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PDFWAC 458-16-190

Churches, parsonages and convents.

(1) Introduction. This rule explains the property tax exemption available under the provisions of RCW 84.36.020 to churches, parsonages, and convents.
(2) Definitions. For purposes of this rule, the following definitions apply:
(a) "Church purposes" means the use of real and personal property owned by a nonprofit religious organization for religious worship or related administrative, educational, eleemosynary, and social activities. This definition is to be broadly construed. The term "use" includes real property owned by a nonprofit religious organization upon which a church will be built.
(b) "Clergy person" means a person ordained or regularly licensed for religious service and includes both male and female individuals.
(c) "Commercial" refers to an activity or enterprise that has profit making as one of its primary purposes.
(d) "Convent" means a house or set of buildings occupied by a community of clergy or nuns devoted to religious life under a superior.
(e) "Eleemosynary" means charitable, including types of activities in which some social objective is served or general welfare is advanced.
(f) "Owned" means owned in fee or by contract purchase.
(g) "Parsonage" means a residence, owned by a church, that is occupied by a clergy person designated for a particular congregation and who holds regular services for that congregation.
(h) "Regular services" means religious services that are conducted on a routine and systematic basis at prearranged times, days, and places. This term includes religious services that are conducted by a visiting or circuit clergy person who may only hold services once a month in a particular location if that person is scheduled to conduct services on a routine and prearranged basis on the exempt property.
(i) "Unoccupied land" means land that is undeveloped, unused, and upon which no structures or improvements have been built.
(i) This land includes, but is not limited to, greenbelt, wetland, and other undeveloped areas contiguous to an exempt church, parsonage, or convent.
(ii) This land does not include parking lots, landscaped grounds, or playing fields.
(3) Property exempt and extent of exemption. The church and the ground upon which a church is or will be built, together with a parsonage, convent, structures and ground necessary for street access, parking, light, ventilation, and buildings and improvements required to maintain and safeguard the property owned by a nonprofit religious organization and wholly used for church purposes will be exempt from property taxation to the following extent:
(a) The exempt area must not exceed five acres of land, including ground that is occupied and unoccupied. Occupied ground is ground covered by the church, parsonage, convent, structures and ground necessary for street access, parking, light, ventilation, and buildings and improvements required for the maintenance and security of such property.
(b) The unoccupied land included within this five-acre limitation may not exceed one-third of an acre (14,400 square feet), unless additional unoccupied land is required to conform with state or local codes, zoning, or licensing requirements.
(4) Noncontiguous property. A parsonage or convent may qualify for exemption even if located on land that is not contiguous to the church property; however, the five acre limitation still applies, as does the limitation described in subsection (3)(b) of this rule with respect to unoccupied land.
(5) Exemption of caretaker's residence. A caretaker's residence located on church property may qualify for exemption if the following conditions are met:
(a) The caretaker's duties include regular surveillance and patrolling of the property;
(b) The size of the residence is reasonable and appropriate in light of the caretaker's duties and the size of the exempt property;
(c) The caretaker is required to provide either security or maintenance service described as follows:
(i) Security of the premises is provided by the caretaker, not merely by his or her presence, but by regular surveillance and patrolling of the grounds, locking gates if necessary, and generally acting in a manner to ensure the security of the property; or
(ii) Maintenance service is provided on a daily basis to open and close the premises, activate or shut down environmental systems, and provide other maintenance and custodial services necessary for the effective operation and utilization of the facilities; and
(d) The caretaker receives the use of the residence as part of his or her compensation and does not pay rent. Reimbursement of utilities expenses created by the caretaker's presence will not be considered as rent.
(6) Property not used for church purposes. Except as provided in this rule, when property is not used for church purposes, the exemption is lost. If a portion of the exempt property is used for commercial rather than church purposes, that portion must be segregated and taxed whether or not the proceeds received by the church from the commercial use are applied to church purposes.
(7) Loan, rental, or use of exempt property. If the rental income or donations, if any, are reasonable and do not exceed the maintenance and operation expenses attributable to the portion of the property being loaned or rented, the tax exempt status of any property exempt under this rule will not be affected by:
(a) The loan or rental to a nonprofit organization, association, corporation, or school to conduct eleemosynary activities;
(b) The rental or use of the property by any individual, group, or entity, where such rental or use is not otherwise authorized by this rule, for not more than 50 days in each calendar year, and the property is not used for pecuniary gain or to promote business activities for more than 15 of the 50 days in each calendar year. The 50 and 15-day limitations do not include days for setup and takedown activities preceding or following a meeting or event;
(c) The rental or use of the property by any individual, group, or entity, to conduct activities related to a qualifying farmers market for up to 53 days each calendar year. The 15-day and 50-day limitations provided in (b) of this subsection do not apply to the use of the property for pecuniary gain or for business activities if the property is used for activities related to a qualifying farmers market, and all income received from the rental or use of the exempt property is used for capital improvements to the exempt property, maintenance and operation of the exempt property, or exempt purposes. For purposes of this rule, "qualifying farmers market" has the same meaning as "qualifying farmers market" as defined in RCW 66.24.170; or
(d) An inadvertent use of the property in a manner inconsistent with the purpose for which the exemption was granted, if the inadvertent use is not part of a pattern of use. A pattern of use is presumed when an inadvertent use is repeated in the same assessment year or in two or more successive assessment years.
(8) Fund-raising events. The use of exempt property for fund-raising events sponsored by an exempt organization, association, or corporation does not subject the property to taxation if the fund-raising events are consistent with the purposes for which the exemption was granted. The term "fund-raising" means any revenue-raising event limited to less than five days in length, that disburses 51 percent or more of the profits realized from the event to the exempt nonprofit organization, association, or corporation that is holding the fund-raising, and that takes place on exempt property.
(a) Example 1. An exempt nonprofit social service agency holds an art auction in the church basement to raise funds. Since the fund-raising event is being held on exempt property, the event must be less than five days in length and 51 percent of the profits must be disbursed to the social service agency.
(b) Example 2. A church's auxiliary has a candy sale to raise funds for the church's program to provide meals to the homeless during which the candy is sold door-to-door by members of the auxiliary. Since the candy sale is not being held on the exempt property, the sale is not limited to five days in duration nor do 51 percent of the profits from this fund-raising event have to be remitted to the church.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 84.36.865. WSR 22-24-097, § 458-16-190, filed 12/6/22, effective 1/6/23. Statutory Authority: RCW 84.08.010, 84.08.070, 84.08.080, 84.36.389, and 84.36.865. WSR 15-07-021, § 458-16-190, filed 3/10/15, effective 4/10/15. Statutory Authority: RCW 84.08.010, 84.08.070 and chapter 84.36 RCW. WSR 94-07-008, § 458-16-190, filed 3/3/94, effective 4/3/94. Statutory Authority: RCW 84.36.865. WSR 82-22-060 (Order PT 82-8), § 458-16-190, filed 11/2/82; WSR 81-21-009 (Order PT 81-13), § 458-16-190, filed 10/8/81; Order PT 77-2, § 458-16-190, filed 5/23/77; Order PT 76-2, § 458-16-190, filed 4/7/76. Formerly WAC 458-12-195.]
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