7/8/2010 11:00:00 PM
Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
Brethren Village, Lancaster General Hospital and other nonprofit organizations have received unjustified criticism for not paying local real estate taxes. At the same time, our local municipal governments have received unjustified criticism for not trying to force the nonprofits to pay taxes which they do not owe. (Bart Sheaffer, letter to the editors, June 23)
Whether and how to tax any person or organization is a decision made by the applicable legislature &tstr; the Pennsylvania General Assembly for state taxes and the U.S. Congress for federal taxes. These legislatures have decided to exempt charitable nonprofit organizations from certain taxes, such as local real estate taxes.
The extent of that exemption &tstr; whether it applies in particular situations &tstr; is determined under our tripartite form of government by the courts.
Local governments have no authority to make these decisions.
First point: To my mind, charities should not be using their funds for purposes unrelated to their mission. No taxpayer should pay taxes which he or she does not owe. If a charity nevertheless offers to donate money to a local government, it is just that &tstr; a donation. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided three years ago that retirement facilities such as Brethren Village do not owe real estate taxes on their independent living units. Despite that, Brethren Village offered to donate a sum to the local taxing authorities. The suggestion by Mark Anderson and by Mr. Sheaffer that the donation should not be accepted is, to use Mr. Sheaffer's word, "ridiculous."
Second point: Government should not waste time and tax dollars by stirring up litigation that has no chance of success. When, as in these cases, the solicitor advising the municipality has stated that there is no legal basis to take certain action &tstr; i.e., no basis to try to enforce local real estate taxes on a charitable institution, any effort by the municipality to nevertheless attempt such enforcement would be a waste of the tax dollars, which I and other taxpayers have provided. I do not want my tax dollars wasted.
Every business is obligated to fulfill its mission in the most cost-effective way possible. Pay your necessary expenses and do not waste the funds available to you. Be a good steward with what you have been provided. Thank you to the boards of those local charities, which have chosen to make donations to their local governments, but be careful to focus your spending on your charitable purposes.
To Messrs. Anderson and Sheaffer, if you disagree with the tax exemption for charities, direct your criticism to the legislatures that made the decision, not the local municipalities which are required to enforce the law.
Criticizing either the charity or the municipality accomplishes nothing.
James R. Adams
Read more: http://articles.lancasteronline.com/local/4/264398#ixzz0tByIz1BH