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Court upholds denial of tax exemptions

March 19, 2014

The Indiana Tax Court Tuesday ruled that the state Board of Tax Review did not err when it determined a nonprofit in Mooresville was not entitled to either a fraternal beneficiary association exemption or a charitable purposes exemption for the 2006 tax year.

The Fraternal Order of Eagles #3988, a mutual benefit corporation, is a nonprofit whose motto is “People helping People.” It owned a lodge in Mooresville used to raise funds for charitable organizations, collect donations for needy family and to host private events for its members. In 2006, Eagles sought either a fraternal beneficiary association exemption or a charitable purposes exemption for the 2006 tax year on its real and personal property, which was denied by the county property tax assessment board of appeals.

The Indiana Board of Tax Review held a hearing at which Eagles presented its charitable donation records for 2003 through 2006, its monthly profit/loss statements for 2005, several affidavits, and a usage study to show that it used its property for fraternal and charitable purposes. The tax board denied the exemptions, which the Indiana Tax Court upheld in Fraternal Order of Eagles #3988, Inc. v. Morgan County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals and Morgan County Assessor, 49T10-1201-TA-4.

Eagles claimed the board’s determination that it failed to establish a prima facie case that it was entitled to the fraternal beneficiary association exemption under Indiana Code 6-1.1-10-23 or to the charitable purposes exemption under Indiana Code 6-1.1-10-16 is contrary to law and unsupported by substantial evidence.

“Eagles was required to present probative evidence demonstrating that it satisfies the statutory definition of a fraternal beneficiary association set forth in Indiana Code § 27-11-1-1. Eagles’ recognition as an I.R.C. § 501(c)(8) fraternal beneficiary society, order, or association for federal income tax purposes does not, by itself, establish that Eagles met all the definitional requirements contained in Indiana Code § 27-11-1-1. Moreover, Eagles failed to show how its other documentary and testimonial evidence satisfied each element of the definition of a ‘fraternal beneficiary association’ as defined under Indiana Code § 27-11-1-1,” Judge Martha Wentworth wrote.

Eagles’ evidence didn’t indicate whether it has a representative form of government as required under the statute, and the evidence could not independently demonstrate that Eagles met the six statutorily prescribed elements of the definition of “fraternal beneficiary association.”

Eagles used its property both for a variety of social and recreational purposes and for charitable purposes, but the usage report didn’t provide the board with a comparison of the relative amounts of time that the lodge was used for exempt and non-exempt purposes, Wentworth wrote. Eagles’ failure to provide this comparison was fatal to its claim for either a full or a partial exemption regarding the charitable purposes exemption.  

 

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