The Home is a Temple, Literally

July 24, 2008

A man in a suburb of Chicago, IL has taken the title of this blog post seriously by turning his $3 million lake-side mansion into a church. George Michael converted his Lake Bluff, Illinois home into the Armenian Church of Lake Bluff after receiving rector certification online. While Mr. Michael claimed this action was taken to assist his ailing wife in shortening the commute to Sunday services, he also received almost $80,000 in property tax breaks because of the changed status of the building from residence to church. The Illinois Department of Revenue accepted Michael’s petition for property tax exemption after he presented several documents such as a quitclaim deed transferring the ownership of the property from Susan Michael to the Armenian Church of Lake Bluff, bank records for the church from 2007, Sunday bulletins, and pictures of the church altar.

However, the $80,000 windfall came at the cost of $115,000 in fines assessed on Michael from the village for the operation of a church without proper zoning licensees and permits. Currently, the village of Lake Bluff is appealing the ruling by the Illinois Department of Revenue in hopes of recouping some of the lost property tax revenue.

While Mr. Michael might have found a clever way to get out of the $80,000 property tax bill, he appears to still owe the village $80,000 in property taxes and $115,000 in fines. The Illinois Department of Revenue might want to review future property tax exemption requests more carefully, or every citizen is going to be claiming his or her house is a religious temple.

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A tax is a mandatory payment or charge collected by local, state, and national governments from individuals or businesses to cover the costs of general government services, goods, and activities.

A tax exemption excludes certain income, revenue, or even taxpayers from tax altogether. For example, nonprofits that fulfill certain requirements are granted tax-exempt status by the IRS, preventing them from having to pay income tax.