Fw: *Sightings* 11/29/01 -- No,There Is NOT a Holy Roller
maule at LAW.VILLANOVA.EDU
Fri Nov 30 12:46:39 PST 2001
No errors to correct. The tough question is, as you point out, determining what Florida law does in terms of specific taxes. Some states exempt from all taxes those entities exempt from federal taxation. Some limit the exemption to income taxation (and many of these states "borrow" the unrelated business taxable income rules). Other states have tighter definitions even for the income tax (not for religion but for things such as organizations for the prevention of cruelty to animals or to foster Olympic sports, which have a federal exemption but which may not be exempt under state law).
The factual question is whether the facility is "operated for a religious purpose." From what I've read this case is probably easier than what some situations could turn out to be, where the religious aspects are peripheral and not central to the theme.
Professor of Law, Villanova University School of Law
Villanova PA 19085
maule at law.villanova.edu
President, TaxJEM Inc (computer assisted tax law instruction) (www.taxjem.com)
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>>> vrkoven at WORLD.STD.COM 11/30/01 08:53AM >>>
Thanks to David Guinn for reproducing this article.
From an exempt organizations taxation standpoint (and I know Jim
Maule will correct my errors here), it is not at all uncommon for
exempt organizations to charge for the performance of their exempt
function. Symphony orchestras and theater groups charge for tickets,
nonprofit publishers charge for books, etc. At the federal level,
these charges are not even considered "unrelated taxable business
income." Moreover, a religious organization does not have to be a
formal church in order to qualify under IRC sec. 501(c)(3); it merely
needs to be organized and operated for religious purposes. Operating
a religious-themed park seems to fall pretty squarely within the
framework of religious purpose.
Normally (speaking now only from the perspective of Massachusetts,
which however I understand to be a typical jurisdiction in this
respect) a non-profit organization that has federal tax exemption
under IRC 501(c)(3) is automatically entitled to a sales and property
tax exemption at the state level for property used in the furtherance
of its exempt purpose. Florida may be different. If it is not, then
it seems that the assessor should have the burden to show why HLE
should be treated differently from the Orlando Symphony Orchestra's
risers and music library.
If I remember correctly, it was also the Florida department of
taxation that was in the news recently for wanting to tax
geo-synchronous satellites hovering in space over the state. If so,
this seems to be another instance of a publicity-seeking state
official making over-the-top demands to garner his fifteen minutes of
I'm also puzzled and troubled by the author's rather cheap throw-away
line criticizing ZHI for relying on the courts to vindicate its
position. After all, assuming that ZHI's view is that government
should keep its hands off this ministry, it is government that is
laying its very heavy hands on it, and offsetting arbitrary
government conduct is part of what courts are for, no?
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