If Boston Plans on Taxing Non-Profits, Tax All Non-Profits

Every so often, Boston proposes raising the voluntary contributions it asks non-profit organizations to pay in lieu of property taxes (and other taxes), or instituting a consistent fee (right now, these contributions are negotiated with each institution). From The Boston Globe:

After 14 months, a mayoral task force has nearly completed its work examining the city’s uneven system of individual agreements with such institutions, under which they voluntarily pay cash and provide services in lieu of property taxes. Some pay millions; others pay significantly less.
The city is pushing institutions to gradually increase contributions to 25 percent of what they would owe in taxes if they were not exempt, a change that would more than triple the current amounts paid by some of the city’s biggest landowners….
The new formula, which the city panel will begin finalizing at a meeting today, would seek to increase payments among hospitals and universities alone by almost $25 million over five or more years, according to preliminary figures.
To soften the blow, officials have suggested that institutions could cover up to 50 percent of their payments by offering community programs such as free prostate cancer screenings in public housing and scholarships for Boston students.

There is, of course, one class of non-profit that won’t be touched (italics mine):

The city is in the process of assessing the property values of large nonprofits such as cultural institutions and museums. Many of the institutions who participate in the current system would like to see it expanded to include the entire nonprofit world, including some smaller establishments.
No one has seriously broached the topic of religious institutions, which are also exempt from property taxes.

I think we’re better off subsidizing the activities of a non-profit hospital than we are subsidizing, let’s say, the Catholic Church. Obviously, others disagree–which is the point: a non-profit is a non-profit, period.
And before anyone starts in about TEH ATHEISMZ!!!: 1) I’m not an atheist; 2) I think no religious institution should have special privileges that other non-profits lack.
But, of course, this would be uncivil. Or socialist. Or something.

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7 Responses to If Boston Plans on Taxing Non-Profits, Tax All Non-Profits

  1. Adam Morrison says:

    Hear Hear!
    The idea of hospital paying more on property tax then say a church or a synagogue seems very unfair.

  2. VikingMoose says:

    check out the subsidy that a certain institution gets.
    Their house is at North/State in Chicago…

  3. Mike Goldman says:

    Tax the land values, and exempt the improvements. That way you are not taxing anything that belongs to anyone other than the community.

  4. Rob Jase says:

    Tax every church that believes in prophets, its a fair compromise.

  5. Moopheus says:

    Wouldn’t that be questionable on Constitutional grounds if the religious groups get effectively a subsidy that other groups don’t get?
    The Mother Church of the Christian Scientists sits on some primo downtown real estate…

  6. Ben says:

    The extortion used to get these ‘payments’ from the non-profits is a poison tree that yields no good fruit. There are good reasons we protect non-profits from the governmental power to destroy: hint, it isn’t about subsidizing the ‘good work’ they do.
    The city should stop seeking the payments. In fact, it should be illegal for the local government to receive any payment from a non-profit.

  7. Nomen Nescio says:

    There are good reasons we protect non-profits from the governmental power to destroy: hint, it isn’t about subsidizing the ‘good work’ they do.

    it isn’t? what is it, then? i’m honestly curious.

    In fact, it should be illegal for the local government to receive any payment from a non-profit.

    how would you do that without putting roadblocks in the way of (some of) the genuinely good work some non-profit organizations do? hint, many of them rent premises from local governments.

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