Hibernian Soc. v. Thomas, No. 0219

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtSHAW; SANDERS, C.J., and BELL
Citation282 S.C. 465,319 S.E.2d 339
PartiesThe HIBERNIAN SOCIETY, Respondent-Appellant, v. W.O. THOMAS, Jr., County Treasurer, County of Charleston, State of South Carolina, and Walter Momeier, Finance Officer for the City of Charleston, and the City Council of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, Appellants, of whom Walter Momeier, Finance Officer for the City of Charleston, and the City Council of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, are Appellants- Respondents. Appeal of Walter MOMEIER. . Heard
Docket NumberNo. 0219
Decision Date20 March 1984

Page 339

319 S.E.2d 339
282 S.C. 465
The HIBERNIAN SOCIETY, Respondent-Appellant,
v.
W.O. THOMAS, Jr., County Treasurer, County of Charleston,
State of South Carolina, and Walter Momeier, Finance Officer
for the City of Charleston, and the City Council of
Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, Appellants,
of whom Walter Momeier, Finance Officer for the City of
Charleston, and the City Council of Charleston,
Charleston, South Carolina, are
Appellants- Respondents.
Appeal of Walter MOMEIER.
No. 0219.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard March 20, 1984.
Decided July 16, 1984.

Page 341

[282 S.C. 467] Deputy Atty. Gen. Joe L. Allen, Jr., Columbia; and Wade H. Logan, III, Charleston, for appellants.

Edward D. Buckley of Bailey & Buckley, Charleston, for respondent-appellant.

Robert N. Rosen, Charleston, for appellants-respondents.

[282 S.C. 468] SHAW, Judge:

The respondent-appellant Hibernian Society (the Society) seeks a refund of 1979 and 1980 ad valorem taxes paid under protest to the appellant-respondent City of Charleston and the appellant County of Charleston. The question presented for our decision is whether certain real property owned by the Society qualifies under Section 12-37-220B(12) South Carolina Code of Laws, 1976, for exemption from taxation. The circuit court ruled the property is exempt, but failed to order that interest be paid on the refund from the City as provided by Section 12-47-230 of the South Carolina Code of Laws, 1976. We affirm the ruling on tax exemption and reverse the failure to award interest.

The Society was formed March 17, 1799, and incorporated by act of the General Assembly December 19, 1805. It is a nonprofit organization exempt from state and federal income taxes. The Society was then, as now, an organization of men with various social and charitable objectives. Initially, the Society was formed to aid in the assistance of immigrants from Ireland. Today, its principal charitable orientation is toward the granting of college scholarships to worthy students.

As a social organization, the Society's membership and invited guests, when accompanied by a member, meet on an informal basis to associate with each other and enjoy good fellowship. The Society owns a building known as the Hibernian Hall which is the meeting place and is the subject of this lawsuit. It is located on Meeting Street in Charleston and serves as a place not only for social gathering but also for the conducting of the Society's meetings. The Hall contains a large meeting or ballroom, a library, a lounge, and a poolroom.

The Hall is open to its members 364 days out of each year. It is rented by members and non-members. None of these rentals is received by any individual member; rather, these funds, along with the annual membership dues, are used to maintain the building and to support the Society's charitable activities.

The Society is governed in a representative manner with officers being elected annually by the membership. Regular [282 S.C. 469] monthly meetings and an annual meeting are held to conduct the Society's charitable and social activities. All of these meetings are held at the Hall as are the Society's various social functions.

The circuit court ruled that the requirements of Section 12-37-220B(12) South Carolina Code of Laws 1976, are met by the Society. The statute reads as follows:

B. In addition to the exemptions provided in subsection A the following classes of property shall be exempt from ad valorem taxation subject to the provisions of Section 12-3-145:

(12) The property of any fraternal society, corporation or association, when the

Page 342

property is used primarily for the holding of its meetings and the conduct of its business and no profit or benefit therefrom shall inure to the benefit of any private stockholders or individuals.

The circuit court is correct in holding that before the Hall can be classified as tax exempt, the Society must satisfy the following three conditions:

(1) That it is a fraternal organization.

(2) That the Hall is used primarily for the holding of the Society's meetings and the conduct of its business.

(3) That no profit or benefit from such business shall inure to the benefit of any individual member.

An action for the recovery of ad valorem taxes paid under protest is an action at law. Elmwood Cemetery Association v. Wasson, 253 S.C. 76, 169 S.E.2d 148 (1969); Citadel Development Foundation v. City of Greenville, 279 S.C. 443, 308 S.E.2d 797 (S.C.App.1983). In an action at law, on appeal of a case tried without a jury, the findings of fact of the judge will not be disturbed upon appeal unless found to be without evidence which reasonably supports the judge's findings. Townes Associates Ltd. v. City of Greenville, 266 S.C. 81, 221 S.E.2d 773 (1976). As an appellate court, we have no power to weigh conflicting evidence in a law case. Only if there is no conflicting evidence to be weighed would the order of the circuit court be erroneous as a matter of law. Mims v. Coleman, 248 S.C. 235, 149 S.E.2d 623 (1966).

[282 S.C. 470] As a general rule, tax exemption statutes are strictly construed against the taxpayer. This rule of strict construction simply means that constitutional and statutory language creating tax exemptions will not be strained or liberally construed in the taxpayer's favor. Southeastern Kusan, Inc. v. S.C. Tax Commission, 276 S.C. 487, ...

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12 practice notes
  • Butler v. Lindsey, No. 1019
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 15, 1987
    ...establish his claim by adverse possession. Of course we have no power to weigh the evidence in this case. The Hibernian Society v. Thomas, 282 S.C. 465, 319 S.E.2d 339 (Ct.App.1984). But, even if we were authorized to weigh it, we would nevertheless hold that Lindsey has not proven adverse ......
  • Georgetown Cnty. v. Davis & Floyd, Inc., Appellate Case No. 2017-000234
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 13, 2019
    ...state have no ancestor other than the state and its citizens, nor do they possess a separate sovereignty. See Hibernian Soc'y v. Thomas , 282 S.C. 465, 472–73, 319 S.E.2d 339, 343–44 (Ct. App. 1984) ; see also City of Trenton v. State of New Jersey , 262 U.S. 182, 185–87, 43 S.Ct. 534, 67 L......
  • City of Charleston v. Government Employees Ins. Co., Civ. A. No. 2:93-1666-18.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • November 29, 1994
    ...the same as states for purposes of constitutional analysis of local taxation schemes. The City cites Hibernian Soc. v. Thomas, 282 S.C. 465, 319 S.E.2d 339 (Ct.App.1984), which states that "municipal corporations are not independent entities. They are political subdivisions of the stat......
  • Williams v. Moore, No. 5029.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 5, 2012
    ...108, 114 (Ct.App.1985) (appellate court cannot judge the weight or credibility of expert testimony on appeal); Hibernian Soc'y v. Thomas, 282 S.C. 465, 470, 319 S.E.2d 339, 342 (Ct.App.1984) (appellate court has no power to weigh conflicting evidence in a law case). We believe there is evid......
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12 cases
  • Butler v. Lindsey, No. 1019
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 15, 1987
    ...establish his claim by adverse possession. Of course we have no power to weigh the evidence in this case. The Hibernian Society v. Thomas, 282 S.C. 465, 319 S.E.2d 339 (Ct.App.1984). But, even if we were authorized to weigh it, we would nevertheless hold that Lindsey has not proven adverse ......
  • Georgetown Cnty. v. Davis & Floyd, Inc., Appellate Case No. 2017-000234
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • February 13, 2019
    ...state have no ancestor other than the state and its citizens, nor do they possess a separate sovereignty. See Hibernian Soc'y v. Thomas , 282 S.C. 465, 472–73, 319 S.E.2d 339, 343–44 (Ct. App. 1984) ; see also City of Trenton v. State of New Jersey , 262 U.S. 182, 185–87, 43 S.Ct. 534, 67 L......
  • City of Charleston v. Government Employees Ins. Co., Civ. A. No. 2:93-1666-18.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • November 29, 1994
    ...the same as states for purposes of constitutional analysis of local taxation schemes. The City cites Hibernian Soc. v. Thomas, 282 S.C. 465, 319 S.E.2d 339 (Ct.App.1984), which states that "municipal corporations are not independent entities. They are political subdivisions of the state." I......
  • State Bd. of Equalization v. City of Lander, No. 93-211
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • October 3, 1994
    ...or "principally." Malat v. Riddell, 383 U.S. 569, 572, 86 S.Ct. 1030, 1032, 16 L.Ed.2d 102 (1966). Accord Hibernian Soc. v. Thomas, 282 S.C. 465, 319 S.E.2d 339, 342-43 (1984) (applying this definition to ad valorem tax exemption statute). The term "primarily" may also be synonymous with "e......
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