Monday, September 1, 2014

To Help Other People at All Times - Kansas Court Finds BSA to be Humanitarian Organization

Originally Published on on March 5th,2012
I’ll never forget Mr. Gordon, the Scoutmaster of Troop 193 in Fairview, NJ.  He gave us each a coin to put in our left pocket each morning.  After we had done a good deed, we could move the coin to the right pocket.  That helped us remember to do a good deed every day.  The other scouting lesson that really sticks in my mind is “Stop the bleeding. Treat for shock.”  Hasn’t come up, but I still remember it.  Of course there is also the Boy Scout Oath:

So it is a little troubling that somebody would be saying that the Quivira Council of the Boy Scouts of America (serving central and south central Kansas) was not a humanitarian organization.  Of course it has to do with taxes.  That is what I write about.  The specific taxes in question were the property (“ad valorem”) taxes on Quivira Scout Ranch in Chautauqua County.  Quivira Scout Ranch is quite a place:

It has over 3,000 acres of land and 400 acres of water.  Camp No-Be-Bo-Sco, where I went as a kid seemed vast in its 380 acres.  Of course we lived on 37 by 100 lots and learned how to orient ourselves by using the New York City sky line.  I guess it is different in Kansas.  Regardless, the County decided to challenge the Camp’s tax exemption.  There were two issues.  One, which on its face seems possibly fair, was that there were some non-scouting money making activities going on.  The other was that:
the ranch was not regularly used by a community service organization for the predominant purpose of providing humanitarian services
The County won the first round of litigation in the Court of Tax Appeals, but COTA’s ruling was resoundingly overturned by the Court of Appeals of Kansas , particularly on the humanitarian issue.  The Court of Appeals cited the organization’s bylaws:
The corporation shall promote, within the territory covered by the charter from time to time granted it by the Boy Scouts of America and in accordance with the Congressional Charter, Bylaws, and Rules and Regulations of the Boy Scouts of America, the Scouting program of promoting the ability of boys and young men and women to do things for themselves and others, training them in Scoutcraft, and teaching them patriotism, courage, self-reliance, and kindred virtues, using the methods which are now in common use by the Boy Scouts of America. In achieving this purpose, emphasis shall be placed upon the educational program of the Boy Scouts of America and the oaths, promises, and codes of the Scouting program for character development, citizenship training, and mental and physical fitness.”
The Court’s comment was:
We are loathe to declare such noble purposes to be less than humanitarian. The promotion of self-reliance; the encouragement of good deeds for others; the development of patriotism, courage, and character; and the advancement of mental and physical fitness certainly fit within the statutory requirement of “improv[ing] the physical, mental, social, cultural or spiritual welfare of others.” If the Boy Scout program as defined by BSA’s bylaws is less than humanitarian in its purpose, it would be difficult to conceive of many organizations that could meet the statutory definition.

The other issue was how extensive the cash generating activities were relative to the Scouting activities.
The executive director testified that one Scouting day equals a 24-hour period where an individual Boy Scout spends time on the ranch. His calculation indicated that, for this period, Scouting use-days were 14,165, whereas only 6 individuals hunted on the ranch for 5 days each, and from May 1, 2008, thru October 1, 2008, 45 cow/calf pairs were permitted to graze on the ranch. Although more grazing was permitted by the 2009 lease, we are persuaded that this use-day analysis illustrates that the nonexempt uses were minimal in scope and insubstantial in nature.
Even more persuasive, however, were BSA’s revenue comparisons. BSA provided a comparison of both exempt and nonexempt ranch revenues and expenses for the years 2006-2008. Total Scouting revenue for the year 2006 was $257,571. Of that amount, $11,975 came from non-Scouting revenue or 4% of the total revenue.
I am really glad that Quivira Council won this case, but I need to move along.  It is almost 8:00 AM and I haven’t done my good deed yet.

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