South Siberian Region Tries to Tax Baptisms and Funerals

The regional legislature in southern Siberia’s Kurgan has approved amendments to the imputed tax law that will introduce taxation for religious rituals such as funerals and baptisms, the Vedomosti business daily reported on Tuesday. The move has already caused protests from the Orthodox Church and the Finance Ministry.

The paper said that the amendments were approved back in spring 2005. Then, the regional duma added “providing ritual and rite services (weddings, baptisms, funeral services, etc.) in religious buildings and installations and on adjacent territories.”

The amendment orders all religious organizations to pay 4,500 rubles (over $150) per month for every staff member. The region has about 20 churches and monasteries, Vedomosti wrote, but the newspaper admitted that it had failed to get any information on the number of clerics employed by the Church in Kurgan. According to Russian law, the imputed income tax is to be collected by regional authorities and paid into the regional budget, MosNews reported.

A local bishop blasted the decision and denied that the church provided any services to the population. “The parliamentarian’s decision caused bitterness in the parish,” the bishop said. “Church donations are devoted to God, they cannot be considered a trade or service,” he added.

The Russian Finance Ministry sided with the church. “If the clerics address us for explanations, we will confirm that Kurgan’s parliamentarians have interpreted the law a little too freely,” the deputy head of the tax department of the Finance Ministry, Aleksander Ivaneyev, told the paper.

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