The Real Deal New York

Jehovah’s Witnesses tax exemption saved them $368M since 2004: report

Downtown Brooklyn Partnership pressuring church to donate $50M before it quits the borough

February 04, 2016 09:32AM

Rendering of 25-30 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights (credit: Jehovah’s Witnesses) (inset: Tucker Reed)

Rendering of 25-30 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights (credit: Jehovah’s Witnesses) (inset: Downtown Brooklyn Partnership’s Tucker Reed)

The Jehovah’s Witnesses — a religious organization that owns dozens of valuable Brooklyn properties – save quite a bit on taxes.

Over the last 12 years, the church has saved at least $368 million in property taxes, according to a new report by BJH Advisors, a consultancy, and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership.

Property taxes on the Witnesses’ 37 Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo properties were estimated at $138.6 million since 2006. The church also saved $230 million on transfer and capital gains taxes on the 21 properties it has sold since 2004.

The Partnership is attempting to pressure the Witnesses into donating $50 million to Brooklyn before their planned relocation upstate. The Partnership has argued that the Witnesses have benefitted greatly from Brooklyn’s rise to prominence over the last decades, but haven’t sufficiently given back, Crain’s reported.

“Once they leave and head upstate, if anyone goes knocking on their door with a tin cup saying, ‘Hey, remember Brooklyn,’ it is going to fall on deaf ears,” the Partnership’s president, Tucker Reed told Crain’s.

The church has been selling off properties for years in anticipation of the move. It’s currently marketing at least five properties including its 733,000-square-foot headquarters at 25-30 Columbia Heights in Brooklyn Heights, known as the Watchtower.

Combined, those properties could earn as much as $1 billion, according to industry experts. [Crain’s]Ariel Stulberg

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