Pa. urged to simplify evaluation of charities for tax exemption

    Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering changes to the rules governing purely public charities — and what such institutions need to get a pass on paying taxes.

     

    The Legislature recently took the first step in a lengthy constitutional amendment process to take more control in how purely public charities are defined.

    A court ruling revoking a summer camp’s status had forced the issue.

    But one local tax appeals board lawyer such cases wind up in court because the state laws on the subject are already overly complex.

    Jeff Engle, Dauphin County’s Board of Assessment solicitor, said boards such as his are confounded by all the legal tests to determine a group’s tax-exempt status.

    “If you’re going to keep this legislation and carry it on, the tools that are necessary for your typical board of assessment appeals office are not there,” Engle said.

    One solution might be creating a state office that would have to analyze all purely public charity tax-exempt applications, Engle suggested.

    That way, he said, there would be a more uniform application, or at least a well-staffed centralized office providing guidance to local governments.

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