BRUSSELS, Aug. 28 (UPI) -- The European Commission is examining tax breaks the Roman Catholic Church receives in Italy, officials said Tuesday.
A spokesman for Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said the commission has asked for more information on the church’s tax advantages and has not decided whether to launch a formal inquiry, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
In 2006, the government of then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi exempted all church property from local real estate taxes. The church also has a 50-percent reduction in corporate income taxes on church business activities.
Although separation of church and state is written into the Italian constitution, the Catholic Church also gets a direct government subsidy. Experts say last year the combination of direct payments and tax breaks cost the government $1.77 billion, adding that much to the revenues of the church.