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Volume 1 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 10

Opinions of Counsel index

Moral or mental improvement organizations (nonprofit organizations) (Boy Scouts) - Real Property Tax Law, § 421:

A large tract of land owned by the Boy Scouts of America and used by the Boy Scouts of America as a camp is exempt from real property taxation to the extent that the land is actually and exclusively used for “scouting” purposes.

Exemption for certain nonprofit corporations is authorized by section 421 of the Real Property Tax Law, the requirements of which may be summarized as three specific directives: (1) the property must be owned by a corporation organized exclusively for one or more of the exempt purposes enumerated in the statute; (2) the property must be used exclusively for those exempt purposes; and (3) no official, member or employee of the corporation may be entitled to receive a pecuniary profit except reasonable compensation for services rendered.

In general, Boy Scout organizations meet the requirements of section 421 that the corporation be organized exclusively for exempt purposes and that its operation be on a nonprofit basis.

It is possible, however, that a question may arise as to whether the property is used exclusively for exempt purposes.

In determining whether real property owned by a nonprofit organization or association is “used exclusively” for exempt purposes, as required by the statute, the courts have held that the property shall be entitled to the exemption when it is used in a manner which constitutes an integral or coordinate part of the overall corporate purposes. It must be made to appear that the use and need of the property by the corporation or institution “. . is necessary or fairly incidental to the maintenance of the institution for the carrying out of the purposes for which it was organized.” (People ex rel. Blackburn v. Barton, 63 App. Div. 581, 583, 71 N.Y.S. 933, 935; see also, In Application of Thomas S. Clarkson Memorial C.O.T., 274 App. Div. 732, 87 N.Y.S.2d 491, aff’d 300 N.Y. 595, 89 N.E.2d 882; St. Luke’s Hospital v. Boyland, 12 N.Y.2d 135, 187 N.E.2d 769, 237 N.Y.S.2d 308).

Accordingly, if it can be demonstrated that a large tract of land owned by the Boy Scouts is necessary for and is used exclusively as a camp for “scouting purposes”, it is entitled to a real property tax exemption.

March 17, 1971

Updated: