A Call to Centralize Tax-Exempt Determination in PA

Aug 15, 2013

State lawmakers are considering changes to the rules governing purely public charities — and what such institutions need to get a pass on paying taxes.

The Legislature recently took the first step in a lengthy constitutional amendment process to take more control in how purely public charities are defined.
A court ruling revoking a summer camp’s status had forced the issue.
But one local tax appeals board lawyer says the reason such cases land in court is because the state laws on the subject are already overly complex.

Jeff Engle, Dauphin County’s Board of Assessment solicitor, says boards like his, especially those in rural areas, are confounded by all the legal tests to determine a group’s tax-exempt status.

"If you’re going to keep this legislation and carry it on, the tools that are necessary for your typical board of assessment appeals office are not there," he said.
Engle says one solution might be creating a state office that would have to analyze all purely public charity tax-exempt applications.
He says that way, there would be a more uniform application, or at least a well-staffed centralized office providing guidance to local governments.