5 N.E.3d 1195 (Ind. Tax 2014), 49T10-1201-TA-4, Fraternal Order of Eagles #3988, Inc. v. Morgan County Prop. Tax Assessment Bd. of Appeals

Docket Nº:49T10-1201-TA-4
Citation:5 N.E.3d 1195
Opinion Judge:WENTWORTH, J.
Party Name:FRATERNAL ORDER OF EAGLES #3988, INC., Petitioner, v. MORGAN COUNTY PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT BOARD OF APPEALS and MORGAN COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondents
Attorney:ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: ROBERT H. HENDREN, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Lansdale, PA. ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENTS: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA, JOHN P. LOWREY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, Indianapolis, IN.
Case Date:March 18, 2014
Court:Tax Court of Indiana
 
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Page 1195

5 N.E.3d 1195 (Ind. Tax 2014)

FRATERNAL ORDER OF EAGLES #3988, INC., Petitioner,

v.

MORGAN COUNTY PROPERTY TAX ASSESSMENT BOARD OF APPEALS and MORGAN COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondents

No. 49T10-1201-TA-4

Tax Court of Indiana

March 18, 2014

Page 1196

ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION OF THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW.

ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: ROBERT H. HENDREN, ATTORNEY AT LAW, Lansdale, PA.

ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENTS: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA, JOHN P. LOWREY, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, Indianapolis, IN.

OPINION

Page 1197

WENTWORTH, J.

This case concerns whether the Indiana Board of Tax Review erred in determining that the Fraternal Order of Eagles #3988, Inc. was not entitled to either a fraternal beneficiary association exemption or a charitable purposes exemption for the 2006 tax year. The Court affirms.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Eagles, a mutual benefit corporation, was incorporated in 1999 under Indiana's Nonprofit Corporation Act of 1991.1 Its bylaws state that its mission is to " unite[] fraternally in the spirit of liberty, truth, justice, and equality, [and] to make human

Page 1198

life more desirable by lessening its ills, and by promoting peace, prosperity, gladness and hope." (Cert. Admin. R. at 243.) Accordingly, Eagles stated motto is " People helping People." (Cert. Admin. R. at 399.)

During the 2006 tax year, Eagles owned a 10,500 square foot lodge situated on 2.23 acres of land in Mooresville, Indiana. Eagles used its property to raise funds for charitable organizations, to collect donations for needy families, and to host private events for its members (e.g., dances, pool tournaments, karaoke, and bingo). In addition, Eagles occasionally allowed other charitable organizations to use its property free-of-charge. On May 15, 2006, Eagles filed an " Application for Property Tax Exemption" with the Morgan County Property Tax Assessment Board of Appeals (PTABOA) requesting either a fraternal beneficiary association exemption or a charitable purposes exemption for the 2006 tax year on its real and personal property. On August 28, 2006, the PTABOA denied Eagles' application in its entirety.

Eagles subsequently appealed to the Indiana Board. On August 23, 2011, the Indiana Board held a hearing during which Eagles presented, among other things, its charitable donation records for 2003 through 2006,2 its monthly profit/loss statements for 2005, several affidavits,3 and a Usage Study4 to show that it used its property for fraternal and charitable purposes. On December 9, 2011, the Indiana Board issued a final determination in which it held that Eagles was not entitled to either the fraternal beneficiary association exemption or the charitable purposes exemption.

On January 20, 2012, Eagles filed this original tax appeal. The Court heard oral argument on October 25, 2012. Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court gives great deference to final determinations of the Indiana Board when it acts within the scope of its authority. Tipton Cnty. Health Care Found., Inc. v. Tipton Cnty. Assessor, 961 N.E.2d 1048, 1050 (Ind. Tax Ct. 2012). Consequently, the Court will reverse a final determination of the Indiana Board only if it is:

(1) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law;

(2) contrary to constitutional right, power, privilege, or immunity; (3) in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations; (4) without observance of procedure required by law; or Page 1199

(5) unsupported by substantial or reliable evidence.

Ind. Code § 33-26-6-6(e)(1)-(5) (2014).

ANALYSIS

On appeal, Eagles argues that the Indiana Board's final determination must be reversed for two reasons. First, Eagles claims that the Indiana Board's determination that it failed to establish a prima facie case that it was entitled to the fraternal beneficiary association exemption under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-10-23 is both contrary to law and unsupported by substantial evidence.5 Second, Eagles claims that the Indiana Board's determination that it did not establish a prima facie case that it was entitled to the charitable purposes exemption under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-10-16 is also contrary to law and unsupported by substantial evidence.

The fraternal beneficiary association exemption

During the 2006 tax year, Indiana Code § 6-1.1-10-23 provided that " tangible property is exempt from property taxation if it is owned by a fraternal beneficiary association which is incorporated, organized, or licensed under the laws of this state." Ind. Code § 6-1.1-10-23(a) (2006). The statute further provided that a fraternal beneficiary association's real property is exempt when " it is actually occupied and exclusively used by the association in carrying out the purpose for which it was incorporated, organized, or licensed." I.C. § 6-1.1-10-23(b). Accordingly, a taxpayer seeking an exemption under Indiana Code § 6-1.1-10-23 must first provide evidence to show that it is a fraternal beneficiary association.

In its final determination, the Indiana Board relied on the...

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