A Tax to Grind | A Blog to Enlighten and Entertain Those Afflicted with Property Tax

Is the Bathroom at Your Church Taxable?

Topic: A Tax to Grind, A Tax to Grind, Property Tax Exemptions

Thursday, 31 May 2012 by David H. LeVan

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Is the bathroom in your church subject to property taxes?  It might be if you live in New Hampshire.  The Supreme Court of New Hampshire ruled to give cities the power to tax churches on a room-by-room basis.  Any rooms not deemed to be used for religious purposes can be subject to property tax.

The case involved the City of Concord taxing Liberty Assembly of God on 40 percent of its property in 2008.  The city included storage rooms and a second floor men’s room in its analysis of what was not being used for religious purposes.  The church argued that the city wasn’t empowered to assess on a room-by-room basis to determine which rooms were not being used for religious purposes.  The Supreme Court agreed with the city in a unanimous decision.

Now, call me crazy, but will this new skill be taught at NH assessor school? Perhaps they can title the class, “How to determine if a room is being used for religious purposes”.  And, what about churches who efficiently use gyms for their services?  Will those rooms be deemed as not being used for religious purposes?  And the men’s room?  Come on!  I use the men’s room at my church almost every time I’m there.  I’d personally find it difficult to have a religious experience without it!

Perhaps the Supreme Court of New Hampshire has gone too far.  What do you think?

Running the PropTax Marathon

Topic: A Tax to Grind, A Tax to Grind, Property Tax Valuation

Thursday, 24 May 2012 by David H. LeVan

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A marathon is 26.2 miles, but did you know you may actually be running farther than that during the race? It’s true!  When a marathon course is officially measured, it assumes that the runner is taking the most optimal angles in all of the turns.  Since a runner may not know all of the optimal angles (and even if they did, the crowd of runners may prohibit them from taking them), they may actually be running 26.4 or 26.6 miles.  This may not seem like a big deal, but I can assure you, when your GPS watch tells you that 26 miles have been completed and you still can’t see the finish line, it can be quite upsetting!

This happened to me at the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon (by the way, I highly recommend it – perfect time of year, great course, nice people).  Imagine the disappointment when 26.2 miles appeared on my handy GPS watch and I still couldn’t see the finish line.  All I could do was run the last 3/10 of a mile to complete the race. It’s not like they were going to move the finish line to match up with my watch.

Like running a longer distance for a marathon, you could also be paying more on your property taxes! It is possible that the square footage used to calculate the property tax value on your real estate could be incorrect. With thousands of facilities to measure, there are bound to be some mistakes.  We recently found this out with the building that Advantax occupies.  For some reason, the records at the assessor’s office got a little mixed up and the square footage they were utilizing was significantly higher.  On the surface, looking at your square footage may not seem like a big deal. However, it may result in a significant over assessment and that is troubling.  In our case it resulted in an increase exceeding 20%.

When is the last time you reviewed the assessor’s square footage of your real estate?  Are you sure it is correct?  Does it match up with your measurement?  You may not be able to impact the disparity in the marathon distance, but you can do something about a disparity in your square footage.

An Opportunity for Grandma to Work-Off Her Property Tax Bill

Topic: A Tax to Grind, A Tax to Grind, Property Tax Administration

Thursday, 17 May 2012 by David H. LeVan

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I recently read about a property tax work-off program in MA.  The program basically allows seniors, over 60, to “work-off” up to $750 of their property tax bill.  Going rates, as far as I could tell, are around $8/hour.  Each senior must apply for the program, demonstrating that all requirements are met.  After being accepted, they work the hours and the property tax bill is reduced.  It’s an effort to assist seniors with financial limitations in paying their property tax bills.

Now that all made sense to me until I pictured my own grandma.  At 93, she’s healthy and independent.  She certainly would fit the requirements for the program (if she lived in MA) but somehow it doesn’t seem right to make her “work-off” her property tax bill.  (By the way, Grandma would have to work approximately 94 hours in order for the property tax bill to be reduced.) There has to be a better way to help our elderly.

It may be a good program, but should Grandma really be going back to work?