Pa. begins rethinking definition of charity for tax purposes

    A proposed change to Pennsylvania’s charity tax law has cleared the first of three big hurdles.


    The state House has passed the constitutional amendment that would allow the Legislature to define “purely public charities,” which are tax-exempt.

    A state court ruling limited lawmakers’ powers to broaden the definition.

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    The amendment would keep the courts from being able to revoke an organization’s charity status on a case-by-case basis, according to Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, R-Centre.

    “If you’d like these organizations to be able to continue, and you want to continue to be the legislators who make the law and allow the judges to be able to interpret the law, then send the bill forward simply saying that,” Benninghoff said.

    House Democrats oppose the measure, pointing out that it comes with no accompanying proposal that would outline what qualifies as a public charity.

    They say that will open the floodgates to future lobbying as large institutions vie for special status before state lawmakers.

    The same proposal would need to pass the state Legislature again next session and then clear a voter referendum to change the state constitution.

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