The question regarding what types of events can be held in The Gathering Place without risking the church’s property exemption has come up several times. In an effort to give a very clear answer to this question, LICC has spent several weeks reviewing and discussing the current laws in depth with qualified experts. What follows is a summary of the law, along with examples, that shows how easily The Gathering Place can encompass the majority of the activities that happen on Lummi Island.
Lummi Island Congregational Church currently has an exemption from paying property tax as provided by Washington State to all churches under RCW 84.36.020(2). In 2014, the state Senate passed SB 6405 to enable churches to further support the community by allowing more uses of their buildings under certain conditions without jeopardizing their property tax exemption.
The church itself can offer its own events, activities, and fundraisers without limitation:
- Yoga classes (church-hired instructor)
- Music events
- After school Childcare program (church-hired teacher)
- Elderberries (seniors meal/social group)
- Community dinners (such as Parish Dinners)
There are three categories under which an individual or organization other than the church itself can hold an event.
1. Exempt organizations (non-profits or schools) in which “some social objective is served or general welfare is advanced” is allowed. NO LIMIT to the number of days in a year:
- Library sponsored events
- Water district trainings
- Fire department trainings/meetings
- Church retreats (hosted by other churches)
- School sponsored events
- Health department clinics/classes
- Girl/Boy Scouts
- LIHT/LICA/LIFE/PTO, etc. meetings and activities (note: fundraising events fall under Section 3 below)
- Non-profit Board Retreats
2. Non-exempt individuals or organizations are allowed up to 50 days out of the calendar year, provided it is not a business activity (meaning the host isn’t earning a profit from the event).
- Civic Club & Grange classes/activities (note: fundraising events fall under Section 3 below)
- Political gatherings (provided the church offers equal access to any political party, and no fundraising occurs on site
- Private parties
3. Fundraising or for-profit activities where the church receives less than 51% of the proceeds is considered business activity. Can occur 15 days of the 50 days.
- Concerts at which musicians wish to take the majority of ticket sales and/or wish to sell their own merchandise on site.
- Artist’s Tours
- Fundraising events for non-profits such as LIHT/LICA/LIFE/PTO/Grange/Civic Club, etc.