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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. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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