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HILL SCHOOL TAX EXEMPTION CASE (03/24/52)

March 24, 1952

HILL SCHOOL TAX EXEMPTION CASE


Appeals, Nos. 40 and 41, Jan. T., 1952, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Nov. T., 1949, No. 29, in re The Hill School. Decree affirmed.

COUNSEL

C. Edmund Wells and Carroll L. Rutter, for appellants.

Edward A. G. Porter, with him Saul, Ewing, Remick & Saul, Franklin L. Wright and Wright, Mauck, Hawes & Spencer, for appellee.

Before Drew, C.j., Stern, Stearne, Bell, Chidsey and Musamanno, JJ.

Author: Stearne

[ 370 Pa. Page 22]

OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE ALLEN M. STEARNE

The question presented is whether The Hill School, a Pennsylvania non-profit educational corporation, has been founded, endowed and maintained to a sufficient degree by public or private charity to entitle it to tax exemption under Article IX, Section 1, of the Constitution of Pennsylvani, and Article II, Section 204, of the Act of May 22, 1933, P.L. 853, amended by Section 1 of the Act of May 3, 1943, P.L. 158, 72 PS 5020-204. The court below decided that it had so qualified. The borough and the school district have appealed.

The Constitution, supra, permits the General Assembly, by general laws, to: "... exempt from taxation public property used for public purposes, actual places of religious worship, places of burial not used or held for private or corporate profit, institutions of purely public charity, and real and personal property owned, occupied, and used by any branch, post, or camp of honorably discharged soldiers, sailors, and marines." (emphasis supplied) In pursuance to such authority the Legislature enacted the statute of 1933, supra, which

[ 370 Pa. Page 23]

    provides: "The following property shall be exempt from all county, city, borough, town, township, road, poor and school tax, to wit: ... (c) All hospitals, universities, colleges, seminaries, academies, associations and institutions of learning, benevolence, or charity, with the grounds thereto annexed and necessary for the occupancy and enjoyment of the same, founded, endowed, and maintained by public or private charity: Provided, That the entire revenue derived by the same be applied to the support and to increase the efficiency and facilities thereof, the repair and the necessary increase of grounds and buildings thereof, and for no other purpose."

While the Act of 1933, supra, exempts "universities, colleges, seminaries, academies, associations and institutions of learning", in order for such statutory exemptions to be within the terms of the Constitution, necessarily they must relate solely to " institutions of purely public charity."

It requires no citation of authority to demonstrate that a private hospital founded and maintained by a group of doctors for their own convenience, with or without profit, would not qualify for such tax exemption. Neither would a private school founded and maintained by any particular group, with or without profit, solely for the benefit of their own children or their nominees. Such institutions would not constitute institutions of "purely public charity." But it is equally apparent that charity or benevolence is not limited in scope to feeding, clothing and housing the indigent. To assist one in helping himself may be of even greater importance. Our universities, institutes of technology and research laboratories present fields of inestimable benefit to man.

The initial inquiry is: what constitutes a charity? Bispham, in his Principles of Equity (Tenth Edition), section 118, states ...


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