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Charity to animals is basis for property tax exemption

Property taxes in Missouri and most states apply to all property that isn’t exempted by a provision of the state constitution or statutes. The exemptions from Missouri real estate taxes are listed in section 137.100 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri, which includes government property and

All property, real and personal, actually and regularly used exclusively for religious worship, for schools and colleges, or for purposes purely charitable and not held for private or corporate profit….

Note that the exemption is based on use not ownership.

A recent opinion of the Missouri court of appeals, M’Shoogy Animal Rescue v. Andrew County Assessor, reversed the determination of the State Tax Commission, which had indicated that rescue and medical treatment of  animals was not the kind of charitable use that would exempt a facility from property tax.

The Andrew County assessor and board of equalization and the State Tax Commission all argued that Missouri law had never allowed property tax exemptions for facilities devoted to charitable activities other than those charities that help humans.

Indeed, the court of appeals had to turn to cases from other states, many of which had reasoned that humans benefit from charity to animals, to find precedents for recognizing charity to animals as an activity benefiting humans, thereby justifying a charitable tax exemption.

Is this legislation from the bench? If so, should we agree with it?

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