May 17, 2012
Is Church Charitable Enough For Property Tax Exemption?
(Updated) Maine church says yes; City of Rockland says no.
Update (Jan. 30): Aldersgate United Methodist Church has reached a tentative deal with the City of Rockland, the Bangor Daily News reports.
To solve the issue of Aldersgate's property tax exemption, the church "will create a [separate] nonprofit organization to own the property now being taxed by the city.... If all properties become exempt, the church will drop the lawsuit and both parties will pay their own expenses, according to Rockland city attorney Kevin Beal."
A Methodist church in Maine has sued its city, claiming that it should be taxed the same as other local nonprofits.
Aldersgate United Methodist Church argues that its parsonage and parking lot should be exempt from almost $7,000 in property taxes because the City of Rockland exempts other charitable organizations from such tax on all their properties.
Rockland officials have exempted only the church's main property from taxes, which Aldersgate alleges is discriminatory treatment compared to local secular nonprofits. The city argues that Aldersgate cannot claim tax exemptions as both a church and a nonprofit under state law, and claims that it has already taxed the church generously.
Maine's tax exemption statutes distinguish between nonprofits and houses of worship.