Tri County Christian Church v. Shipman (St. Charles)

February 22nd, 2012

State Tax Commission of Missouri






v.)Appeal No.10-32532












On February 22, 2012, Senior Hearing Officer W. B. Tichenor entered his Decision and Order (Decision) affirming the assessment by the St. Charles County Board of Equalization and denying Complainant’s claim of exemption for taxation under Section 137.100(5), RSMo.

Complainant filed its Application for Review of the Decision.[1]Respondent filed his Response.[2]Complainant filed its Reply.[3]


Standard Upon Review

The Hearing Officer as the trier of fact may consider the testimony of the witnesses and give it as much weight and credit as he may deem it entitled to when viewed in connection with all other circumstances.The Hearing Officer is not bound by the testimony of witnesses but may believe all or none of the testimony and accept it in part or reject it in part.[4]The Commission will not lightly interfere with the Hearing Officer’s Decision and substitute its judgment on the credibility of witnesses and weight to be given the evidence for that of the Hearing Officer as the trier of fact.[5]


The Decision of the Hearing Officer was reached on a narrow but well reasoned basis.There is no dispute that the property is owned by a not-for profit religious entity.The evidence supports the Hearing Officer’s determination that the property is not be operated for any purpose, but only being held for development.The Hearing Officer made an extensive analysis of the Franciscan test, the controlling phrase “actual and regular exclusive use,” as well as both the Commission’s First Baptist Church of Raytown decision and the St. Louis Council of Boy Scouts case.[6]The arguments advanced by Respondent in support of the Hearing Officer Decision are well reasoned and well supported.The Commission will not further burden this Order by reciting at length the points argued and the reasoning and cases cited in support thereof.Suffice it to say that Respondent’s Response added additional basis and logic to support the determinations of the Hearing Officer.

A review of the record in the present appeal provides support for the determinations made by the Hearing Officer.There is competent and substantial evidence to establish a sufficient foundation for the Decision of the Hearing Officer.A reasonable mind could have conscientiously reached the same result based on a review of the entire record. The Commission finds no basis to support a determination that the Hearing Officer acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner or abused his discretion as the trier of fact and concluder of law in this appeal.[7]

The Hearing Officer did not err in his determinations as challenged by Complainant.

Complainant’s Due Process Argument

Complainant in its Post-Trial Brief asserted that because the Assessor had changed the Complainant’s property from being exempt prior to 2010 to being taxable for 2010 that this change in assessment was “arbitrary and capricious.”Complainant then further developed this argument in its Application for Review to assert a violation of Missouri and United States Constitutions due process provisions.The Hearing Officer did not address this argument.The Commission will now do so.

The argument is not well taken.The very fact that Complainant proceeded before the Board of Equalization and then on to the Commission to challenge the change in assessment demonstrates that the rights of due process (to appeal the Assessor’s action) were adequately safe-guarded for Complainant.It appears that Complainant is asserting that because the Assessor in prior years, based upon representations of planned construction of a house of worship, granted a tax exempt status that he is bound by the decision so long as Complainant owns the property irrespective of the actual and regular use of the property.

If an exempt property is not being used on January 1 for an exempt purpose, the Assessor must cease the exemption.The Assessor, in this instance, simply made a re-evaluation of the earlier exemption decision.He was persuaded that the exemption that had been granted in earlier years should not be continued for 2010.Complainant has provided no case law to establish that it has a vested property right in the continuation of the exemption irrespective of the use of the property under appeal.There simply is no due process violation involved in this appeal.The Assessor properly carried out his statutory duties with regard to Complainant’s property.


The Commission upon review of the record and Decision in this appeal, finds no grounds upon which the Decision of the Hearing Officer should be reversed or modified.Accordingly, the Decision is affirmed, exemption is denied.The Decision and Order of the hearing officer, including the findings of fact and conclusions of law therein, is incorporated by reference, as if set out in full, in this final decision of the Commission.

Judicial review of this Order may be had in the manner provided in Sections 138.432 and 536.100 to 536.140, RSMo within thirty days of the mailing date set forth in the Certificate of Service for this Order.

If judicial review of this decision is made, any protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accordance with this appeal shall be held pending the final decision of the courts unless disbursed pursuant to Section 139.031.8, RSMo.

If no judicial review is made within thirty days, this decision and order is deemed final and the Collector of St. Charles County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall disburse the protested taxes presently in an escrow account in accord with the decision on the underlying assessment in this appeal.

SO ORDERED June 28, 2012.


Bruce E. Davis, Chairman

Randy B. Holman, Commissioner







Assessment by Assessor that subject property was not tax exempt was sustained by County Board of Equalization.Hearing Officer finds subject property to not be exempt under Section 137.100(5), assessment AFFIRMED, true value in money as of January 1, 2010, $313,630, commercial assessed value of $100,360.

Complainant appeared by Counsels, Scott Schatzman and Donald Singer, Singer and Schatzman, St. Louis, Missouri.

Respondent appeared by Counsels, Charissa Mayes, Assistant County Counselor and Joseph W. Smith, Assistant County Counselor.

Case heard and decided by Senior Hearing Officer, W. B. Tichenor


Complainant appeals, on the ground of religious exemption and misclassification, the decision of the St. Charles County Board of Equalization, which sustained the assessment of the subject property.The Commission takes this appeal to determine whether the subject property is exempt from taxation under Section 137.100(5), RSMo for the tax year 2010 and whether the property is properly classified as commercial real property.

The Hearing Officer, having considered all of the competent evidence upon the whole record, enters the following Decision and Order.


1.Jurisdiction.Jurisdiction over this appeal is proper.Complainant timely appealed to the State Tax Commission from the decision of the St. Charles County Board of Equalization.A hearing was conducted on September 20, 2011, at the St. Charles County Administration Building, St. Charles, Missouri.

2.Appeal Grounds.The Complaint for Review of Assessment had the grounds of Exemption – Religious, Charitable, and Educational, and Misclassification – Residential and Agricultural marked.Complainant did not challenge the appraised value (true value in money) that was placed on the subject property.No evidence was filed and exchanged that established either a residential or agricultural use of the property under appeal.Accordingly, the claim of misclassification was deemed to have been abandoned at hearing.[8]

3.Assessment.The assessor appraised the property at $313,630 as commercial property, an assessed value of $100,360.[9]The Board sustained the assessment.[10]

4.Subject Property.The subject property is located at 2749 West Pearce Boulevard, Wentzville, Missouri.The property is identified by map parcel number 4-0017-So28-00-14.1 and Assessor’s Account number T060100363.The property consists of a six acre unimproved lot.[11]

5.Complainant’s Evidence.Complainant offered the following exhibits into evidence.




Resume of Pastor Henry Albert McGee


Articles of Incorporation


Amended Constitution and By-Laws


Exemption from Missouri Sales and Use Tax


EIN Assignment Letter from IRS


IRS Correspondence – 9/15/06 – Tax Exempt Status Information


Financial Statements – 2003 – 2010


Construction Plans – 10/30/06


Construction Plans – 1/17/07


Loan Application Declination Letters


Settlement Statement on Purchase of Property


Appraisal – 6/24/05


Appraisal – 3/5/07


Appraisal – 6/21/10


List of Lenders Church Applied for Financing to Build the Church


Photograph of Church sign on subject property

F-2 – F-4

Pictures of subject property


Picture of Youth Group on the subject property


Picture of Church Elder working on the subject property


Written Direct Testimony of Pastor Henry Albert McGee


Written Direct Testimony of Barbara Stevenson


Written Direct Testimony of Youth Minister Keith Woockman


There were no objections to the exhibits and the same were received into evidence.[12]

6.Respondent’s Evidence.Respondent offered the following exhibits into evidence.




Assessor’s Letter dated 12/14/05 to Tri County Christian Church


Tri-County Christian Church letter dtd 4/12/07 to Matt Brown


BOE Decision letter – undated and unsigned


Photograph of subject property


Photograph of subject property


Written Direct Testimony of Matt Brown, Special Assessment Manager


Complainant filed various objections to certain Questions and Answers in Exhibit 6.The Hearing Officer ruled on said objections in his Order Ruling on Objections, 7/15/11.Said Order is incorporated by reference into this Decision as if set out in full herein.

Complainant objected to and moved to strike and debar the testimony of Mr. Brown. The Hearing Officer issued his Order Striking Last Sentence of Answer to Question 20 (sic-18) of Exhibit 6, 9/20/11.[13]Said Order is incorporated by reference into this Decision as if set out in full herein.

7.Specific Applicable Facts.The following facts were established:

a.Complainant is a nonprofit Missouri corporation.[14]


b.Complainant is organized under the following relevant purposes: (i) exclusively charitable, educational, and tax exempt within the meaning of Section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or the corresponding section of any future Federal Tax Code; (ii) to promote Christianity and related activities and practices; and (iii) to provide membership who meet the membership criteria set forth in the New Testament, including the basic principles of hearing about Jesus Christ, believing in Jesus Christ, repenting of sin, confessing faith in Jesus Christ and being baptized.[15]


c.Complainant operates as a New Testament Church,[16] and is therefore a religious entity.


d.Complainant purchased the subject property in 2005 for the purpose of constructing a church building or facility.The intended use of the property as of January 1, 2010 was the same as at the time of purchase.[17]


e.Complainant retained the services of an architect – Design Alliance – to prepare plans for A New Worship Center for Tri-County Christian Church.[18]


f.Complainant received a Proposal for construction of an 8,000+ square foot facility which had a total cost in excess of $500,000 and would require a loan as of September, 2009 in the amount of approximately $600,000.[19]


g.Complainant has sought financing to build its worship facility from twelve different lenders and has been unable to obtain financing to commence construction.[20]


h.Complainant maintains a sign on the subject property with the follow painted thereon:[21]


Future Home of


Christian Church

Albert McGee Pastor

For Information call 636-327-6614

Sunday Services 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Presently meeting at American Legion Hall, Wentzville, Old Bus. 61


i.The subject land has been used in the spring, summer and fall by the youth of the church for worship/prayer services, activities including, tag, capture the flag, Frisbee, volleyball and badminton.There have been cleaning days to remove trees, brush and branches.Fellowship for the church membership with bonfires and picnics has also taken place on the subject site.[22]


j.A portion of the property appears to have been cleared and is available for recreational activities by the youth group of the Church.[23]No evidence established how much of the six acres as actually utilized for youth activities.

k.The property is not being held for investment purposes and no profits, rents or income is generated from the Complainant’s use of the property.[24]The property is being held for the future development by the Church of a worship center.


8.Subject Property Not Exempt.Complainant’s evidence was not substantial and persuasive to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Board and establish the subject property to be exempt on the grounds of religious, charitable or educational use.See, Statutory Provision for Exemption and Franciscan Analysis, infra.



The Commission has jurisdiction to hear this appeal and correct any assessment shown to be unlawful, unfair, arbitrary or capricious.The hearing officer shall issue a decision and order affirming, modifying or reversing the determination of the board of equalization, and correcting any assessment which is unlawful, unfair, improper, arbitrary, or capricious.[25]

Burden of Proof

Complainant has the burden to present substantial evidence to rebut the presumption of correct assessment by the Board of Equalization.[26]In order to meet this burden in an appeal seeking exemption from taxation, the Complainant must meet the substantial burden to establish that the property falls within an exempted class under the provisions of Section 137.100.[27]

Respondent impresses upon the Hearing Officer the position that Complainant’s burden of proof is “beyond a reasonable doubt” citing to the Missouri Church of Scientology v. STC case.[28]The Hearing Officer is familiar with the reasonable doubt language of the Scientology Court.The language was borrowed from the case of Fitterer v. Crawford,[29] citing to an older Massachusetts case.

The Hearing Officer has been unable to find any other exemption case after Scientology where a Missouri court has held a taxpayer to the reasonable doubt standard.In Central States Christian Endeavors Ass’n v. Nelson,[30] although the Court found that the taxpayer had the burden of establishing that its property falls within the exempted class, citing to Scientology, it made no reference to the beyond a reasonable doubt standard.Accordingly, it would appear that the beyond a reasonable doubt standard has either been abandoned, or in point of fact was not the actual standard in Scientology, given that the exemption claim failed in that case on other grounds.[31]

It is well established that taxation is the rule and exemption from taxation is the exception.Exemption is not favored in the law.[32]Complainant carries the burden to establish that the actual use of the property entitles it to an exemption under the applicable statute.Complainant seeks exemption of its property from taxation pursuant to Section 137.100(5).

Statutory Provision for Exemption

The following subjects are exempt from taxation for state, county or localpurposes:



(5) All property, real and personal, actually and regularly used exclusively for religious worship, for schools and colleges, purposes purely charitable and not held for private or corporate profit, except that the exemption herein granted does not include real property not actually used or occupied for the purpose of the organization but held or used as investment even though the income or rentals received therefore is used wholly for religious, educational or charitable purposes;




More specifically, the Complaint for Review of Assessment asserts that the subject property should be exempt from taxation on religious, charitable and educational grounds.

Educational Use

The educational use provided under the statute relates to the operation of schools, colleges and universities.No evidence was presented to establish that any future use of the property would be for the erection of a building or buildings that would house a school, college or university.Any religious education would dovetail into any established religious use.

Complainant’s substantial burden of proof to establish an educational use of the property under appeal has not been met in the present case.

Charitable Use

Charity is “aid given to the poor, the suffering, or the general community for religious, educational, economic, public-safety, or medical purposes.”[33]Charitable means “dedicated to a general public purpose, usually for the benefit of needy people who cannot pay for benefits received.”[34]Although the definition of charity includes a “religious” component, within the framework of the controlling statute charitable properly addresses purposes other than religious.

Here again, any charitable activity of Complainant that might be included in its overall mission and ministry as a church would be included in any religious use that might be established for the property under appeal.No evidence was presented to establish that any future use of the property would be for the erection of a building or buildings that would be dedicated to a general public purpose of providing benefits to persons in need.

Complainant’s substantial burden of proof to establish a charitable use of the property under appeal has not been met in the present case.

Religious Use

The only remaining basis for the granting of an exemption from taxation for Complainant’s real property rests upon the religious ground.Specifically, as applicable to this case, the claim being that the subject property is actually and regularly used exclusively for religious worship.It is necessary then to examine the controlling case law to determine whether the Complainant’s use of the subject property qualifies for exemption from ad valorem taxation.

Franciscan Analysis

The Hearing Officer now turns to an analysis of whether the evidence meets the burden of proof that the subject property is “actually and regularly used exclusively for religious worship, and not held for private or corporate profit” under the three prong test set forth by the Missouri Supreme Court in Franciscan Tertiary Province v. STC.[35]The court said:

The first prerequisite for property to be exempt as charitable under §137.100 is that it be owned and operated on a not-for-profit basis.It must be dedicated un-conditionally to the charitable activity in such a way that there will be no profit, presently or prospectively, to individuals or corporations.Any gain achieved in use of the building must be devoted to attainment of the charitable objectives of the project…. [A]n exemption will not be granted covering property which houses a business operated for the purpose of gaining a profit, even though it is turned over to a parent organization to be used for what are admittedly independently…charitable purposes.


The requirement that the property must be operated as a not-for-profit activity does not mean that it is impermissible for the project at times or even fairly regularly to operated in the black rather than on a deficit basis, provided, of course, that any such excess of income over expenses, is achieved incidentally to accomplishment of the dominantly charitable objective and is not a primary goal of the project, and provided further that all of such gain is devoted to the charitable objectives of the project.


Another prerequisite for charitable exemption is that the dominant use of the property must be for the benefit of an indefinite number of people, for the purpose, as expressed in Salvation Army, of “bringing their hearts under the influence of education or religion, by relieving their bodies of disease, suffering, or constraint, by assisting them to establish themselves for life, or by erecting or maintaining public buildings or works or otherwise lessening the burdens of government.” 188 S.W.2d at 830…. Thus it is required that there be the element of direct or indirect benefit to society in addition to and as a result of the benefit conferred on the persons directly served by the humanitarian activity.[36]


The three tests to be met under Franciscan are:

1.Property must be owned and operated on a not-for-profit basis;


2.Property must be actually and regularly used exclusively for a charitable (religious in this instance) purpose; and


3.Property must be used for the benefit of an indefinite number of persons and for society in general, directly or indirectly.


Ownership and Operation

The subject property is owned on a not-for-profit basis.The ownership of the properties by a non-for-profit corporation is without question.Complainant makes no profit from holding the property.However, there is no actual operation of the property.

The land is sitting vacant and generally unused, with the exception of those irregular incidents of some youth group fellowship and recreational activities on only a part of the land.The “operation” of the property is holding it for future church development.It does not appear that the Franciscan Court envisioned in the first prong of the test the holding of property for future development to be a not-for-profit operation.Accordingly, notwithstanding the not-for-profit ownership, the property is not being operated for any purpose, only being held for development.

Actual and Regular Exclusive Use

“actually and regularly used exclusively”

The statute’s initial requirement and the second test under Franciscan speak to property being used in a manner that is actual, regular and exclusive.


The actual use to which Complainant has put this property all connects with the general activities of the church.The activities of tree cutting and brush clearing do not appear to be a use, but rather the work necessary to prepare the site in order that it could be used for activities of the church’s youth group.All other actual uses of the property have been by Complainant’s youth group.[37]

The evidence failed to establish any specific times or events when the general congregation or other groups of the church utilized the subject lot for a church worship service or some other church related activity.There have apparently been some youth events to which the rest of the Tri-County congregation was invited, however, no general use of any portion of the property on a regular basis by the congregation in general.There has been no other use of the property by any other entity or persons involved with another entity.When not being put to some use for an activity of Complainant’s youth group, the site is vacant and unused.Even when there is some activity at the site by the youth group, the majority of the site remains vacant, unimproved and unused.The evidence failed to establish that in general the entire six acres or the larger portion of it was being actually used rather it is actually being held for future development.


The degree of regularity with which activities involving Complainant’s members takes place is unknown.No exhibit was presented to provide a business record of the church, or any announcements to the congregation in printed form demonstrating any regular program of events and activities being held for all or part of the congregation at the subject site.No record was kept of the times during which the property was used.[38]The testimony at hearing, likewise, was absent of any specificity relative to the regularity with which the site has been put to actual use for the benefit of the congregation.

The best that could be offered as to the number of times that the youth group used the property in a year was dozens.[39]The testimony of the Youth Minister that the subject property was used by the youth group on a regular basis for Church services, meetings, activities and picnics[40] was insufficient, in light of no specific record of such use of the property. There was no evidence from which the Hearing Officer can conclude that there is a regular use of the site for church activities.At best the use is sporadic, as weather may permit.


It is well established in case law that the mandate of exclusive use refers to the primary and inherent use as opposed to a mere secondary and incidental use.[41]In other words, if the property under appeal was being used mostly to provide a recreation and park area for the public at large or persons in the subject’s general neighborhood, and only rarely being the site of some type of religious activity, then the primary and inherent use would not be connected to a religious activity or religious events.On the other hand if Complainant’s property were being use regularly for religious activities and only occasionally used by private persons for recreation, the use by private persons would only be a secondary and incidental use.The property, at least that part which is able to provide space for youth events, is only use by persons connected to Complainant’s congregation.There is no secondary or incidental use by any other entity or persons.However, the exclusive “use” of the major part of the property is to leave the land vacant and simply hold it for the future development and use by Complainant.

“religious worship”

The statute employs the term “religious worship” as the type of actual, regular and exclusive use that qualifies for an exemption from ad valorem taxation.Franciscan speaks of brining the hearts of people under the “influence of religion.”

Religion is “a system of faith and worship usually involving belief in a supreme being and usually containing a moral and ethical code; especially, such a system recognized and practiced by a particular church, sect or denomination.”[42]Religious means “characterized by adherence to religion or a religion; devout; pious; godly; concerned with, appropriate to, or teaching religion.”[43]

Worship is “any form of religious devotion or service showing reverence for a divine being.”[44]Worship has also been defined to mean, “reverence or devotion for a deity, religious homage or veneration; a church service or other right showing this.”[45]

If the strict language of religious worship is applied to the activities held on part of the vacant site by Complainant’s youth group the conclusion would be that they did not meet the definition.Activities such as tag, capture the flag, Frisbee, volleyball, badminton, bonfires and picnics, in and of themselves, have no religious worship component.They are recreational and fellowship activities plain and simple.Nevertheless, within the context of Complainant’s overall ministry, outreach and promotion, such activities and fellowship dovetail into the general youth ministry component of Complainant’s purposes.Tri-County Christian Church exists to promote Christianity.[46]The promotion of Christianity to young people must encompass social, recreational and fellowship activities and events, in addition to devotional activities and Bible studies.However, it appears to the Hearing Officer that the religious component of the youth group activities, i.e. devotionals, prayer time, and Bible study, occurred at a location or locations other than the subject tract of land.In other words, the primary and inherent religious activity took place at the American Legion Hall or the Youth Minister’s home, and the incidental activities and fellowship were held at on the subject land.

In this day, the term religious worship cannot be given a too narrow or too strict construction, since all types of religious organizations sponsor and conduct a wide variety of activities and events geared to specific age and social groups.Twenty-first century religious bodies meet for much more than simply reading of scripture, singing of hymns or songs of praise, and hearing a homily or sermon preached.Within many religious organizations, the “worship” event that occurs each week may well be only a small part of the total activities that take place at a church, synagogue, mosque, or temple in any given week.

“not held for private or corporate profit”

Although the statute does not speak of ownership, the property is owned by Complainant, a not-for-profit entity.There was no evidence it was being held for profit.There was no evidence that Tri-County Church was simply holding this land waiting for it to increase in value and then sell it to use the funds for church purposes or ministry.Accordingly, Complainant’s holding of the vacant land for future church development meets the standard of not being held for private or corporate profit.

Summary and Conclusion

The question then is whether from the foregoing it can be concluded that Complainant’s property was actually and regularly used exclusively for religious worship by its youth group?There are two connected components that must be met under the statute and case law.The use must be actual and regular.The Hearing Officer has no problem determining that the actual use of a part of the property, when it is put to use, consists of activities and fellowship that are elements of Complainant’s youth group and its meeting for prayer and Bible study, even if the prayer and Bible study part of youth group meetings takes place at another location.

It is at the point of a regular use that the problem lies.To address this matter, the Hearing Officer looks to a prior Commission decision on a similar situation and a court case that has bearing on this matter.The Commission decision is the First Baptist Church of Raytown appeal[47] and the Court decision is the St. Louis Council of Boy Scouts case.[48]In both of these cases, the exemption was granted.However, as will be now addressed, there were important facts in both those instances which differ from the present appeal.

First Baptist Church of Raytown

In this appeal, the Church purchased in December 1990 a 25.5 acre tract of land for the express purpose of building larger facilities for worship services and other related activities.When the Church purchased the tract it was improved by a softball field.In the spring of 1991, the Church improved the property by the addition of a second ball diamond, volleyball courts and horseshoe pits.During the spring of 1991 the church formed intramural softball and volleyball teams and the facilities on the property were utilized on Monday and Thursday nights, weather permitting for these Church outreach programs.As a result of these activities the youth attendance increased from 60 to 200.From the spring of 1991 various other groups within the congregation conducted various additional activities at the property.These activities included deacons’ meetings, Bible studies and picnics.Such activities were held between two and five times a month.The various fellowship activities were designed to reach out to and introduce the community to the church.The activities typically included a devotion period and prayer time.

A formal dedication service was held on the property on October 18, 1992.The Congregation approved a formal Vision Statement on February 21, 1993.At the hearing before the Commission, it was anticipated that the architectural selection would be completed by August of 1993, ground breaking in 1994 and projected completion date of 1996.[49]

Boy Scouts Case

In the St. Louis Council of Boy Scouts case the property, a 2,300 acre track of undeveloped land, was used every weekend for Boy Scout troops and for training adult leaders.Few weeks passed without at least ten troops and one hundred, or more, boys using the camp.Five or six hundred frequently used the property at the same time.On some occasions, more than a thousand had camped on the acreage.All of the ground was regularly used for the Scouts camping activities.It was used exclusively for the scouting purposes and activities.There was no evidence that any of the land was being held for a prospective use at some time in the future.

Application to the Tri County Situation

No evidence was presented permitting the Hearing Officer to arrive at a conclusion as to exactly how much of the Complainant’s undeveloped tract was used for the youth group activities.It would appear from the photographs of the property that only a small portion of the land at the front of the tract was actually cleared and available for any type of recreational youth activities.In both Raytown and Boy Scouts the entirety of the land was being put to some degree of activity on a regular basis.Although the level of use would vary from different areas of both the Raytown tract and the Boy Scout tract in both cases the use was regular and the activities were essentially conducted over all the general area of each tract.Different activities would call for higher levels of use on some parts of the properties than other areas.

The two factors which weigh against Complainant’s property coming under the confines of the statute are regular use and a use of the majority of the property.A critical element is the regularity of use in both Raytown and Boy Scouts as opposed to what can only be concluded as less than regular use of Complainant’s property.The second element is also of importance.That element is that Complainant failed to establish that the major portion of Complainant’s property has been put to any actual use for youth group events and activities.

The Hearing Officer finds no basis in the statute or under Franciscan for a tract of land that is primarily being held for future development by a religious entity for religious purposes to be granted an exemption when the limited use by Complainant’s youth group only takes place on a minority of the property in question.The majority of Complainant’s property is not generally being use for youth group activities.The youth group activities that do take place do not occur with sufficient regularity to satisfy the statute or the case law.The Hearing Officer can only conclude from the evidence that the larger portion of the six acre tract is simply wooded area that really serves no use, except possibly to provice fuel for bonfires from time to time, but is simply sitting vacant, undeveloped, unimproved, and unused awaiting the time when Tri-County Church may be in a financial position to commence construction of a worship center.

Benefit to Indefinite People and Society

Holding the subject land waiting for its future development does not provide any benefit, religious or otherwise for people or society in general.There is a specific benefit to holding the land for the congregation of Tri County Church. It is unfortunate for Complainant that it is not in a financial position to proceed at any time in the foreseeable future with the construction of its worship center.However, the evidence can only lead to the conclusion that Complainant may be holding this property from quite some time before plans for construction come to fruition.The hope, dream and prayer of Tri County Church for the construction of its worship center appears to remain unfulfilled for some years to come.At some unknown future time, when its worship facility has been constructed then the use of the improved land will be used to benefit an indefinite number of people and society in general as a place of worship and to bring the hearts and minds of persons under the influence of religion.However, vacant and unused land, being held by a religious entity for some future development, does not bestow any religious or other benefit that would qualify for exemption.


Although Complainant’s property meets the first Franciscan test, the limited use on only a part of the subject tract does not meet the statutory standard or the second and third tests under Franciscan for exemption from ad valorem assessment and taxation.This is a case of first impression for the Commission to the extent that a tract of land owned by a religious entity is essentially being held as vacant and unused property for the future construction of a religious facility, with very limited and minimal irregular use.There was no Missouri case law which specifically addressed this situation presented by either Counsel, or found by the Hearing Officer’s research.The conclusion is that vacant and unimproved land which is primarily being held for future development by a not-for-profit entity does not qualify under Section 137.100 (5) RSMo and the Franciscan case for exemption from ad valorem taxation.


The assessment of the subject property made by the Assessor and sustained by the Board of Equalization for St. Charles County for the subject tax day is AFFIRMED.

The assessed value of the Complainant’s property is set for the 2010 tax year at $100,360.

A party may file with the Commission an application for review of this decision within thirty days of the mailing date set forth in the Certificate of Service.The application shall contain specific facts or law as grounds upon which it is claimed the decision is erroneous.Said application must be in writing addressed to the State Tax Commission of Missouri, P.O. Box 146, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146, and a copy of said application must be sent to each person at the address listed below in the certificate of service.

Failure to state specific facts or law upon which the appeal is based will result in summary denial. [50]

The Collector of St. Charles County, as well as the collectors of all affected political subdivisions therein, shall continue to hold the disputed taxes pending the possible filing of an Application for Review, unless said taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order under the provisions of Section 139.031.8, RSMo.

Any Finding of Fact which is a Conclusion of Law or Decision shall be so deemed.Any Decision which is a Finding of Fact or Conclusion of Law shall be so deemed.

SO ORDERED February 22, 2012.


W. B. Tichenor

Senior Hearing Officer




Contact Information for State Tax Commission:

Missouri State Tax Commission

301 W. High Street, Room 840

P.O. Box 146

Jefferson City, MO 65102-0146


573-751-1341 Fax



[1] Received by the Commission 3/23/12, via fax.


[2] Received by the Commission 4/30/12, mailed 4/24/12.Deemed received by the Commission upon the postmark cancellation date.


[3] Received by the Commission 5/25/12. Complainant had been given leave to file the Reply on or before May 25th.


[4] St. Louis County v. Boatmen’s Trust Co., 857 S.W.2d 453, 457 (Mo. App. E.D. 1993); Vincent by Vincent v. Johnson, 833 S.W.2d 859, 865 (Mo. 1992); Beardsley v. Beardsley, 819 S.W.2d 400, 403 (Mo. App. 1991); Curnow v. Sloan, 625 S.W.2d 605, 607 (Mo. banc 1981).


[5] Black v. Lombardi, 970 S.W.2d 378 (Mo. App. E.D. 1998); Lowe v. Lombardi, 957 S.W.2d 808 (Mo. App. W.D. 1997); Forms World, Inc. v. Labor and Industrial Relations Com’n, 935 S.W.2d 680 (Mo. App. W.D. 1996); Evangelical Retirement Homes v. STC, 669 S.W.2d 548 (Mo. 1984); Pulitzer Pub. Co. v. Labor and Indus. Relations Commission, 596 S.W.2d 413 (Mo. 1980); St. Louis County v. STC, 562 S.W.2d 334 (Mo. 1978); St. Louis County v. STC, 406 S.W.2d 644 (Mo. 1966).


[6] DECISION, Franciscan Analysis, pp. 8 – 18


[7] Hermel, Inc. v. STC, 564 S.W.2d 888 (Mo. 1978); Black v. Lombardi, 970 S.W.2d 378 (Mo. App. E.D. 1998); Holt v. Clarke, 965 S.W.2d 241 (Mo. App. W.D. 1998); Smith v. Morton, 890 S.W.2d 403 (Mo. App. E.D. 1995); Phelps v. Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer Dist., 598 S.W.2d 163 (Mo. App. E.D. 1980).


[8] TR 2:17 – 24


[9] Commercial property is assessed at 32% of its appraised value (true value in money, fair market value).Section 137.115.5, RSMo.


[10] BOE Decision, dtd 7/30/10, filed with Complaint for Review of Assessment


[11] BOE Decision Letter, Exhibit2 – Application for Exemption of Assessment


[12] TR 4:25 – 5:2 (Exhibits A through G); TR 12:23 (Exhibit H); TR 15:11 – 13 (Exhibit I)


[13] TR 3:10 – 16;Title to Order incorrectly identified Answer to Question 20, it should have read Answer to Question 18, which is correctly reflected in the body of the Order.


[14] Exhibit B-1


[15] Exhibit B-1


[16] Exhibit B-2, See also,


[17] Exhibit D-4; Exhibit G, Q & A: 23, 24, & 25


[18] Exhibits D-1 & D-2


[19] Exhibit D – 1


[20] Exhibits D – 3 & E


[21] Exhibit F – 1


[22] Exhibit I


[23] Exhibits F-2, F-3, F-4 & F-6


[24] Exhibit G, Q & A: 41 & 42


[25] Article X, Section 14, Mo. Const. of 1945; Sections 138.430, 138.431, RSMo.


[26] Hermel, Inc. v. State Tax Commission, 564 S.W.2d 888, 895 (Mo. banc 1978).


[27] State ex rel. Council Apartments v. Leachman, 603 S.W.2d 930, 931 (Mo. 1980); Pentecostal Church of God of America, v. Hughlett, 601 S.W.2d 666,668 (Mo. App. S.D. 1980).


[28] 560 S.W.2d 837, 844 (Mo. 1977)


[29] 57 S.W. 532 (Mo. 1900)


[30] 898 S.W.2d 547 (Mo. 1995)


[31] Exemption was ultimately denied because the taxpayer failed to establish that the church had a belief in a Supreme Deity.


[32](See, Missouri Church of Scientology v. STC, 560 S.W.2d 837, 844 (Mo. banc 1977); CSCEA v. Nelson, 898 S.W.2d 547, 548 (Mo. banc 1995), citing Scientology).


[33] Black’s Law Dictionary, Seventh Edition – charity


[34] Black’s Law Dictionary, Seventh Edition – charitable


[35] 566 S.W.2d 213, 223-224 (Mo. banc 1978).


[36] Id. At 224.

[37] TR 5:23 – 6:1; Exhibit G, Q & A 18


[38] TR 10:12 – 15; TR 18:8 – 11


[39] TR 7:20 – 23


[40] Exhibit I


[41] Bethesda Barclay House v. Ciarleglio, 88 S.W.3d 85 (Mo. App. E.D. 2002); Pentecostal Church of God of America v. Hughlett, 601 S.W.2d 666 (Mo. App. S.D. 1980); St. John’s Mercy Hospital v. Leachmen, 552 S.W.2d 723 (Mo. 1977); Missouri United Methodist Retirement Homes v. STC, 522 S.W.2d 745 (Mo. 1975); Midwest Bible & Missionary Institute v. Sestric, 260 S.W.2d 25 (Mo. 1953); Salvation Army v. Hoehn, 188 S.W.2d 826 (Mo. 1945);


[42] Black’s Law Dictionary, Seventh Edition – religion


[43] Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition – religious


[44] Black’s Law Dictionary, Seventh Edition – worship


[45] Webster’s New World Dictionary, Second College Edition – worship


[46] Exhibit B – 1 – Corporate Purposes


[47] First Baptist Church of Raytown, v. Boley, STC Appeal No. 92-32881, (Hearing Officer Johnson, 10/28/1993) Forty-Eighth Annual Report of the Proceedings and Decisions of the STC of Missouri, 1993


[48] St. Louis Council Boy Scouts of America v. Burgess, 240 S.W.2d 684 (1951), cited in Raytown at p. 409


[49] First Baptist Raytown was relocated to the site as planned.


[50] Section 138.432, RSMo.