Oregon is somewhat unique for adding unique layers of government not often replicated in other states. In addition to Metro Regional government in the Portland area, Oregon also sports a Tax Court that has a Magistrates Division. The Magistrate’s Division is supposed to serve as an easier venue for taxpayers to resolve disputes with the Oregon Department of Revenue and other taxing bodies. It’s one Oregon innovation that has worked well.
A recent decision by Magistrate Dan Robinson, however, ought to make Oregonians sit up and take notice. In siding with the Clatsop County Assessor, Robinson held that a Catholic Church’s Rectory (that is, the home of the Priest) was not tax exempt.
Robinson’s reasoning was odd in this matter. What it essentially boiled down to was that because the Rectory was physically separated from the Church and the local Priest could conceivably hold meetings at other homes, or take Parish visitors to restaurants for meals rather than cook in the Rectory, the home was not an integral part of the Parish’s work and therefore not tax exempt.
Oregon’s law providing a tax exemption seems to comfortably cover the Rectory: It says that “…houses of public worship and other additional buildings and property used solely for administrative, education, literary, benevolent, charitable, entertainment and recreational purposes by religious organizations….” are exempt.
Oregon’s ruling political Party is not particularly friendly to people of faith. However, a Legislative amendment to State law carving out a more specific inclusion of Rectories and other church-owned homes for church employees is probably warranted. Otherwise, the erosion of previously taken-for-granted tax exemptions could become a landslide.
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