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Updated Mar 7, 2013 - 5:15 pm

House stalls new tax exemptions for churches

PHOENIX -- Religious organizations would qualify for new property tax exemptions under legislation being considered by the Arizona House of Representatives.

House leaders moved to stall a vote Thursday on the measure that would allow churches to avoid taxes on property used for activities other than religious worship.

The bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. Justin Olson, says the current religious exemption law has resulted in many lawsuits because county property assessors don't have clear guidance on which organizations qualify for the exemptions.

Proponents say the proposed overhaul will allow churches to avoid property taxes on vacant lots that could eventually be turned into worship centers.

But critics say the proposed expansion could result in tax fraud because it would allow any religious organization to claim exemptions on property not used for worship.

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