Italy grants Mormon church new tax status

All that remains is the signature of Italy's president, and the LDS Church will be recognized officially as a “partner of the state.”

This week the Italian Senate approved the Utah-based faith's push for an “Intesa con lo Stato,” the culmination of a decades-long effort to successfully establish relations with the Italian government.

Few faiths have successfully negotiated an “intesa” – or enhanced – status with the Italian government.

In 1993, the government formally recognized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a legal entity, but only as a charitable institution, says Salt Lake City attorney Michael Homer, who served an LDS mission in Italy and has followed its politics ever since.

“This recognition enabled the LDS Church to own and inherit property (through purchases, wills, trusts and estates) as well as certain other tax advantages,” Homer detailed in an email. “It also enabled LDS ministers to perform marriage ceremonies subject to Italian law concerning civil marriages.”

This new status moves Mormonism from a charity to a church.

One of the biggest advantages for a religious faith of having an intesa is that it can share in religious tax proceeds, generated by taxpayers who wish to dedicate 0.8 percent of their taxes to a designated church, Homer explains in an interview.

But the LDS Church has indicated that “it would not accept tax money,” according to an email from Rome LDS Stake President Massimo DeFeo.

It is, instead, a "symbolic victory for Italian Mormons," Homer says, who now number nearly 25,000 in almost 100 congregations and are excitedly awaiting the completion of an LDS temple in Rome.

By comparison, he adds, “the biggest religion in Italy, other than Catholics, is Islam, with 1.25 million members, and it has no intesa.”