America's richest pastor avoids $150,000 in annual taxes on a $7 million Texas mansion that he said God told him to build, report says
- In 1999, the televangelist
Kenneth Copelandbuilt a 18,000 square-foot mansion in Texas.
- By calling it a parsonage, he avoids an annual $150,000 property tax, the Houston Chronicle reported.
America's wealthiest pastor avoided paying more than $150,000 in annual taxes on his $7 million Texas mansion, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Kenneth Copeland, a famous televangelist who founded Eagle Mountain International Church, built a six-bedroom mansion near Fort Worth in 1999.
Copeland is worth $750 million and owns multiple properties and several private jets, the Chronicle said. The jets are housed at a nearby airport named after him.
Under Texas law, pastors' homes, known as parsonages, can get a 100% exemption from property taxes.
Local authorities said Copeland is within his rights to claim the house as a parsonage, even though the law was likely never intended to cover super-rich religious figures like him.
"It definitely looks out of place and unusual compared to other parsonages we have," Jeff Law, Tarrant County's chief appraiser, told the Chronicle.
"But from what I can gather through the law, and my understanding, it qualifies as a parsonage just like the little house next to the church would."
In a 2015 sermon, Copeland said God told him to build the 18,000-square-foot house for his wife, Gloria, the Chronicle reported. "It is part of your prosperity," he said God told him.
To qualify for the exemption, parsonages can be only 1 acre — which this one technically is.
The property exists on its own plot that fulfills the 1-acre limit, but Copeland purchased 24 acres more of lakefront tract surrounding the property, the Chronicle reported.
Valued at $125,000 — a fraction of the house — it attracts an annual tax bill of $3,000, the Chronicle reported.
Copeland is proud of his wealth, which he attributes to gas reserves on his estates. He has also been criticized for the way he manages it.
"The law was never intended to give breaks to millionaires and multimillionaires," Pete Evans, president of the Trinity Foundation, a nonprofit focused on transparency in religious organizations, told the Chronicle:
"You make a mockery of the law itself."
Kenneth Copeland Ministries didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lawrence Swicegood, a spokesperson for Eagle Mountain International Church, told the Chronicle that the institution "always abides by biblical guidelines. Our church also adheres to the various federal, state, county and local codes, statutes and ordinances applicable to the church ministry."
The local district set the value of Copeland's mansion at $10.8 million in 2020, the Chronicle reported, but the church protested and it was lowered back to $7 million in 2021.
The discovery was made as part of a sweeping investigation by the Chronicle into the finances of prominent religious figures in Texas.
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