UPDATED JUNE 2019
A Charitable Purpose May Be Broader Than You Think
A Florida court recently ruled that a charitable purpose does not have to be a benevolent purpose to qualify for a tax exemption under the Florida Statutes. In so ruling, the court reinforced a basic tenet that the property appraiser may not extend, modify or limit an unambiguous statute.
The issue before the court arose when the Alachua County property appraiser denied the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce a tax exemption from ad valorem taxation. The Chamber argued that it was entitled to the exemption under the Florida Statutes, which exempts property used predominantly for charitable purposes from taxation.
According to the Florida Statutes, a charitable purpose means a function or service which is of such a community service that its discontinuance could legally result in the allocation of public funds for the continuance of the function or service. The property appraiser argued that tax exemptions for charitable purposes must be limited to benevolent purposes, such as providing material assistance to the needy. The property appraiser further argued that the Chamber’s stated purpose of promotion of business and economic development was not traditionally understood as a charitable activity and not inherently benevolent. The court disagreed with the property appraiser’s position, finding that the statutes are unambiguous and do not limit the exemption to “benevolent” purposes. The court reasoned that because legal public funds could be allocated for the Chamber’s stated purpose (and in fact had been in the past), that was sufficient to entitle the Chamber to the tax exemption.
Daniel Wolfe Esq.
Rennert Vogel Mandler & Rodriguez P.A.
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)