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High court reverses tax decision

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An owner of leased property must prove it possesses an exempt purpose separate and distinct from the exempt purpose of its lessee to be entitled to statutory exemption, ruled the Indiana Supreme Court in a decision reversing the Indiana Tax Court.

The justices held in Hamilton County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals & Hamilton County Assessor v. Oaken Bucket Partners, LLC, No. 49S10-1003-TA-140, just charging below market rent for part of a building rented to a church is insufficient to justify a religious and charitable purpose property tax exemption.

Oaken Bucket filed an exemption application with the Hamilton County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals seeking a charitable and religious purposes exemption on the portion of its building that it leased to Heartland Church Inc. The county board denied the application. Oaken Bucket claimed to charge the church below market-value rent, a fact the county board disputed before the Indiana Board of Tax Review when Oaken Bucket appealed the earlier decision. The Indiana Board of Tax Review affirmed the county board’s decision. Oaken Bucket appealed again and the Tax Court reversed, reasoning there was insufficient evidence supporting the state board’s decision.

Even assuming Oaken Bucket charged below market-rate rent to the church, that fact alone has little bearing on the question of whether Oaken Bucket possessed its own exempt purposes.

“Stated somewhat differently, where an entity charges below market rent to a charitable or religious organization, this may demonstrate some indicia of the entity’s beneficent motives. But more is required to show that the entity possesses its own exempt purposes,” wrote Justice Robert Rucker.

Heartland is a nonprofit and possesses an exempt purpose in its own right, but besides arguing that it charges the church below market-rate rent, Oaken Bucket hasn’t shown an exempt purpose separate from that of the church.

“At most what Oaken Bucket has proven is that it leased and primarily used its property for religious and charitable purposes. This is laudable. But in order to qualify for an exemption the property, among other things, must be ‘owned’ for religious and charitable purposes,” wrote the justice.  “And absent evidence that an owner of leased property possesses an exempt purpose separate and distinct from the exempt purpose of its lessee, the owner holds the property for its own benefit, not that of the public, and thus its property is not entitled to the statutory exemption.”
 

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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