Some Summit County nonprofits may be hit with a surprise tax bill
Property tax exemptions not granted to handful of local organizations
A handful of nonprofit organizations in Summit County might have to pay property taxes on millions of dollars worth of property they own after they did not receive a property tax exemption this year.
That opens the door to costly unforeseen expenses for some organizations that have been straining to support the community during the pandemic.
Nonprofits must apply annually for a property tax exemption, which is granted for land the nonprofit owns that is used exclusively for religious, charitable or educational purposes.
A recent presentation to the Summit County Council included a list of more than 100 exemptions granted this year for parcels of land owned by nonprofits.
But the county says that five nonprofits failed to apply for the exemption, including the Christian Center of Park City, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Center of Excellence, the Park City Historical Society, the Corporation of Episcopal Church in Utah and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salt Lake City.
The Christian Center, for one, had successfully received exemptions from 2017 through last year.
“This came as a surprise to us. Nothing has changed with our nonprofit … status,” said Rob Harter, the nonprofit’s executive director.
The center runs a food pantry, distributes rental assistance and helps with other areas of support, like back-to-school kits for students. In the months after the pandemic hit last March through the end of 2020, the nonprofit distributed more than $1.3 million of basic-needs assistance, Harter has said.
According to Summit County records, the nonprofit’s headquarters near the intersection of Bonanza Drive and Deer Valley Drive has a taxable value of nearly $3 million. That value may well be higher, as tax-exempt properties aren’t appraised as often as others, according to County Assessor Stephanie Poll.
Those who have been denied a property tax exemption may appeal to the Utah State Tax Commission, which Harter said he intends to do.
“We will appeal this decision because we are clearly a nonprofit organization and nothing has changed on our end in terms of our tax status,” Harter said.
The County Council on May 5, operating in its capacity as the Board of Equalization, heard from staffers who determine the tax-exempt status of property inside the county.
A staffer said officials sent out letters to the nonprofits that had received exemptions in previous years.
Beckie Raemer, the parish administrator for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, said she hadn’t received anything in the mail regarding tax exemption, but that the diocese in Salt Lake City handles exemption applications.
She said that the diocese applied on Feb. 25, but according to the county, the county did not receive a completed application.
The two parcels owned by the dioceses, one in Old Town and the other in Silver Springs, have a combined taxable value of nearly $2.5 million, according to county records.
According to the report, the church received tax exemptions from 2012 through last year.
County councilors indicated they would like to give the nonprofits another chance to secure the exemption, but were told by Chief Civil Deputy Attorney Dave Thomas that the council did not have the authority to grant a reprieve because the deadline is set by statute.
The Center of Excellence, a training facility for U.S. Ski and Snowboard athletes, drew Councilor Chris Robinson’s attention. Property records show it has a taxable value of nearly $16 million, and U.S. Ski and Snowboard has clashed with county officials over its tax exempt status in the past.
Robinson said there was special state legislation passed to allow the facility to receive tax-exempt status. State code now exempts property that is used for training Olympic athletes.
A spokesperson said U.S. Ski and Snowboard is in the process of appealing for the property tax exemption.
Councilors instructed county staffers to contact the nonprofits that were denied to notify them of their right to appeal to the State Tax Commission.
Councilor Doug Clyde agreed with the plan to notify the nonprofits, but pushed back on the assertion that the county had somehow erred in not granting the exemptions.
“This is death and taxes, two inevitable things. And if you run a big organization, if you are the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, I would suspect that you have somebody on your board or in your office that understands that you need to comply with tax law,” Clyde said. “I don’t want any of our nonprofits to be hurt, but I’m less than completely sympathetic when our employees have to dribble a basketball through a minefield to try and get them exempt. That’s their job.”
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