The state House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to giving churches that rent their meeting places the same tax breaks as congregations that own their buildings.
Existing Arizona law exempts churches from property taxes. But proponents of HB 2128 said many small or new congregations have to rent space because they lack the resources to construct their own buildings.
Those buildings are assessed for tax purposes as commercial property, with taxes levied accordingly.
This legislation extends the exemption to property, buildings and fixtures leased non a nonprofit church, religious assembly or religious institution if the property is ``primarily used for religious worship.'
Before approving the measure on a voice vote, lawmakers added language which spells out that there must be an annual affidavit saying, in essence, that the tax break is being passed along to the church in the form of lower rent and not retained by the property owner.
Foes objected to the loss of tax revenues.
A final roll-call vote will send the measure to the Senate.
Follow Howard Fischer on Twitter at @azcapmedia.