Nonprofit, religious group tax relief could impact fish fry operators

Change in tax law could benefit churches with fish fry fundraisers

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - There are moments in the kitchen when the only thing you can hear is the fish frying at Zion Baptist Church, Inc. in Louisville

The sound of laughter, though, typically outnumbers those.

But volunteers get back to work quickly, as orders of fried and baked fish are shouted across the room.

This spring, proceeds will help support an event for pastor Rev. Gerald J. Joiner and benefit the Diva Dancers for Christ -- a church dance group.

"It teaches them a little bit about spirituality and dancing for Christ," Yvonne Parker, who volunteers to direct the fish fry, said.

But this year, after tax changes last year, Parker said the church is collecting a 60-cent tax on every $10 plate they serve.

"Really that's kind of taxing for a church, when we're trying to raise money for different areas," Parker said.

Lawmakers note that may soon not be the case though.

Rep. Steven Rudy (R-Paducah) said House Bill 354, which partially aims to clean up the taxes unintentionally imposed on nonprofits and some religious organizations, is waiting for the governor’s signature.

Rudy said fish frys across the state would likely be treated as fundraisers or admissions, and would no longer be taxable as soon as the bill becomes law.

Parker said that's welcomed news.

“If it’s a $10 dinner, somebody said you can just add a dollar, but that means you’ve got to pay for taxes on eleven and not ten,” Parker said. “It’s a catch 22.”

If the reforms took effect, Parker said they would allow some churches to contribute more to groups like the Diva Dancers, and let people like her focus on making food that may fill stomachs just as much as it fills hearts.

“The happiness that we see on our customer’s face, if they like the food, that’s what its all about,” Parker said.

The bill was delivered to the governor on March 14.

He has 10 days, not counting Sundays, to sign it, let it become law without signature or veto it.

HB 354 could become law in the middle of fish fry season, but lawmakers said the revenue department would most likely be lenient when it comes to groups deciding how to calculate the funds they’ve raised.

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