The Church of Scientology charges its members "fixed donations" for its services. The current cost for services comprising the introductory courses through the "upper levels" is estimated at $300,000 - $500,000 in US dollars. Scientology recruiters called Registrars are responsible for enrolling members for services. They frequently use hard-sell techniques, and they pressure members to pay for services far in advance as a demonstration of commitment to Scientology. These advance payments often run to many thousands of dollars, with members pushed to drain savings and retirement accounts, max out credit cards and even sell their homes or businesses and hand over proceeds to the church.
The church has a policy providing for the refund of both money on account and money spent for services actually received, upon written request by a departing member. Despite this policy, many former members report having very great difficulty obtaining refunds; information about efforts (successful and unsuccessful) to get money refunded can be found online.
The following is the Church of Scientology's refund policy as stated to the US Internal Revenue Service as part of Form 1023 filing during negotiations for tax-exempt status. This information can be verified at the Exempt Organizations Reading Room in the IRS office in Washington, D.C. or at Church of Scientology organizations upon request.
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"It has been a long-standing policy of the Church that if someone is dissatisfied with their Scientology services and asks to have their contributions returned within a three month period, these amounts will be returned. Likewise, if the person asks for return of contributions for which no services were received (i.e. an advance payment), there is no three month limitation period. Anyone newly enrolling in services at a Church of Scientology is informed of the policies and signs an agreement to abide by them. As a further condition of receiving a refund or repayment, the person understands that they may not again receive services from the Church.
"Within the Church, there are two separate terms: A "refund" refers to a return of contributions to a parishioner within 90 days of participating in religious services while a "repayment" refers to a return of a parishioner's advance payment before he or she has participated in religious services. For simplicity, the following discussion will use the term "refund" to describe both types of transactions, because both involve a return of parishioner contributions.
"The Church's refund policy is exceedingly fair. If someone isn't happy with Scientology -- which is a very small minority of people -- he simply has to make a proper request for his donations back, agree to forego further services and his donations will be returned. For the Church, in addition to the fact that this policy aligns with Scientology principles of exchange, it also serves the purpose of allowing our churches and the parishioners who are very happy with Scientology, to carry on without the unhappy few in their midst."
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