Tax Rules on Church Campgrounds

Court rules church’s campground not exempt from property taxes.

Church Law and Tax 1996-01-01

Taxation—church property

Key point. Church campgrounds that are rented out to civic groups without regard to their religious purposes may be subject to property tax under state law.

A New York court ruled that a campgrounds owned and operated by a religious organization was not exempt from property taxation. The religious organization consists of lay members of the Seventh Day Adventist faith. It owns and operates a campgrounds which is open to the general public and is attended primarily by persons who are not members of the Seventh Day Adventist faith. The camping program includes whirlpool and sauna treatments, instruction to assist persons who want to quit smoking, video programs on a variety of health issues, outdoor activities, and classes in cooking. Guests are not required to attend or participate in any religious activities. Advertisements for the camping program do not indicate that it is religious in nature or related to the Seventh Day Adventist faith. In ruling that the campgrounds were not exempt from property taxation the court observed:

Although health and physical well being are central concerns of the Seventh Day Adventist religion, in this case the health—related services are directed … to nonadherents of its religious principles. The fact that advertising for those services is aimed at the public as a whole supports the conclusion that the camp is not used primarily for … religious purposes. Also significant is the fact that guests are not required to participate in any prayer services, indoctrination, or similar activities.

The court also pointed out that campgrounds of non—religious charitable organizations were also subject to tax, and therefore religious organizations were not treated less favorably. Living Springs Retreat v. County of Putnam, 626 N.Y.S.2d 268 (A.D. 2 Dept. 1995). [ State Property Taxes]

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