Helping Two-Legs Good, Helping Four-Legs Bad

January 7, 2008

Yesterday, the Oregon Tax Court handed down a decision about this Oregon law:

[The following] property owned…by…charitable…institutions shall be exempt from taxation:[…]

All real and personal property…dealing exclusively…to support a welfare program. As used in this subsection, ‘welfare program’ means the providing of food, shelter, clothing or health care, including dental service to needy persons without charge.”

Needy persons. The Florence Area Humane Society applied for an exemption, and was denied because they care for needy animals. The Tax Court upheld the denial:

Here, the language of the statute is clear and unambiguous. It defines the target group (of thrift store sales) as certain needy persons. It does not include other entities, organizations, inanimate objects, things, or animals. By restricting that group to exclude animals specifically in the statute, the court cannot ignore the plain meaning of those words. Needy persons do not include animals.

When politicians start exempting certain groups from general taxes, they pick winners that pay no taxes and losers that pay higher taxes. Here, the line was arbitrarily drawn between charities that help needy people (winner) and charities that help needy animals (loser). Look for this law to be changed quickly, which means that taxes will inch a bit higher for everyone else.

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