This section explains the property tax exemption available under the provisions of RCW 84.36.020
to churches, parsonages, and convents.
For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:
(a) "Church purposes" means the use of real and personal property owned by a nonprofit religious organization for religious worship or related administrative, educational, eleemosynary, and social activities. This definition is to be broadly construed. The term "use" includes real property owned by a nonprofit religious organization upon which a church shall be built.
(b) "Clergy person" means a person ordained or regularly licensed for religious service and includes both male and female individuals.
(c) "Commercial" refers to an activity or enterprise that has profit making as one of its primary purposes.
(d) "Convent" means a house or set of buildings occupied by a community of clergy or nuns devoted to religious life under a superior.
(e) "Eleemosynary" means charitable, including types of activities in which some social objective is served or general welfare is advanced.
(f) "Owned" means owned in fee or by contract purchase.
(g) "Parsonage" means a residence, owned by a church, that is occupied by a clergy person designated for a particular congregation and who holds regular services for that congregation.
(h) "Regular services" means religious services that are conducted on a routine and systematic basis at prearranged times, days, and places. This term includes religious services that are conducted by a visiting or circuit clergy person who may only hold services once a month in a particular location if that person is scheduled to conduct services on a routine and prearranged basis on the exempt property.
(i) "Unoccupied land" means land that is undeveloped, unused, and upon which no structures or improvements have been built.
(A) This land includes, but is not limited to, greenbelt, wetland, and other undeveloped areas contiguous to an exempt church, parsonage, or convent.
(B) This land does not include parking lots, landscaped grounds, or playing fields.
(3) Property exempt and extent of exemption.
All churches and the ground upon which a church is or shall be built, together with a parsonage, convent, structures and ground necessary for street access, parking, light, ventilation, and buildings and improvements required to maintain and safeguard the property owned by a nonprofit religious organization and wholly used for church purposes shall be exempt from property taxation to the following extent:
(a) The exempt area shall not exceed five acres of land, including ground that is occupied and unoccupied. Occupied ground is ground covered by the church, parsonage, convent, structures and ground necessary for street access, parking, light, ventilation, and buildings and improvements required for the maintenance and security of such property.
(b) The unoccupied land included within this five-acre limitation may not exceed one-third of an acre (fourteen thousand four hundred square feet), unless additional unoccupied land is required to conform with state or local codes, zoning, or licensing requirements.
(4) Noncontiguous property.
A parsonage or convent may qualify for exemption even if located on land that is not contiguous to the church property; however, the five acre limitation still applies, as does the limitation described in subsection (3)(b) of this section with respect to unoccupied land.
(5) Exemption of caretaker's residence.
A caretaker's residence located on church property may qualify for exemption if the following conditions are met:
(a) The caretaker's duties include regular surveillance and patrolling of the property;
(b) The size of the residence is reasonable and appropriate in light of the caretaker's duties and the size of the exempt property;
(c) The caretaker is required to provide either security or maintenance service described as follows:
(i) Security of the premises is provided by the caretaker, not merely by his or her presence, but by regular surveillance and patrolling of the grounds, locking gates if necessary, and generally acting in a manner to ensure the security of the property; or
(ii) Maintenance service is provided on a daily basis to open and close the premises, activate or shut down environmental systems, and provide other maintenance and custodial services necessary for the effective operation and utilization of the facilities; and
(d) The caretaker receives the use of the residence as part of his or her compensation and does not pay rent. Reimbursement of utilities expenses created by the caretaker's presence will not be considered as rent.
(6) Property not used for church purposes.
When property is not used for church purposes, the exemption is lost. If a portion of the exempt property is used for commercial rather than church purposes, that portion must be segregated and taxed whether or not the proceeds received by the church from the commercial use are applied to church purposes.
(7) Loan or rental of exempt property.
The tax exempt status of any property exempt under this section will not be affected if it is loaned or rented under the following conditions:
(a) The loan or rental must be to a nonprofit organization, association, corporation, or school;
(b) The loan or rental must be for an eleemosynary activity; and
(c) The rental income must be reasonable and devoted solely to the operation and maintenance of the property.
(8) Fund-raising activities.
The use of exempt property for fund-raising activities sponsored by an exempt organization, association, or corporation does not subject the property to taxation if the fund-raising activities are consistent with the purposes for which the exemption was granted. The term "fund-raising" means any revenue-raising activity limited to less than five days in length, that disburses fifty-one percent or more of the profits realized from the activity to the exempt nonprofit organization, association, or corporation that is holding the fund-raising, and that takes place on exempt property.
(a) Example 1. A nonprofit social service agency holds an art auction in the church basement to raise funds. Since the fund-raising activity is being held on exempt property, the activity must be less than five days in length and fifty-one percent of the profits must be disbursed to the social agency.
(b) Example 2. The women's auxiliary of the church has a candy sale to raise funds for the church's program to provide meals to the homeless during which the candy is sold door-to-door by members of the auxiliary. Since the candy sale is not being held on the exempt property, the sale is not limited to five days in duration nor do fifty-one percent of the profits from this fund-raising activity have to be remitted to the church.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 84.08.010, 84.08.070 and chapter 84.36 RCW. 94-07-008, § 458-16-190, filed 3/3/94, effective 4/3/94. Statutory Authority: RCW 84.36.865. 82-22-060 (Order PT 82-8), § 458-16-190, filed 11/2/82; 81-21-009 (Order PT 81-13), § 458-16-190, filed 10/8/81; Order PT 77-2, § 458-16-190, filed 5/23/77; Order PT 76-2, § 458-16-190, filed 4/7/76. Formerly WAC 458-12-195.]