If the church is receiving a fee from the food truck operators, then the analysis must consider whether this has become an unrelated business activity. I think that the real property rental exception could come into play so long as the church isn’t providing substantial services—such as utilities, bathrooms, and security. But even then, since this activity occurs at the same time and place as a church function, the exception for trade or business services provided as a convenience for our members should preclude any amount you receive from being UBTI. This is the same exception we use to argue that a church’s café that operates around church services doesn’t generate UBTI. This scenario could conceivably create a more heightened degree of concern about the church’s property tax exemption if it is receiving a rental fee, percentage of sales, or both. But even then, I suspect that a conversation with the county property tax authority about the occasional, transient use of the property by the food trucks—coupled with the food trucks serving food during church events—would result in no change to the property tax status. If the church isn’t receiving any remuneration, then I would say that having food trucks on the property is comparable to catering a meal. Under this condition, there would be no UBTI because the church isn’t receiving remuneration. I think in most states the transient use of the church property (and perhaps utilities) during these limited time periods that are attached to church functions should not infringe on the church’s property tax exemption either.
- “Church’s Coffee Shop Fails to Qualify for Tax-Exempt Status” by Richard R. Hammar
- “Q&A: Are Items Sold in Our Church’s Welcome Center Considered Unrelated Business Income?” by Michael E. Batts
- “When Ministry Becomes Business” by John R. Throop
- “Taxation of Churches” (chap. 12) in Richard R. Hammar’s Church & Clergy Tax Guide
- “Other Revenue Sources” (chap. 4) in Michael E. Batts’s Church Finance: The Church Leader’s Guide to Financial Operations