Church learns to play marketing game with taxpayers' money

30th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

Episcopal Conference launches advertising campaign to ensure bumper funding.

30 May 2008

MADRID - As income tax season gets into full swing in Spain, the country's bishops are launching an unprecedented publicity campaign aimed at ensuring that the Church's coffers stay full.

The media blitz, including radio, TV and newspaper advertisements, is intended to encourage more Spanish taxpayers to assign part of their income tax to the Church under a quirky Church-financing system that was first introduced in 1988 before being reformed ahead of the 2007 tax year.

Under a Church-government agreement in December 2006, taxpayers can now opt to tick a box on their return form telling the Treasury to give 0.7 percent of their income tax bill to the Church.

Their other choices are to dedicate the same amount to social causes or simply let the tax office keep it for central government finance.

The 0.7 percent represents a one-third increase on the 0.52 percent the Church - or NGOs - had been eligible to receive in previous tax years. However, until the 2006 agreement, the Church had also received a monthly stipend of EUR 12 million from the state which has now ceased, making it imperative for Spain's Episcopal Conference to attract as many contributors as it can.

Its publicity drive will particularly highlight the Church's work for good causes around the world, with a particular focus on nuns working in Africa.

"We thought it important to carry out this exercise in transparency to tell society what the Episcopal Conference does and to give [the Church] a more modern touch - more in tune with the times," Fernando Jiménez Barriocanal, the Episcopal Conference's undersecretary for economic affairs, said in a presentation on Wednesday.

The commercials have been developed by Italian publicist Stefano Palombi, who has done similar work for the Catholic Church in Italy, and will appear on national television, radio, the internet and in the specialized press.

Italian example
"Unfortunately, we don't have a big enough budget to target the general press," Jiménez Barriocanal noted.

He said the cost of the campaign will only be disclosed once the Church knows how much money it has received from income tax returns.

Similar campaigns in Italy, where a similar Church-financing system exists, have in the past had little effect on the number of taxpayers favouring the Church. Typically the increase in contributions has been around one percent, although Jiménez Barriocanal suggested that even such a seemingly small increase would be acceptable.

Spanish taxpayers have up until June 30 to file their income tax returns.

[El Pais / R. G. Gomez / Juan G. Bedoya / Expatica]

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