Donating Bibles to charities not only helps spread the Word of God but also may cut your tax bill, says Parker Dale & Sons, a firm here that specializes in tax shelters for the well-to-do.
The Bible plan, Parker Dale version, allow donors to deduct from their income taxes as much as three times their cash investment.
Because it incorporates certain familiar tax-avoidance concepts, it has drawn some scrutiny from the Internal Revenus Service (IRS). So far, there have been no official IRS or court rulings on it. One IRS official says he expects at least some aspects of the program to be challenged in IRS audits.
Parker Dale, 50, a securities broker and a specialist in tax shelters, launched his two Bible plans last November through advertisements in The Wall Street Journal, the financial sections of several leading newspapers, and in Christian journals.
By the end of 1980, Dale and two sons say they expect to have sold nearly 500,000 Bibles to donors who hope to get up to $3 in tax deductions for every $1 they invest.
The senior Dale, who makes a profit on every Bible he sells, likes, though, to stress the end result: It's a fabulous way to distribute the Holy Bible, and it's a great catlyst for raising capital for churches and schools and the like."
Under one plan, an individual or corporation buys Bibles from Dale -- say in this case, spending $10,000. (He offers five versions and has a $5,000 minimum purchase requirement.) Dale usually sells the Bibles at one-third of their retail value.
The investor gives the Bibles -- after storing them for a year in order to qualify them as "appreciated capital gain properly" -- to a recognized tax-deductible organization that normally used Bibles.
The donor then writes off on his income tax forms a $30,000 deduction, or up to 30 percent of his adjusted gross income. Any excess amount may be carried forward for up to five years.
The other Dale plan offers a similar deduction under a different arrangement.
Dale cautions in a printed disclaimer that he has made "no representation as to investment, legal and/or tax matters."
More than 80 church and missionary organizations have written Dale, saying they can use an almost unlimited number of free Bibles. They include the U.S. Catholic Conference, the Board of Evangelism of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, the Assemblies of God and several missionary organizations that distribute Spanigh-edition Bibles. Other groups give Scriptures to prison inmates.
Why do people who want to "spread the Word" give fewer copies of expensive, elaborate Bibles instead of giving larger numbers of cheaper bibles?
The Dales suggested that it is because the shipping and warehousing charges are less. "It is easier for a person to store, say, 500 Bibles in his garage for a year than 2,500," Parker Dale said.
Ed Capozzi, IRS tax-shelter program coordinator for the Los Angeles district, said that in his opinion the plan, will be challenged when the IRS audits 1980 and 1981 returns.
For the plan in which Bibles are purchased at discount and held a year, "we would hold that the fair market value should be figured on what anyone could buy that quantity of Bibles for on the date they were purchased," Capozzi said.
If that view should prevail in court, donors could deduct only the actual [discount] price they paid -- not the "retail" price, Capozzi reasoned.
Capozzi said that "a revenue ruling is in the write-up stage on a tax shelter involving the donation of Bibles," but would not elaborate. In previous rulings, the IRS has sought to disallow similar tax-shelter plans involving other items, such as art books.