of Economy and Finance.
The Monti government has concentrated on implementing the European Union’s directives on “austerity measures” to resolve the Italian debt crisis that some fear would contribute to the destruction of the Eurozone. Similar measures have been imposed on the Greek government, though without the removal of that country’s elected officials, and has resulted in ongoing riots, mass unemployment and economic hardship.
Monti also belongs to several major international think tanks, including Praesidium of Friends of Europe and Bruegel, and serves as the European Chairman of the Trilateral Commission, a think tank founded in 1973 by David Rockefeller and as a leading member of the Bilderberg Group.