When I go home at night, after a long day of fixing this, helping unbreak that, designing this, blah blah blah... well, I'm not so sure that I wouldn't mind being a sheep as well.
I don't always want to download the latest Gentoo release and compile from scratch to surf the freaking internet. Or listen to my completely un-DRM'ed MP3 collection.
I'm a shepherd at work... but I wouldn't mind a rock-solid browser experience with my morning coffee...
Does that make me a sheep?
With respect to non-profits, I believe that some of the other posts have done a good job of breaking down the different kinds of taxes and discussing how property taxes (not paid by non-profits) could be a good example of how tax-exempt status particularly matters. For example, consider the property holdings of some of the mainstream religions -> their accumulation of property is enabled by this.
Now, with respect to the following:
It's not just "you're taxed on gross minus employee salaries minus expenses". If that were the case, then no company would ever pay taxes, because they'd make sure to spend all their income.
Perhaps you could elaborate. In the US, you are taxed (both corporately and individually) on net profits (gross minus costs). For more detailed information, please refer to (googled link provided):
Labor is one of those costs. If you are a C corp, the corporate tax rate is applied after payouts of salary (and everything else), which gives the option of paying out most (if not all) of your proceeds as salary. The salary, in turn, is taxed at the individual tax rate.
Companies make profits so that they can pay some of those profits out to shareholders or expand (as you've pointed out). Regardless, tax is levied BEFORE profits, which is kinda handy for companies. As for needing profits to grow, at least for small companies, that isn't true at all. You could grow from 1 employee to 20 without making a dime. Corporate profits, while nice for the company, are in no way required for small business. Now, if you start talking about banking, lines of credit, and credit ratings of companies, maybe you'd have a point... but if you wear a hat, nobody will notice
The reason that I find this germane to the discussion at hand is the fact that true non-profits shouldn't really be holding onto capital or making a profit. Some of the other comments allude to property tax, which are levied regardless of profits; I suspect that this is the real reason behind tax-exempt status. Other types of taxes which are periodically levied (or some some countries levied WRT gross proceeds) might also be a reason.
If that were the case, then no company would ever pay taxes, because they'd make sure to spend all their income.
If you operate a business, if you intend to cash out any money (e.g. use it for personal use), you are required to pay yourself, which is subject to individual taxes (in the US, anyway). As a matter of fact, MOST companies operate this way, if you're just relying on a count of businesses rather than their earnings.
This is small business in American, and, dare I say, most of these small businesses don't even bother to become C corps, they just operate via the Schedule C form for their taxes, which again, ONLY TAXES NET.
If you are an organization taking in money, and then using that money either for charitable donations or direct charitable activity, there is no tax levied.
That, sir, is why your argument for tax-exempt status seems like a bogus argument: In the US, anyway, you only pay taxes on your net, NOT your gross, which is why I'm tired of hearing about how higher taxes destroy small businesses, when the majority of small businesses pay most (if not all) of their gross out in salary. The company pays little to no tax, and the tax is levied on the salary paid to employees, since the company is running at virtually no profit.
The same holds for religious organizations (or any organization or individual), unless you're not willing to account for your spending... that's when things get a little dicey, I suppose.
Cable TV / Satellite plus a DVR lets you record anything, and then skip the commercials. The problem is that if you forget to record something, or are recommended to something after the fact, you really can't got get it (the on-demand offerings aren't sufficient, generally, IMHO).
Hulu lets you watch pretty much anything current (within the selection catalog, I realize), but you have to watch short ads while watching it.
In other words, you choose between a limited set of things that you remembered to record (w/o commercial interruption via DVR skipping), or you deal with hulu and short, annoying, highly repetitive interruptions (still better than TV without a DVR, though).
The real question is, how much would you pay for hulu, and would you be able to skip commercials completely for an added, premium price? I'll say this, there's no way I'd give them a dime if I had to spend ANYTIME watching commercials I couldn't skip. I already have better than that in my DVR, I'm not trading backward...
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Bad odor.... Check.
Laser beam directed INTO the brain.... uh... Check.
"Bad memories" induced.... err... Check.
And in other news... sugar tastes good.