A church’s senior pastor began living in the church parsonage in 1993. In 2000, the pastor purchased a vacant lot and began construction of a new home. The pastor and his family moved into the new home in March of 2001, even though construction continued for several months and the family kept much of their belongings in the parsonage until 2002. Parsonages are exempt from property tax under Washington law, and the church claimed that the parsonage should remain exempt through 2001 because the pastor’s family kept many of their personal belongings in the parsonage for much of that year. A tax assessor insisted that the parsonage ceased to qualify for exemption when the family moved out in March of 2001. A state board of tax appeals agreed with the assessor. It noted that the property tax law defined a parsonage as “a residence, owned by a church, that is occupied by a clergy person designated for a particular congregation and who holds regular services for that congregation.” The board concluded that when the pastor and his family moved out of the parsonage in March of 2001, it no longer qualified as a tax-exempt parsonage even though the pastor’s family stored many of their personal belongings there. Faith Tabernacle Open Bible Church v. State of Washington, Wash. Bd. of Tax Appeals, Docket No. 57097 (2002).
This article first appeared in Church Treasurer Alert, March 2003.