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.
Are the Amish and Mennonites the same?
Although they come from the same root, the Amish and Mennonite communities are not the same. While both religious communities prefer to Amish communities are much more insulated from American culture. They do not use modern technology, or partake in modern culture or society. That said, if you live near an Amish community, it is common to see your Amish neighbors around. Mennonites are much more integrated and wear modern fashions and so are less likely to be immediately obvious.
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 taxes do Mennonites and the Amish pay?
The payment of social security taxes contradict Amish beliefs and Mennonite beliefs. Because their beliefs also prevent them from using government benefits and services funded by these taxes, there are certain tax exemptions for the Amish and Mennonites. However, this is not a free ride and they do still pay their fair share of taxes. So, what taxes do these religious communities pay?
Mennonites and the Amish pay taxes on their income, just like everyone else. Income tax is used to fund a number of policies that disagree with their religious beliefs, but both Mennonites and the Amish pay income tax.
Property tax tends to be one of the larger taxes that homeowners have to pay and the Amish pay property tax too. Amish property owners actually tend to pay more in property taxes and estate taxes than the average American. Due to the humble lifestyle of an Amish person, they tend to own large tracts of land on which to support themselves, which leads to higher property taxes.
Social Security Tax
Social security taxes are used to pay for services such as welfare benefits. The Amish do not use social security benefits and so are not required to pay social security taxes.
That said, if employing non-Amish workers, Amish business owners are still required to pay social security taxes for these non-Amish workers. In some states, the Amish are also exempt from Worker’s compensation insurance programs as this contradicts their beliefs against participating in commercial insurance. If an employee is injured on the job, the Amish communities care for them. Instead of using Medicare, church members come together to pay medical bills for anyone who gets sick or becomes injured.
Amish business owners also do not have to pay FICA taxes, and so do not have insured status for Social Security and Medicare through that avenue either.
The Amish people pay taxes for schools despite the fact that the Amish prefer to send Amish children to their own schools until eighth grade. As, however, this is not seen as coming under the ban of insurance programs by the Amish church, this does not require a religious exemption.
It is worth noting here another difference between the Amish and the Mennonites. Mennonites can, and frequently do, seek to continue their education passed this level, while the Amish do not.
The Amish and Mennonite communities are still responsible for consumption taxes, such as sales taxes or fuel taxes; however, the Amish in particular tend to pay much less of this than the average person due to a lower level of consumption. For example, they do not dive and often do not have driver’s licenses, so they do not pay taxes for road use, nor do they pay gas taxes.
This is not truly an exemption on these taxes as if they did begin to drive, they would have to pay the relevant consumption taxes in the same way as everyone else. In fact, as this is a consumption tax, anyone who does not own a car or another vehicle will not pay this tax.
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).
What laws made this legal?
Tax laws go back millennia and can be very complicated. However, the laws that relate to this scenario are relatively few.
In 1965, congress amended the Social Security law to exempt Amish and Mennonites from paying taxes for social security, as long as they opted out of the associated government benefits. In 2010, when the Affordable care act was brought in, these two groups were again given an exemption as it went against their religious beliefs.
Remember, the Amish pay taxes in a variety of other ways such as property taxes, they still pay income tax and Amish business owners still pay tax for their non-Amish workers.
How to receive the tax exemptions for the Amish and Mennonites.
While the government has given these religious communities an exemption from social security taxes in certain scenarios, they must be careful that this is balanced. Therefore, in order to claim these tax exemptions, you must be a member of a recognized religious sect such as the Old Order Amish Church, and self-employed.
Once you have done this, you can indicate the change on your tax returns and take advantage of the tax exemptions for your religion.
Mennonites and the Amish pay taxes for many things, including schools they do not use, on income, and on their often expansive properties. The only tax they are exempt from is those that would directly contradict their religious belief that they should not take part in commercial insurance, and as such, they can file to be exempt from tax that falls under this category, and also from the benefits it brings.
You may be wondering why you have to pay tax for services you never intend to use, and while at first glance this may seem unfair, the exemption for Mennonites and the Amish is simply a continuation of the freedom to practice their religion, free from interference, just as other religions do.
But while the Amish have decided to live separately from society, the fact that you are reading this online suggests that you have not. Social security tax benefits everyone in a community, whether or not they use them directly. We function as a society and depend on one another to make the most of our lives