Payments in Lieu of Taxes – Balancing Municipal and Nonprofit Interests

Source: Daphne A. Kenyon, and Adam H. Langley, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Policy Focus Report, November 2010

From the summary:
Charitable nonprofit organizations, including private universities, nonprofit hospitals, museums, soup kitchens, churches, and retirement homes, are exempt from property taxation in all 50 states. At the same time, these nonprofits impose a cost on municipalities by consuming public services, such as police protection and roads. Payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) are payments made voluntarily by these nonprofits as a substitute for property taxes.

In recent years, municipal revenue pressures have led to heightened interest in PILOTs, and over the last decade they have been used in at least 117 municipalities in at least 18 states. Large cities collecting PILOTs include Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Boston has one of the longest standing and the most revenue productive PILOT program in the United States.

PILOTs are a tool to address two problems with the property tax exemption provided to nonprofits. First, the exemption is poorly targeted, since it mainly benefits nonprofits with the most valuable property holdings, rather than those providing the greatest public benefit. Second, a geographic mismatch often exists between the costs and benefits of the property tax exemption, since the cost of the exemption in terms of forgone tax revenue is borne by the municipality in which a nonprofit is located, but the public benefits provided by the nonprofit often extend to the rest of the state or even the whole nation.

Leave a Reply