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Copyright 1998 The Pensacola News Journal. All rights reserved
Arizona is still waiting for taxes on sales during Pastor John Kilpatrick's visit in March.
Tax issues stump revival leader

By John W. Allman
News Journal staff writer

PENSACOLA -Kilpatrick's ministry falters, moves slowly in following rules on sales taxes when he travels

Pastor John Kilpatrick is on the road again - and again is behind in complying with tax laws on merchandise that he sells.

The charismatic leader of the Pensacola Brownsville Revival, which began in June 1995, soon will kick off the second year of Awake America, a national touring crusade he conducts along with other leaders of the revival. And recently he traveled to Mesa, Ariz., on his own, to preach a five-hour service at Centennial Hall.

Kilpatrick used the trip to sell his books, tapes, CDs and videos through his nonprofit corporation, Feast of Fire Ministries Inc. As of the close of the business day Friday, Kilpatrick had not paid tax revenues to the state, county or city on the merchandise he sold.

The News Journal reported in November, after a four-month investigation, that Kilpatrick and several other revival leaders had not collected sales tax on items sold by their individual ministries at the long-running revival, and had not paid any sales tax to the Florida Department of Revenue.

In November, following the five-day News Journal series, Kilpatrick and two other revival leaders, evangelist Steve Hill and music minister Lindell Cooley, paid the state of Florida $63,423 on items sold by their individual corporations.

Hill and Kilpatrick's lawyers have provided figures, but not official documentation, that the two ministries have continued to pay sales taxes due Florida. The amount from Kilpatrick's ministry is $1,280.29 and the amount from Hill's is $3,331.99.

The News Journal reported last month that Kilpatrick and several of the revival's leaders had failed to determine whether they owed sales taxes in the four states where Awake America held revival crusades in 1997 and that the leaders did not know whether they were in violation of tax laws in California and Texas, the only two of the four that require nonprofits to pay sales tax.

A spokesperson for Awake America said tax laws were being researched in the six states identified as stops on the 1998 Awake America schedule. Awake America's first stop will be May 11-12 in Houston.

Kilpatrick's March 24 visit to Mesa was not part of Awake America, it was an enterprise of Kilpatrick's own Feast of Fire corporation.

In Arizona, according to state Department of Revenue officials, a nonprofit corporation such as Feast of Fire cannot sell merchandise without first obtaining two licenses - a Transaction Privilege Tax license from the state and a temporary sales tax license from the city where merchandise is to be sold by the corporation.

Kilpatrick did not obtain a license to sell merchandise in Mesa.

Once the corporation has the proper licenses, it then is responsible for paying three separate taxes, totaling 6.5 percent, on each item sold:

  • State transaction tax, which is 5 percent.
  • County transaction tax, which in Maricopa County is 0.5 percent.
  • City transaction tax, which in Mesa is 1 percent.

Larry Morris, Kilpatrick's lawyer and a member of the Feast of Fire board of directors, said Friday that Feast of Fire submitted a tax registration application to the Arizona Department of Revenue and to the city of Phoenix before Kilpatrick's appearance.

As of the close of business Friday, Arizona state revenue officials said they had no record of the application on file. They also said that an application still being processed would not be on file yet.

Phoenix city officials confirmed that Feast of Fire obtained a tax license but said the license was good only for transactions in Phoenix.

Mesa city officials said they have no record of Feast of Fire applying for a tax registration or paying the $25 fee to obtain one.

Morris said a Feast of Fire assistant who sent applications to Phoenix and the state of Arizona was unaware that Kilpatrick would be in Mesa. Morris said Feast of Fire now plans to send an application to Mesa.

Mesa city sales tax officials said Friday that it is acceptable for a corporation to remit sales tax after the fact - as long as it reports how much merchandise was sold to verify the amount of tax owed.

During Kilpatrick's appearance in Mesa, a number of Kilpatrick's books, tapes and videos were on sale inside Centennial Hall. A customer who purchased a $5 tape requested a receipt and was handed a piece of scrap paper, which the clerk tore off from a page of religious literature; the clerk wrote the receipt by hand and did not make a copy for financial record-keeping.

The handwritten receipt showed the $5 price of the item and did not specify that sales tax was charged.

The Pensacola Brownsville Revival, which began in June 1995, holds six-hour-long services at Brownsville Assembly of God four nights a week. Church officials have said that more than two million people have visited Brownsville since the revival began and the marquee outside the church cites
"More than 130,000 decisions for Christ."

In 1997, Kilpatrick, Hill and Cooley formed Awake America to take the revival to other cities in the United States. This year, Awake America will go to Houston; Denver; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; State College, Pa.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Buffalo, N.Y.

Kilpatrick's appearance in Mesa was prompted by the Rev. Sheldon Volk of Immanuel Congregation in Phoenix. Volk's son, Scott, works for Michael Brown, who is president of Brownsville Revival School of Ministry and is one of the leaders of the revival services.

Kilpatrick made a strong impression on the crowd, Volk said. "I thought the response was excellent. People respected his humility. He was giving all the glory to the Lord, emphasizing over and over that it was not man-centered."

Immanuel Congregation paid $784 to rent Centennial Hall in Mesa, which seats 1,850 people. About 800 people attended, Volk said.

Volk said he asked the crowd to give an offering "to cover expenses and bless John Kilpatrick." He would not disclose how much money was collected or how much his church gave Kilpatrick's Feast of Fire Ministries.

"That's a personal thing for him," Volk said.

News Journal correspondent Garin Groff contributed to this report.

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