Tax-exempt status of churches

It’s often said, in the U.S., that churches/religious organizations have a special tax-exempt status.

What tax exemption do churches enjoy, that other “not-for-profit” organizations do not?

Could a given church still qualify for the exemption if it stopped being a church?

Does this apply only to federal income tax? What about state sales tax? Local property tax?

How did this all get started? Where did the policy come from? What reasons are given?

Is it the same in other countries?

BTW, the issue of whether churches should have tax-exempt status or not is being debated in this GD thread:

Well, I can tell you for a fact that none of the taxing jurisdictions I live in levy on church-owned property. I bought my house from a church that paid no property taxes. This is why the woman, who was the bookkeeper and the pastor’s mother, put the house in the church’s name, in fact.

Now, if they were taxed on the rental income they received from the other half of the duplex I, of course, would not know.

According to a form I found here, , it seems that churches in NYC get the same property tax exemption as other non-profit organizations do. And the list of exemptible categories is fairly long, and includes religious along with charitable, hospital, benevolent, library,scientific,supervised youth sports, enforcement of law related to children and animals, etc.

The NYS form to apply for sales and use tax exemption includes such purposes as charitable,religious,educational,prevention of cruelty to children or animals , and organizations and auxiliaries of past or present members of the armed services.

Doesn’t seem like churches get anything special that other non-profits don’t get.

. Do you mean if the building is used for a different purpose? I guess it would depend if the new purpose qualified for an exemption.

I realize it was not obvious in my post, but the church that I bought my house from was getting tax exemptions on property they were not using as a church. It (and several other properties they own) was being used as residential rental property, and was tax exempt. I have no idea if non-profits in this area get any kind of property tax exemption, but the tax rolls clearly state these rental properties have “church exemption” (the exact wording) and therefore the church was never assessed when they owned these properties. Although the staff member was living in this half of the duplex and could possibly qualify as a parsonage if that alone would allow the exemption, the other half, or the other rental properties they owned, certainly wouldn’t have. Yet they paid no taxes on those properties, either.