Taxes can be confusing when you’re only working out what you owe, never mind other people’s taxes. But when it comes to who pays taxes and why, there’s always this one curious question that keeps on repeating – do the Amish and Mennonite communities pay taxes?
It is a fair enough question to ask. After all, taxes are paid and used to provide goods and services that benefit Americans to communities all over the States. But if you don’t benefit from these goods and services, do you still have to pay taxes?
If you are wondering if groups like the Mennonites and the Amish pay taxes, then look no further for an answer.
Who Are The Mennonites And The Amish?
They are often confused for the other, but the Mennonites and the Amish are actually two individual groups of people.
The Mennonites are a group of Christians that formed during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. According to the Mennonite USA website, Mennonites are strong believers in peace, justice and nonviolence, and there are nearly 6,000 congregations in the US alone. They are completely pacifist, which led to many Mennonites refusing to enlist during World War II.
The Amish, however, are another group of Christians that come from the same religious roots as the Mennonites, but split apart due to differences within the group in 1693.
The Amish follow the same pacifist views as the Mennonites, but the main difference is that the Amish practice ‘shunning’ – when church members will isolate and ignore someone for breaking community rules. This is used to dissuade members from straying from the community. Mennonites, however, do not practice the shunning of people.
The reason why many people mix up the two groups is because they are both Christian groups that share very similar beliefs and common roots. However, the Mennonites are far more integrated into mainstream society than the Amish.
The Amish are known for living in tight knit communities in rural areas, and wear old styled clothing and refuse to use technology. They don’t drive cars or have electricity, and educate themselves in their own schools up until the eighth grade.
The Mennonites, however, wear more mainstream clothing and hairstyles, sometimes use modern technology like cars, and some Mennonites will take their studies further beyond the eight grade.
Basically, Mennonites are more integrated into modern American society while the Amish prefer to live a different and more humble lifestyle.
Do The Mennonites Pay Taxes?
Because these religious groups tend to live more secluded lifestyles and don’t benefit from the same services as average Americans, a lot of people assume that they must not pay taxes – but this is untrue.
Both the Amish and the Mennonites pay taxes, although they are exempt from paying some of them.
The Amish are indeed exempt from some taxes as they don’t consume the service or product that is paid for by said tax, but they still pay their fair share like everyone else. The Amish pay income taxes and they also take Child Tax Credits if they are able to qualify.
They also pay a lot towards property taxes and estate taxes, as the Amish typically own a lot of land to farm upon. Despite this, they do not benefit from the property tax they pay.
Property taxes go towards educational funding, but the Amish have their own privately taught schools that do not receive government funding.
As for the Mennonites, they pay the same as the Amish and probably more. Roads are often funded through consumption taxes – raised through gas taxes, revenue from driver’s licenses, and tolls.
As the Amish do not drive, they don’t really pay these consumption taxes despite using the roads to drive their horses and buggies. The Mennonites, however, do sometimes drive cars so they pay these consumption taxes just the same as everyone else.
What The Amish and Mennonites Are Exempt From
The only tax breaks these religious groups may get are on Social Security taxes.
This is because paying the tax is basically against the Amish’s religion, and so would be taking part in any of the social programmes funded by the Social Security taxes like welfare and unemployment benefits.
The Amish and most Mennonites do not rely on this kind of government assistance and prefer to turn to their communities for care. Thus, they refused to pay the tax.
And so, in 1965, Congress amended the Social Security law to give religious communities like the Amish and Mennonites the ability to opt out of Social Security as it did not affect them and it would be unfair for these communities to pay towards services they would not receive.
This practice has continued on, as in 2010 when the Affordable Care Act was introduced, the Amish and Mennonites also got an exemption as the insurance was against their religious beliefs.
But as they do not pay towards it, the Amish and Mennonites do not benefit from the services funded by Social Security taxes.
The only time an Amish or Mennonite will pay Social Security is if they wish to benefit from the services provided by Social Security taxes, or they employ non-Amish workers (although some states like New York and Ohio exempt Amish business owners from these worker’s insurance programmes).
So do the Amish and Mennonites pay taxes?
Yes, the Amish and Mennonites pay the taxes they owe such as property tax and income tax. They are able to opt out of paying some taxes (such as Social Security taxes) as long as they do not benefit from the services the tax provides.
However, as Mennonites live less restrictive lives compared to the Amish, they may be liable to pay more in taxes as they use more government funded services.
So no, the Amish and Mennonites do not get a free ride from taxes by living a more rural lifestyle – they pay the same taxes they owe, just like everyone else.