The old cliché, “the only things you can depend on are death and taxes,” is not necessarily true. While we know folks are going to die, taxes seem to be a bit more elusive.
For most people, taxes are just what you have to pay out of you paycheck every month. There is property tax, sales tax, gasoline tax, school district, special service districts, city taxes, CARE or RAP taxes.
Taxes are, well, very taxing — just ask Brad Walton at Provo’s Seventh-day Adventist Church.
While the church’s mission, stated online, is to “nurture a diverse and welcoming community, committed to following fearlessly wherever God is leading us and make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of Provo and the world,” there have been a few hiccups this year for the city’s legacy church.
As first elder at the church, Walton received a notice concerning Provo SDA’s tax exempt status. It was a form the church needed to file to keep the exemption, like all the other churches in the city.
Walton said he returned the information requested, a few days late.
Due to COVID-19, the church closed for several weeks, so checking the mail was not always a daily occurrence. Walton did not see the exemption papers that needed completion.
In fact, Walton had never seen papers like them before in past years.
“Utah County replied saying, because of the missed deadline, we owed taxes up to $20,000 and we were no longer considered tax exempt,” said Linda Walton, also an elder in the church.
For as long as they can remember, they have not had to file for exemption. “We have been a church in Provo since 1887,” Linda Walton said.
It appears that until now, the national organization may have been taking care of the church’s tax exemptions. That information is still forthcoming.
The Seventh-day Adventist’s are not alone in their tax-filing conundrum.
The Rev. Susan Toone at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church said she has the same story and was within a day or two of missing the deadline also.
“We got the same letter around January or February and almost missed the deadline,” Toone said. “My question was why we got the letter in the first place. We ended up filling it out and sending it in just in time.”
There has been a change over at St. Mary’s and there was no indication that they would have to file, no one knew about it, 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 United Church of Christ national organization.
“We do not have to reapply each year. We are under the United Church of Christ umbrella,” Lewis said. “We do have to file with the county for property tax exemption.”
According to the Utah County Attorney’s office, there is an abatement process where Seventh-day Adventists can come in and have the tax situation taken care of.
“I think the county is just trying to cross its T’s and dot its I’s,” said Sherrie Hall Everett, Utah County Attorney’s office spokeswoman.
According to the State Tax Commission, the church may have lost its exemption for this year but they also have the opportunity to go before the board of equalization.
The county could also abate or excuse the tax for one year. The church can contest the valuation just like any other taxpayer.
Letters to that effect are being mailed out this week for individuals and nonprofit organizations and churches. The requests are due back Sept. 13.
In the meantime, Brad Walton is checking with the national church organization to see if the ball was dropped from that level.
It is no small thing to ask a nonprofit organization like the Seventh-day Adventists or any other church to come up with $20,000.
Right now, the church can hope for an answer to its prayer that it will all work out and for the generosity of the County Commission, which would have to approve the abatement of the payment for 2021.