Use it or Lose it

December 7, 2010

Authored by: Keith Kehrer

When I was a kid, my mother would always tell me to “move it or lose it” – although I am not 100% certain, I think she was telling me to please move out of her way.  As tax revenues have declined, we have seen local tax assessors more frequently telling charity owners of real property to “use it [property] or lose it [property tax exemption].” In most states, mere ownership of real property by a charity does not automatically result in tax exemption.  The charity must use the property in furtherance of its exempt purposes.  We have seen numerous recent examples in several states where the tax assessor is challenging (or denying) real property tax exemption on the basis that the property is not currently being used in furtherance of an exempt purpose.  Therefore, with respect to idle property, charities should consider whether there is any current exempt use to which the property may be used (for example, I have even seen use as a storage facility as adequate to support exemption) in order to maintain tax exempt status for the property.