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PDFWAC 458-16-300

Public meeting hallPublic meeting placeCommunity meeting hall.

(1) Introduction. This rule explains the property tax exemption available under the provisions of RCW 84.36.037 for real and personal property owned by a nonprofit organization, association, or corporation and used exclusively as a public meeting hall, public meeting place, or community meeting hall.
(2) Definitions. For purposes of this rule, the following definitions apply:
(a) "Affiliate" means an association, organization, or corporation that is a branch, unit, chapter, or appendant body of the property owner.
(b) "Property" means real or personal property owned by a nonprofit organization, association, or corporation.
(c) "Public gathering" means a meeting or event in which attendance is not limited or restricted to only members of the organization, association, or corporation that owns the property or members of an affiliate. Refer to subsection (4) of this rule for examples of public gatherings.
(3) Exemption. Real and personal property owned by a nonprofit organization, association, or corporation and used exclusively as a public assembly hall, public meeting place, or community meeting hall will be exempt from taxation under the following conditions:
(a) Exclusive use. The property is used exclusively for public gatherings and is available to any individual, organization, association, or corporation that may desire to use or rent the property. Membership in the organization, association, or corporation that owns the property or membership in an affiliate of the property owner cannot be a requirement or condition for those persons desiring to rent or use the property.
(i) Availability of property. To ensure the public is aware of the availability of the property, the property owner must provide written notification to the public that the property is available for use or rental. This written notification may include, but is not limited to, advertising in community newsletters or websites, on facility reader boards or signs, or in local newspapers. The property owner must make substantial and actual efforts to ensure that the public knows that the property is available for use or rental. Examples of substantial and actual efforts by the owner to ensure public awareness of the property availability can be found in subsection (4) of this rule.
(ii) Qualifying use of property. In a calendar year, the total number of hours used for public gatherings, as that term is defined in this rule, held at the property must exceed the total number of hours used for nonpublic gatherings held at the property, regardless of whether the owner, the owner's affiliate, or renter, hosted or benefited from the public gathering.
(b) Exemption for real property - Area. The area of real property exempt under this rule may not exceed one acre including the building(s), the land under the building(s), and any additional area needed for parking.
(c) Statement of availability and fees required. The owner of the property must prepare and make available upon request a schedule of fees, a policy on the availability of the facility, and any restrictions on the use of the facility. The owner may impose conditions or restrictions reasonably necessary to safeguard the property and to comply with the purposes of this exemption.
(d) Annual summary required. The owner must provide the department of revenue with a detailed summary containing the following information regarding the manner in which the exempt property was used during the preceding year:
(i) The name of the person, organization, association, or corporation that used the property;
(ii) The date(s) on which the property was used;
(iii) The purpose for which the property was used;
(iv) Whether the meeting or event was a public gathering;
(v) The duration of the meeting or event;
(vi) The methods used to advertise the availability of the property to the public;
(vii) The income derived from the rental of the property; and
(viii) The expenses incurred relating to the use of the property.
(4) Examples. Examples found in this rule identify a number of facts and then state a conclusion. These examples should be used only as a general guide. The tax results of other situations must be determined after a review of all facts and circumstances.
(a) Example 1. Prior to a member only meeting, a fraternal organization hosts a dinner at its facility that is open to nonmembers. The fraternal organization advertised the dinner on its website and reader board, which clearly conveyed the public could attend. The dinner and the member only meeting are considered two separate events. The dinner is considered a public gathering because nonmembers are allowed to attend. However, the member only meeting following the dinner is not considered a public gathering.
(b) Example 2. A boys youth organization hosts a spaghetti feed at its facility to raise money for a camping trip. The organization advertised the spaghetti feed in the local newspaper, which stated nonmembers are allowed to attend. The spaghetti feed is considered a public gathering.
(c) Example 3. A girls youth organization has weekly club meetings at its facility. The weekly meetings are advertised on the organization's public website as being open for nonmembers to also attend. The weekly club meetings are considered public gatherings.
(d) Example 4. A member only organization allows its public assembly hall to be rented for weddings, receptions, reunions, funerals, and other special events. The organization advertises the availability of its facility for rental by the public in a community newsletter. There are no restrictions on who can rent the hall, so these events are considered public gatherings. However, if the ability to rent the hall is based on membership in the owning organization or membership in an affiliate of the owning organization, then the events would not be considered public gatherings.
(e) Example 5. A garden club offers horticultural workshops for a fee at its facility one day each month. The workshop is advertised in the community newsletter as being open to anyone who wants to attend. The workshops are considered public gatherings because members of the public can attend, even if registration and/or payment are required. Although a fee is charged, the monthly workshops offered by the garden club do not count towards the fifteen day pecuniary gain limitation described in subsection (5)(a) of this rule because the fee only covers the materials and supplies necessary to conduct the workshop.
(f) Example 6. A member only organization rents a public assembly hall for its monthly board meetings. The board meetings are not open to the public. The organization that owns the facility advertises its availability to the public in the local newspaper. The two organizations are not affiliated with each other. Although the monthly board meetings are not open to the public, they are considered public gatherings for the purpose of this exemption because the rental of the facility is not being restricted to only members of the owning organization or to members of affiliates of the owning organization.
(5) Use of property for pecuniary gain or to promote business activities. If a public meeting hall, public meeting place, or community meeting hall exempt under subsection (3) of this rule is used for pecuniary gain or to promote business activities, the property tax exemption will be lost. However, the exemption will not be lost if:
(a) The exempt property is used for pecuniary gain or to promote business activities fifteen days or less in an assessment year;
(b) In a county with a population of less than twenty thousand people, the exempt property is used to promote the following business activities: Dance lessons; art classes; or music lessons. The rental income or donations, if any, must be reasonable and not exceed the maintenance and operation expenses attributable to the portion of the property loaned or rented;
(c) The exempt property is used to conduct a farmers market, as defined in RCW 66.24.170, for fifty-three days or less each assessment year. The rental income or donations, if any, must be reasonable and not exceed the maintenance and operation expenses attributable to the portion of the property loaned or rented; or
(d) All income received from the rental or use of the exempt property is used for capital improvements to the exempt property, maintenance and operation expenses of the exempt property, or exempt purposes.
(6) Additional requirements. Any nonprofit organization, association, or corporation that applies for a property tax exemption under this rule must also comply with the provisions of WAC 458-16-165. WAC 458-16-165 provides additional conditions and requirements that must be satisfied to obtain a property tax exemption pursuant to RCW 84.36.037.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 84.08.010 and 84.36.865. WSR 16-16-005, § 458-16-300, filed 7/20/16, effective 8/20/16. Statutory Authority: RCW 84.36.865, RCW 84.36.037, 84.36.805, 84.36.815, 84.36.825 and 84.36.840. WSR 98-18-006, § 458-16-300, filed 8/20/98, effective 9/20/98. Statutory Authority: RCW 84.08.010, 84.08.070 and chapter 84.36 RCW. WSR 94-07-008, § 458-16-300, filed 3/3/94, effective 4/3/94. Statutory Authority: RCW 84.36.865. WSR 81-21-010 (Order PT 81-14), § 458-16-300, filed 10/8/81.]
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