Exploring Religious Congregations’ Registration With the IRS

Christopher P. Scheitle, Erica J. Dollhopf, John D. McCarthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Religious congregations hold a unique status among public charities in that they are exempt from having to ask for recognition of their tax-exempt status from the federal government. Despite this privileged status, more than two hundred thousand congregations are registered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the rate of registration appears to be increasing. We examine regional, religious, and administrative patterns among the congregations registered with the IRS. Certain denominations, such as the Latter-day Saints, appear to have taken a centralized stance against congregational registration, whereas others, such as the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, have made a centralized decision for congregational registration. Other denominations appear to have left the decision up to individual congregations. Of those congregations that are registered, the method of registration, whether independent or through a denomination’s group exemption, appears to be related to the denomination’s centralization of authority.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-408
Number of pages12
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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