Investigation: Texas religious leaders live property tax free — in mansions

Houston Chronicle report says "parsonages" skirting tax laws

National Weekend Edition /
Dec.December 11, 2021 11:24 AM

(Getty)

There taking the taxes out of Texas.

A Houston Chronicle investigation revealed some religious leaders in the Lone Star State are living lavish lifestyles in mansions doubling as parsonage houses — homes for the clergy — that, like the church buildings themselves, are exempt from being billed for property taxes.

Reporters at the publication delved deep into public documents to find that 30 residences owned by churches across the state were allowed to skip paying taxes despite the fact they were either on too large a piece of property to qualify for the full exemption or were being used for purposes that disqualified them from receiving the tax break.

In one case, the Bonds Ranch Homeowners Association in Fort Worth, Texas revealed to tax appraisers that a 2,300 square-foot parsonage owned by the Dido United Methodist Church was being used as a money-making rental for the past five years — a clear violation of the tax laws. A subsequent investigation by appraisers resulted in the home being put back on the property tax rolls dating to 2018.

In another, the paper reported appraisers in Denton County gave a 100-percent tax break on the Denton Baptist Temple’s 2.5-acre parsonage since at least 1992. An application for the waiver reveals the church noted the property size was over the allowable limit, but it was approved anyway. The area’s chief appraiser has since notified the church that it will receive a tax bill for the portion of the property that is not exempt.

To top it all off, the paper noted million-dollar homes including a 10-bedroom, 10-and-a-half-bath Houston-area mansion, an 8,000-square-foot residence in a historic San Antonio area, and a Highland Park estate in Dallas paid zero in property taxes because they were being used to house the clergy.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

The paper also reported that there were more than 2,500 parsonages worth about $1 billion in the state’s most populous counties — costing local governments at least $16 million a year in property tax revenue.

[Houston Chronicle] — Vince DiMiceli





    Related Articles

    arrow_forward_ios
    From left: Amy Schumer and 190 Riverside Drive; Jimmy Fallon and 34 Gramercy Park East (Getty Images, Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0 - via Wikimedia Commons, iStock)
    Jimmy Fallon, Amy Schumer selling Manhattan pads
    Jimmy Fallon, Amy Schumer selling Manhattan pads
    OKO's Vladislav Doronin and the Crown Building ( OKO Group, Aman)
    Crown Building notches another peak sale with $55M condo
    Crown Building notches another peak sale with $55M condo
    R-L: Willow's Kevin Danehy, Era Ventures' Clelia Warburg Peters, Fifth Wall's Brad Greiwe and The Real Deal's Hiten Samtani (Photo by Paul Dilakian)
    Real estate tech is coming for your business
    Real estate tech is coming for your business
    A photo illustration of a crystal ball predicting future home prices (iStock)
    Home sales, building to slow: Fannie Mae
    Home sales, building to slow: Fannie Mae
    New York skyline
    Rising interest rates will dampen city’s investment sales market this year
    Rising interest rates will dampen city’s investment sales market this year
    L-R: Douglas Elliman CEO Scott Durkin, Serhant CEO Ryan Serhant, Brown Harris Stevens CEO Bess Freedman, The Real Deal's Hiten Samtani (Photos by Paul Dilakian)
    Top resi execs talk brand building, tech and politics at TRD NYC event
    Top resi execs talk brand building, tech and politics at TRD NYC event
    Southampton Village mayor Jesse Warren (Getty Images, iStock, Illustration by Kevin Cifuentes for The Real Deal)
    Southampton Village allows owners to collect summer’s rent upfront
    Southampton Village allows owners to collect summer’s rent upfront
    Zillow economist Nicole Bichaud (Zillow, iStock)
    Where have home values grown more, suburbs or cities? The answer may surprise you
    Where have home values grown more, suburbs or cities? The answer may surprise you
    arrow_forward_ios

    The Deal's newsletters give you the latest scoops, fresh headlines, marketing data, and things to know within the industry.

    Loading...