1870 December 17 Letter to William H. Hooper


1870 December 17 Letter to William H. Hooper


Brigham argues that tithing should be considered donations and thus exempt from taxation. Tithing funds are not considered profit since they are often donated in non-monetary forms, designated for Church expenses, and used to aid the poor. Profits from invested tithing, like in the railroad, are taxed. Additionally, Church leaders pay personal income taxes.




T. W. Ellerbeck


William H. Hooper


1870 December 17


Salt Lake City, Utah

Number of Pages



Financial Matters
Legal Matters
Perpetual Emigration Fund

Salt Lake City,
Dec. 17. 1870.

Hon. W.H. Hooper,

Dear Bro:-

When Hollister examined the books of the Trustee in Trust, with a view to ascertain the exact amount of property received in 1868. by T. in T. as tithing, there was a correct statement of all of it made out, of which, the accompanying is a copy. Hollister sent (or said he would) to the Dept. that statement, & recommended that the tax be reduced from the grossly excessive assessment made by Taggart, to 5% on the $85.058.11/100 as set forth in the accompanying statement. I think it advisable, that you should have this statement, as it is correctly taken, and can be verified from the Accts made up long before it was ever thought to be a subject for the internal revenue tax. I also enclose a copy of the identical return of the bona fide income, or profits, or the T. in T. for 1868, which I made out within the ten days allowed by law, which was duly signed by B. Young in the presence of Asst Assr Morris. Said Morris immediately took said Return to Taggart, &, as I went along, I saw him hand it to him, & Winder was there also. Taggart put the Return in a drawer, or receptacle, & said "I shall take no notice of that" -- which all three of us can swear to if need be, but I presume it will not be disputed that such return was duly made. Inasmuch as the tithing is a fund that is got up for, and devoted to, the purposes of building houses of worship, &c., as set forth in the statement for 1868, it does not of course come under the head of profits:-- if it did, the T. in T. would be under no obligation to expend it on the Temple & Tabernacles as he did, it seems to me, not any more an income, than the funds subscribed by the public, for the erection of a monument to Washington. We calculate to build a large Monument for the Lord Almighty, and if all such donations gotten up throughout the country, are taxed, we can do as well as anybody. This tithing fund is also largely used to pay clerks to keep our records, and they are the most extensive and elaborate of any people, & these clerks of course pay their individual tax on their saleries.

Prest Young of course paid his individual income tax in 1868 (some where about $1500.00 if I remember correctly) & if any tithing funds should be used for any individual it would be this income or salary, but as the funds are given <to the Church> without any legal consideration, -- not even a Receipt is ever given in return, how can it be income or gains?

If the law of the Lord requires his people to make up this fund, it is no one's business, the law of the land does not require it, & they dont recognize the law of our God. If any tithing be devoted to any speculation, & that speculation brings an income, such income would be taxable. If I receive a gift of a yoke of oxen, it is not taxable, but if I go to work & hire them out at $10.pr day, that income would be taxable, but not the oxen that were a gift. Such are the plain views of the case it seems to me, stript of all superfluous verbiage. If the tithing were due in any legal sense, it could be collected by law. Of the very large amt in said statement, devoted to hauling the poor over the plains, nearly all of it is clean lost, or donated I should say. back again <to the fund for emigrating the Poor.> As you will see, we credited the persons who volunteered to go with their teams after the poor, with so much pr day, for their wagons, and cattle and outfit, amounting in all to $200.000.00 as tithes.

Now in all this the T. in T. did not receive a dollar. Of this large amt, the <P.E.F. Co.> debited the incoming poor with about $75000.00 for all of these services -- because, to do otherwise, would have been to charge them too high. Many are too old to ever return a dollar, -- and many return to the States without saying thank you;many remain too poor to pay anything, some -- too many of the girls thus brought over in their parents families, marry gentiles, & go off:-- & of course they never pay:-- in this way our tithes have gone to build up the nation at large to an enormous amt. (I believe they have married a thousand of our girls brot over by the PE Fund if all were enumerated & paid nothing, thus owing the Church one hundred Thousand Dollars) and a few pay in potatoes beets &c &c about enough being paid to cover the office expenses <and clerk hire> of the P.E.F. Co annually.

Hence our arbitrarily recording, that so and so have paid so much tithing <in> going after the poor, amounts to nothing; but as Hollister wished to see these Records, & we had nothing to hide, we satisfied him. but in making out a Return for a tax on the tithing paid
into the Church -- the question is what did the T. in Trust, against whom the tax is assessed, receive in 1868.? Well he received wheat & other things as pr statement. But I contended with Mr Hollister, that if delivering potatoes to the Church was <Church> income -- then the tax should be paid in potatoes, as they were disbursed to the poor & the workmen in kind & no money was realized at all -- so with everything. True Mr H. allowed as you will see in the statement 25 per cent off -- to convert those articles into money -- but 50 per cent which I claimed, was not sufficient in my opinion, but he would allow no more, & as he did not see the quality of our donated articles & as I did, I thought I knew better than he & I think so yet.

Mr Hollister told me the other day that our strong point was that it was donated to the Church -- insist that the tithing fund is a donation! Well, I dont see how else it can be considered, as I said before. If it was an annual donation for the support of an individual, or individuals, as Ministers, it might be income, & as I said before -- I receive my income out of that fund direct, but I pay my tax, so do others, -- but all of that fund <that> is devoted to the Temple & other buildings, is either donated by, or still owned, by the people, represented it may be by the T. in T. -- granted, then if the T. in T. owns the funds thus appropriated, he does so in behalf of the people, and then it is the people investing thro the T in T their own funds in the erection of a Temple & other places of public worship.

I dont know that the foregoing is very clear, but it is pretty evident that it is either a donation, or an investment, & in either case, no income in any sense. Further, suppose the T in T. to invest such funds in a Canal or Railroad - or a thousand things -- it makes no difference -- if such things make a profit -- such profit is income, and does not alter the fact that these funds are either donated, or invested, & no one but Taggart, bent on making a case, can consider that the whole amount of funds invested in any enterprise are a subject of direct tax for income as a whole!! It takes a man with a brain fearfully askew to deduce such a conclusion.

Hoping I have not trespassed too much upon your time the importance of the attempted imposition, will be my apology.

Respectfully Yours
T.W. Ellerbeck

mention the words speculation, canal &c as we are charged with building a canal &c with tithing means. You know there has been some investments in a canal to boat the granite for the Temple, but it has never been completed, & as yet we haul it with teams. If such canal should ever do business so as to make profits, they would be taxable for income, but as yet it is merely an investment, a work not yet completed.