Association les Témoins de Jéhovah versus France The Jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on Religious Activities and Taxation Issues

in Religion & Human Rights
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Abstract

According to the jurisprudence of the judicial bodies of the Council of Europe, association and financial laws has considerable influence on the fiscal status of religious activities. To a certain extent, it conditions the choice of statutes and juridical structures by religious institutions. At the national level, the tax system in consequence submits the activities in question to particular regulations which have led many religious institutions to opt for elaborate fiscal and legal arrangements, compartmentalized into distinct sectors or into separate structures. Such is the case with the activities of the religious economy sector: publishing, agricultural and vinicultural production, tourism services which require recourse to complex legal and fiscal organizational schemas. A series of examples related to the taxation of religious bodies can demonstrate the extent of some contradictions: – differences of treatment by the national Administrations in refusing tax exemptions or denying religious status to certain movements; – recourse to fiscal controls or audits as a “tactical weapon”. In many countries the debate continues today due to changes in the financial regulations affecting religious activities and discriminatory applications of the principle of equality of religions before the law. This debate is based on the never-ending questions about criteria relying on the historical presence, representative nature and social utility of religions, issues that have been the object of legal distinctions.

Religion & Human Rights

An International Journal

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