The Small Business Times

Does Joel Osteen Pay Taxes?

A recent public outcry has raised the question, does pastor Joel Osteen pay taxes? Wealthy people often receive backlash over their income, lifestyle, comments, and tax statuses. Recently, the public bashed the celebrity pastor online with a rumor that he does not pay any taxes. Well, was the rumor entirely fake, or has he found a way around the tax laws?

Celebrity pastor and author Joel Osteen pays taxes to the United States government. However, his tax returns don’t justify his luxurious lifestyle. But because he’s a clergyman, the allowance he receives from the church isn’t taxable. And Joel Osteen pays taxes on the revenue he earns through the sale of his books. So, it would seem he’s well within the law.

However, let’s dissect Joel Osteen’s extravagant life and figure out how this mega preacher allegedly pays so much less in taxes. 

Who is Joel Osteen?

Joel Osteen is the son of a former Southern Baptist pastor who founded the Lakewood Church in the late 1950s. Osteen started televising his father’s sermons in 1982 and was doing a fine job at it for 17 years. After his father’s death, Joel Osteen started preaching regularly and became the new senior pastor at the Lakewood Church

He made Lakewood Church popular with his unique preaching style. His weekly service TV program was viewed by over 7 million people every week. And attendance at the church grew to 43,000. Barbara Walters listed him amongst the ten most fascinating people of 2006. 

Osteen released his first book in 2004, which was titled “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential”. This motivational book reached the number 1 position on The New York Times Best Seller list. And he has sold over 100 million copies to date. 

Outcry Regarding Joel Osteen’s Fortune

The famous American pastor, author, and televangelist has been a constant source of controversies, from promoting prosperity theology to not providing emergency shelter for Hurricane Harvey survivors. Joel Osteen has received a great deal of backlash in the past few years.

However, the public called the pastor out after images of him driving a Ferrari went viral online. Joel Osteen’s wealth has been a constant subject of online discussion over the years. He’s been criticized for owning a fortune and living lavishly. But, in particular, the public has questioned why there’s no evidence that Joel Osteen pays taxes.

Previously, Osteen also came under the radar when his church received a $4.4 million Paycheck Protection Program loan amid the pandemic. The United States federal government started the program to help small businesses sustain themselves during the COVID pandemic. 

Additionally, these loans were non-taxable. The public criticized the pastor and the church for receiving a government loan to maintain their colossal fortune.

Does Joel Osteen Pay Taxes?

Even though Joel Osteen is the senior pastor at Lakewood’s church, his primary source of income is his books. Over the years, he has released over 14 books that usually revolve around inspiration and motivation and has sold millions of copies. 

After the Houston Chronicle reported that he owns a Ferrari 458 Italia, people on Twitter speculated about whether Joel Osteen pays taxes. Alongside this, the hashtag #TaxTheChurches also started trending. 

These rumors weren’t precisely false since Joel Osteen pays taxes that don’t seem to align with his net worth. Which is estimated to be around $60 million.

Does His Church Pay Taxes?

The annual salary for Joel Osteen’s role would be $200,000 per year. However, the pastor hasn’t withdrawn his salary since 2005. According to a theory that emerged on social media, Osteen receives many allowances and stipends from his church. 

Churches in the United States are exempt from paying taxes, as they are religious institutions. Texas’s Lakewood Church reportedly brings in around $80 million in donations and spends $90 million operating expenses. However, they do pay payroll and social security taxes to their staff.

That said, people of the clergy pay taxes on their income. The only benefit they can take from the church is in the form of a house allowance. Since Joel Osteen does not take a salary from the church, neither he nor his church pays taxes on this money.

Does He Pay Taxes on Other Income?

Joel Osteen makes substantial money from selling his books, and he likely pays his taxes on this income. Copies of his tax returns aren’t available to the public. But pastor and professor Royal Burge believes that Osteen pays taxes on the income from his books. He also attributes Osteen’s larger-than-life luxury lifestyle to the income he earns from his books. 

He released his first book in 2004, which sold over 8 million copies in the first few months. His second book also received a multi-million-dollar deal from publishers, reportedly more than $8.5 million. 

Joel Osteen also earned revenue from his tours and televised shows. And there’s a possibility that he does not pay taxes on this income, as it is a part of Lakewood Church’s services. 


It would appear that Joel Osteen pays taxes when it comes to the sales of his books. But all the other income his church generates is non-taxable. While his close colleagues and friends state that he does not take any allowance from the church, people still attribute his wealthy lifestyle to tax fraud.