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More 'home' church tax breaks

Apparently, that guy in Illinois who turned his home into a church, thereby avoiding an $80,000 tax bill, is not alone.

Today's South Florida Sun-Sentinel takes a look at a $3.2 million, 12,000-square-foot Coral Springs, Fla., estate whose owner is able to escape a $64,000 tax bill because the residence periodically houses missionaries working in Haiti.

Oh yeah, that property-tax-free owner also lives there on occasion. He's the founder of the Church of Bible Understanding in Philadelphia.

According to the newspaper, the value of Broward County properties considered tax-exempt for religious purposes totaled $1.8 billion in 2007. Most were traditional places of worship, but among the tax-free properties were vacant land, parking lots and multimillion-dollar homes with golf course and water views.

Churchstateseparation_2 Apparently, the Sunshine State has a pretty loose definition of religious use. It includes, says the Sun-Sentinel, anything from holding worship services to "partaking of meals and fellowship."

Under the law, churches can receive tax exemptions on homes considered parsonages even if the church owns no other property, holds services in a rented storefront or doesn't even have a congregation in there.

"You may not agree with it, but the law clearly allows it," Broward Property Appraiser Lori Parrish told the paper.

Does anyone else suddenly see an influx of erstwhile evangelists looking to pick up some housing crisis battered property in Florida?

Coincidence? The Coral Springs' official Web site includes, under its "community" section a link to places of worship. The link opens to an error page.

I was able to find the list by clicking on the drop-down menu, but apparently the Church of Bible Understanding was formed after this September 2007 directory was created.

Hat tip to Dan Ray of CreditCards.com

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