Investigating the Parsonage Exemption: What Would Televangelists Pay if Houses Weren’t Tax Exempt?

(Photo: Inside Edition shows the outside of televangelist Ron Carpenter’s luxurious Fremont, California-parsonage.)


Inside Edition recently investigated the topic of tax-exempt parsonages. The news report featured drone footage and pictures of some of America’s largest church-owned mansions.  Investigative reporter Lisa Guerrero attempted to interview televangelist Jesse Duplantis regarding his residence, but he refused to answer questions.

Associate Pastor and Political Scientist Ryan Burge told Inside Edition, “If you have a multi-million-dollar house, your property tax bill could be thirty, forty, fifty thousand dollars a year. But if it’s classified as a parsonage, now you don’t have to pay property taxes on that home. That $50,000 could pay the salary of an elementary school teacher in your local public school.”

The property-tax exemption on church and ministry-owned homes is governed by state laws. It differs from the parsonage housing allowance which was created by Congress and involves a tax exemption from the federal income tax.

In 2021, a Houston Chronicle investigation identified 28 parsonages in Texas worth more than $1 million.

Tax Savings for America’s Largest Parsonages

David E. Taylor

By purchasing a mansion through his church, televangelist David E. Taylor saves over $150,000 in annual property taxes.

In April of 2022, The Kingdom of God Global Church purchased a parsonage for Taylor at a cost of $8.3 million.

(Photo: Redfin picture of church parsonage located near Tampa, Florida.)

Before Taylor’s church purchased the mansion, the Hillsborough County Florida property tax on the property was $155,715.20—but after the purchase the property tax dropped to just $1,404.11.

According to Hillsborough County’s tax assessor website, the miniscule 2023 tax on the property has still not been paid.

Ron Carpenter

California might be the most common location for million-dollar parsonages due to the state’s inflated real estate prices.

California’s guide to the state property tax exemptions for religious organizations says parsonages are exempt when: “The primary residence of clergy (for example, pastor, minister, rabbi, imam, or priest) when the use of the property is incidental to and reasonably necessary to accomplish the nonprofit religious organization’s exempt purpose.”

Is a $7 million parsonage “reasonably necessary”?

Inside Edition’s investigative report includes brief video of televangelist Ron Carpenter’s Fremont, California-parsonage that is currently on sale for $7,250,000.

In 2018, Ronald W Carpenter Jr Ministries purchased the 14,042 square foot mansion with an 800-bottle wine closet. Alameda County reports the parsonage was appraised at $7,505,330. Before the ministry received the property tax exemption, the ministry paid $83,521.52 in property taxes. The tax bill dropped to $716.70 for 2022-2023.

In 2022, the ministry purchased a second home 14 miles away, which is not tax exempt, for almost $6 million.

Carpenter’s Jubilee Christian Center of San Jose also owns a parsonage in South Carolina worth $1.3 million. The prior property owner paid $12,234.93 in property taxes in 2013. In comparison, the church owed only $79.33 in property taxes for 2023.

Kenneth Copeland

(Photo: Kenneth Copeland’s parsonage next to Eagle Mountain Lake.)

The famous word-faith preacher Kenneth Copeland lives in a parsonage located on prime lakefront real estate north of Fort Worth. The mansion is 18,279 square feet. When compared to other luxury homes in Tarrant County, the parsonage appears to be appraised below market value.

After Tarrant County appraised the parsonage property at $10,825,462 in 2020, Copeland’s church challenged the appraisal even though the property was tax exempt.

The following year Tarrant County dropped its appraisal valuation by almost $5 million. The property-tax exempt parsonage was appraised at $6,016,739 in 2023.

Tarrant County property tax calculator estimates the property tax would be $106,801.34 based on the 2023 appraisal and $192,159.52 on the 2020 appraisal.

The Texas tax code restricts parsonages to one acre of land. Therefore, the adjacent plot of land owned by Copeland’s Eagle Mountain International Church doesn’t receive a parsonage exemption. Instead, the 35.6 acres of property receives an agricultural exemption. For 2023, Copeland’s church owes $37.89 in property tax for the 35.6 acres of land.

Jesse Duplantis

(Photo: Inside Edition journalist Lisa Guerrero reporting from outside Jesse Duplantis’ parsonage in Destrehan, Louisiana.)

In 2015, while preaching at the Southwestern Believers Convention, Duplantis joked about how his parsonage will be destroyed on judgment day, “God will burn it down.” Then, Duplantis said, “To build that house is $500 a square foot. It’s 40,000 square foot … You do the math.”

Duplantis exaggerated the size of his plantation-style home. When the parsonage was under construction the St Charles Herald Guide reported, “The home consists of 22,039 square feet of living space in addition to 12,947 square feet of accessory areas such as outdoor patios and garages.”

If Duplantis’ home wasn’t tax-exempt and were appraised at $20 million, which is the amount Duplantis says it is worth, the property tax would be approximately $122,000 according to the Smart Asset property tax calculator. Property tax rates are lower in Louisiana because the state has an income tax unlike its neighbor Texas.

I.V. Hilliard

Televangelist I.V. Hilliard founded New Light Church in 1984 and lives in the church-owned 24,939 square foot mansion which is part of an eight-residence housing compound.

In 2023, Harris County appraised the New Light Church’s eight-house compound at $7,966,887.

By using the parsonage tax exemption, Hilliard and the other residents avoided paying an estimated $152,168 in property taxes.

Peter Popoff

Televangelist Peter Popoff’s Word for the World Church owns a parsonage in Bradbury, California, which is currently for sale at $7.3 million.

Because of the parsonage tax exemption, Popoff saves approximately $39,000 in property taxes.

In 1986, Popoff was busted in an exposé that aired on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson which revealed that information Popoff claimed to receive from God was actually transmitted to him by his wife via a radio earpiece.