Court Upheld State’s Position, Rejecting Church’s Contention That Each Exempt Building Was Entitled to an Exemption of 50 Acres of Land

An Indiana court addressed the issue of the exemption of church camps from real estate

An Indiana court addressed the issue of the exemption of church camps from real estate taxes. The camp in question, which is owned and operated by the Indiana Association of Seventh Day Adventists, consists of 175 acres containing a staff lodge, 14 sleeping cabins, a dining hall, an assembly hall, a craft building, and a caretaker's house. It is used primarily as a summer church camp, a retreat, and a weekend meeting place for teachers, ministers, and other church personnel.

Prior to 1983, all of the camp's real estate and improvements were exempt from taxation. In 1983, however, the state denied the exemption for the caretaker's house and all land in excess of 50 acres, relying in part on the wording of the exemption statute which exempts a tract of land if a building situated on the property is exempt and if "the tract does not exceed 50 acres."

The court upheld the state's position, rejecting the church's contention that each exempt building was entitled to an exemption of 50 acres of land. It defined a "tract" as "any area of land that is under common ownership and is contained within a continuous border." Finally, the court rejected the church's claim that the exemption statute unconstitutionally exempted the property of certain organizations (e.g., YMCA, YWCA, Salvation Army, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts) from property taxation without any acreage limitation, while imposing the acreage limitation on other organizations. Indiana Association of Seventh Day Adventists v. State Board of Tax Commissioners, 519 N.E.2d 772 (Ind. Tax Court 1988)

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