The old cliché “the only things you can count on are death and taxes” is not necessarily true. While we know people are going to die, taxes seem to be a little more elusive.
For most people, taxes are just what you have to pay each month on your paycheck. There is property tax, sales tax, gasoline tax, school district, special service districts, municipal taxes, CARE or RAP taxes.
Taxes are, well, very taxing – just ask Brad Walton at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Provo.
While the mission of the church, declared online, is to “nurture a diverse and welcoming community committed to follow fearlessly wherever God leads and to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of Provo and the world “, there have been a few hiccups this year for the town’s legacy church.
As the church’s first elder, Walton received notice regarding Provo SDA’s tax-exempt status. It was a form that the church had to fill out to keep the exemption, like all the other churches in the city.
Walton said he returned the requested information a few days late.
Due to COVID-19, the church closed for several weeks, so the mail check was not always daily. Walton did not see the exemption documents that had to be completed.
In fact, Walton had never seen papers like these before in recent years.
“The County of Utah responded by saying that due to the failure to meet the deadline, we owed taxes up to $ 20,000 and were no longer considered tax exempt,” said Linda Walton, also a church alumnus.
As far back as they can remember, they have not had to file an exemption request. “We have been a church in Provo since 1887,” said Linda Walton.
It appears that until now, the national organization may have been dealing with church tax exemptions. This information is still to come.
Seventh-day Adventists are not alone in their tax filing conundrum.
Reverend Susan Toone of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church said she had the same story and was also a day or two away from the deadline.
“We got the same letter around January or February and almost missed the deadline,” Toone said. “My question was why we received the letter in the first place. We ended up filling it out and sending it just in time.
There was a change at St. Mary’s and there was no indication that they would have to file, no one knew, according to Toone.
Across the street at the Provo Community Congregational United Church of Christ, David Lewis said the church was under the jurisdiction of the national organization United Church of Christ.
“We don’t have to reapply every year. We are under the aegis of the United Church of Christ, ”said Lewis. “We need to file a property tax exemption request with the county.”
According to the Utah County Attorney’s Office, there is an abatement process whereby Seventh-day Adventists can come forward and have the tax situation resolved.
“I think the county is just trying to cross its T’s and point its I’s,” said Sherrie Hall Everett, spokesperson for the Utah County District Attorney’s Office.
According to the State Tax Commission, the church may have lost its exemption for this year, but it also has the option of appearing before the equalization board.
The county could also reduce or excuse the tax for a year. The church can challenge the assessment like any other taxpayer.
Letters to this effect are being mailed this week to individuals, nonprofits and churches. Applications must be returned by September 13.
Meanwhile, Brad Walton is checking with the church’s national organization to see if the ball fell from that level.
It is no small thing to ask a nonprofit organization like Seventh Day Adventists or any other church to find $ 20,000.
At the moment, the church can hope for an answer to its prayer that everything will work out and the generosity of the Departmental Commission, which is expected to approve the abatement of the payment for 2021.