Dallas, TX

A Texas Church Avoids Paying Taxes on $15 Million in Property

Tom Handy

Highland Park Presbyterian ChurchScreenshot from Twitter

A Texas church offers subsidized housing for its staff in one of the wealthy neighborhoods in the state. It is not even from one of the popular churches or T. D. Jakes or Joel Osteen.

The church is located in Dallas and is the Highland Park Presbyterian Church.

As the church provides a home for its staff, this comes at a cost to Dallas taxpayers. The Houston Chronicle reports that the church is costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Senior fiscal analyst at the progressive Austin think tank Every Texan, Dick Lavine, said:

“You would think that a religious organization would be happy to contribute to supporting their school and parks and police. It’s a shift from the church that’s not paying to everyone else who has to make up the difference.”

Church officials say they pay taxes on homes that don’t qualify for exemptions and point to all the good work their pastors do with their tax savings in Highland Park and beyond — from helping refugees and the homeless to coaching inner-city sports.

Church officials said the clergy pay taxes on homes that do not qualify for the exemption.

Screenshot from Twitter

The church executive director Sarah Good said:

“It is impossible to quantify the monetary value of the work this church accomplishes in the communities we serve. Keeping families together, serving the disadvantaged, caring for seniors and children, providing a beacon of faith in these challenging times — our work is more important than ever.”

The Houston Chronicle spent months researching to find out what the Highland Park Presbyterian Church was doing.

Highland Park Church had the most parsonages or a church that provides for members of the clergy in the state of Texas. The church is 95 years old and provides for 11 homes at the start of 2021.

The church had avoided paying taxes of around $15 million to $20 million as of 2020.

Highland Park Presbyterian Church stood alone among the largest Texas counties in two key respects: The 95-year-old church had the most parsonages of any single house of worship — 11 as of the start of the year. And it has knocked more value off the tax rolls from clergy residences, about $15 million to $20 million last year, than any other church.

One of the homes will come off since the home is vacant at the time the Houston Chronicle reported the information.

Texas allows this tax loophole for churches

In the 1920s, the Houston Chronicle stated the Texas Constitution established a 1-acre limit on parsonages. Appraisal districts have agreed that as long as the church does not go over the 1-acre limit, they can use any many tax-free exemptions that they qualify for. There is no limit on the dollar amount.

The 11 homes that are under the Highland Park Presbyterian Church are valued at around $15 million according to an appraisal. Zillow lists the home closer to $20 million.

Do you think it is fair that churches get a tax exemption?

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