Spanish Towns To Catholic Church: Pay Up

Cash-strapped towns are reevaluating church holdings and their use in hopes of claiming much-needed tax revenue. In response, the church asks why they're being singled out.

What's the Latest Development?

The college town of Alcala de Henares is one of several Spanish towns and cities that are seeking to claim property taxes from the Roman Catholic Church that they say are long overdue. Town officials passed a measure last summer to evaluate church properties by square footage and determine whether any part of those holdings are being used for commercial purposes. For example, says councilman Ricardo Rubio, "Some of the Catholic schools have swimming pools, and they charge a fee to area residents to swim there on weekends. So the school should be paying tax on that activity. But they haven't been." The land survey should be complete by the end of this year.

What's the Big Idea?

Spain's economic troubles are causing citizens and institutions to question and reevaluate all forms of financial traditions, including the centuries-old influence of the Catholic Church. In response, Council of Bishops financial director Fernando Gimenez Barriocanal says the church has the same tax deal as other nonprofit groups, and speculates on what could happen if they had to pay more: "The church would still want to help those in need, but we'd have less money to do that."

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