Once again, Pittsburgh seems to be leading the way in challenging the property tax exemptions of nonprofits, particularly nonprofit hospitals. While the hospitals and other nonprofits complain that this means municipal officials are so desperate for revenue they'll ignore the good things charities accomplish, in fact the city officials have put their fingers on a poorly-kept secret: often those "charities" are for-profit businesses in sheep's clothing. As the Nonprofiteer pointed out at the time of the Illinois Supreme Court decision requiring Provena Hospital to pay property taxes, there's no inherent reason why an exemption for charities need apply to all nonprofits. If agencies provide charitable services, fine; if they don't, their entitlement to tax exemption is not self-evident.
American apocrypha: Someone asked Abe Lincoln how many legs a dog had, "if you call a tail a leg." "Four," replied the President, "because calling a tail a leg doesn't make it so." Similarly, calling a nonprofit a charity doesn't make it so, and nonprofits hoping to receive the benefits of charitable status had better be prepared to provide charitable benefits of their own.
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