The net effect of allowing charitable and religious organizations to escape paying taxes that everyone else pays is the same as if those organizations were subsidized directly from the treasury. In the end, everyone else must pay more taxes to make up the forgone revenue. For example, donations to an orphanage are tax deductible, but the woman who takes on the care of her orphaned nieces and nephews receives no tax deduction. The Catholic Church builds great cathedrals whose naves drip with gold, yet the Amish believe that a church should be a simple wooden affair. Why should Amish taxpayers subsidize the Catholics to pay for their gold-plated churches? There is simply no fair way to determine which priorities are more worthy than others. The only just approach is to allow everyone to spend their own money on what is important to them, with no tax deduction for anyone.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove