NEW YORK, NY - In an effort to plug gaping budget shortfalls, a number of states and localities are considering eliminating various tax breaks for nonprofit groups, the New York Times reports.
Among the bills currently being pursued:
- Hawaii: Would require charities to pay a 1 percent tax.
- Kansas: Would subject charities to sales tax; would remove property tax exemptions from from non-profits.
- Pennsylvania: Would remove property tax exemptions from non-profits.
- Minneapolis: Would subject charities to the same fees it charges businesses and residents for streetlights with the hope of generating $155,000 in revenue. (Jon Pratt, executive direction of the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, derides this effort as "looking under the sofa cushions.")
In most cases, churches would be exempt from the proposals, but all other nonprofits €" including private schools and colleges €" would be affected.
Government officials maintain that the current economy leaves them with little recourse.
"We€™re having to look at the public services nonprofits use and how we can adequately cover those costs," said Matt Greller, executive director of the Indiana Association of Cities and Towns. "We can€™t give them away for free any longer."
Nonprofits are upset, saying that the moves are shortsighted and will reduce the services that the governments rely on them to provide, including mental health and foster care services.
"Nonprofits are really hurting in this economy," said Tim Delaney, chief executive of the National Council of Nonprofits, a trade association. "Their revenues are down, too, and demand for the services they provide, services that government expects them to provide, is way up."
Previous efforts by state and local governments to reduce nonprofit tax breaks have met with limited success. Some have negotiated "payments in lieue of taxes." Harvard, for instance, paid Cambridge $2.2 million in 2008 and $5.2 million for water and sewer service.
The Indiana Association of Cities and Towns said that elected officials must consider all of their options. A proposal to cap the amount of property taxes that Indiana residents pay is on the ballot in November, and if it passes, local government revenues will drop by hundreds of millions of dollars across the state.