Tag Archives: Scientology and taxation

Fairman vs Thorburn Analysis and Tax Deductions


Tony Ortega at the Village Voice posted an analysis of the Fairman vs. Thorburn case, see Village Voice Analysis.   While I think his factual speculation about Michael’s status vis a vis Independent Scientology is inaccurate, Tony raises some interesting questions.

Particularly intriguing is his idea about Independent Scientologists claiming tax deductions for their Scientology donations in the field.  During negotiations for tax exemption in the early nineties, the church was able to persuade the IRS to grant deductions for Scientology parishioner “donations” to churches of Scientology.  This was done in the face of a then-fairly-recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the denial of Scientologists’ deductions for fixed fees being charged by Scientology churches for specific services,  Hernandez v Commissioner.  Hernandez is still the law of the land on this issue.

While I don’t have time at the moment to engage in a major tax research project, I will proffer an opinion to anyone affected who can afford to have a competent tax attorney delve into this area.  In my opinion the Internal Revenue Service would have a very difficult time denying a claimed tax deduction of an Independent Scientologist making a donation for Scientology services.  Particularly when those services are provided on the basis we do.  That is, there is no fixed price.  The person donates what she feels the service was worth in accordance with her own ability to donate; knowing, as I have informed those who were particularly generous on their own determinism, that their donation makes possible the servicing of others in need who are not able to donate or to donate very much.  I have no problem testifying and providing documentary evidence that such donations are in fact used in that precise manner – to service those in need who cannot themselves donate much.  My guess is that there are other Independents out there who could do the same.

It is pretty much how “charitable contributions” have always traditionally been made – with an intent to benefit others or for the general good; as opposed to a fixed quid pro quo to attain something solely for one’s own benefit (the corporate church of Scientology model).

Just some food for thought for the future.   As Ortega noted, ground breaking legal actions such as Fairman vs Thorburn could have effects down the road not only in reforming corporate Scientology but also in establishing the rights of Independent Scientologists.