Appeal, No. 134, March T., 1956, from judgment of Superior Court affirming decree of Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County, Sept. T., 1952, No. 287, in re assessment for the year 1952 of certain real estate in Brushvalley Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania. Judgment reversed.
J. S. Simpson, with him Fisher, Ruddock & Simpson, for appellant.
Earl R. Handler, with him G. S. Parnell and Parnell, Handler & Malcolm, for appellee.
Before Stern, C.j., Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. JUSTICE CHIDSEY
The question in this appeal is whether an exemption from local property taxation under § 202, Art. II, of the Act of May 21, 1943, P.L. 571, should be granted to a missionary society whose beneficiaries live outside of the United States.
The relevant portions of § 202, Art. II, of the Act of May 21, 1943, 72 PS § 5453.202, are: "(a) The following property shall be exempt from all county, borough, town, township, road, poor, county institution district and school (except in cities) tax, to wit: (1) All churches, meeting-houses or other regular places of stated worship, with the ground thereto annexed necessary for the occupancy and enjoyment of the same ... (3) 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 ... (b) Except as otherwise provided in clause (11), subsection (a) of this section [pertaining to libraries], all property, real or personal, other than that which is in actual use and occupation for the purposes specified in this
section, and all such property from which any income or revenue is derived, other than from recipients of the bounty of the institution or charity, shall be subject to taxation, except where exempted by law for state purposes, and nothing herein contained shall exempt same therefrom.".
The above section was enacted under the authority of Article IX, Section 1, of the Constitution of Pennsylvania, which reads: "All taxes shall be uniform, upon the same class of subjects, within the territorial limits of the authority levying the tax, and shall be levied and collected under general laws; but the General Assembly may, by general laws, 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.".
The appellant, West Indies Mission, is a domestic non-profit corporation dedicated to training and sending out missionaries to the West Indies, some one hundred and eighty of whom are currently providing medical services, broadcasting religious programs and otherwise performing the manifold functions associated with missionary work. All of the activities of the Mission are financed by voluntary contributions from individuals and groups of varied denominations. There is no question as to the bona fides of the organization.
Recently the West Indies Mission has come into ownership and possession of some 925 acres of land in Brushvalley Township, Indiana County, Pennsylvania, which are being used to house the headquarters of the organization, indoctrinate new missionaries,
house families of missionaries in the field, house missionaries themselves who are home on rehabilitative leave,*fn1 hold conventions and meetings of those interested in the Mission's work, and a portion of which is used as a farm worked by the members of the Mission themselves, the produce of which is used by them or sold to help defray the expenses of the headquarters. A certain part of the land was rented out, but that segment is not here in dispute.
Early in 1952, the West Indies Mission filed an application with the Board of Tax Assessment and Revision of Taxes of Indiana County asking that all of its 925 acres*fn2 be removed from the assessments and that it be placed on the list of exempt properties. This application was contested by the Supervisors of Brushvalley Township and the School District of Brushvalley Township. A hearing was conducted by the Board, and it determined that only 117 acres of the property should be exempt from taxation.
Upon appeal by both sides, the Court of Common Pleas of Indiana County took testimony and received briefs. On March 2, 1955, it entered a decree sustaining the appeal of the Township and School District.
In his opinion, President Judge CREPS, applying the so-called "quid pro quo" theory, held that though there can be no doubt of the worthy object of the Mission, it had failed to show that it is a "purely public charity" because the recipients of its benefits are not residents of this Commonwealth, and therefore the charity was not performing "some moral obligation that the government owes its people", nor does it "lessen the burden of government". Accordingly, the Mission was denied any real estate tax exemption.
The Mission then appealed to the Superior Court, which again applied the "quid pro quo" theory in affirming the court below. We allowed this appeal by the West Indies Mission from the decision of the Superior Court, reported at 180 Pa. Superior Ct. 216, 119 A.2d 550.
In our discussion of the case we shall treat with the primary issue of whether the West Indies Mission is a charitable entity entitled to an exemption under the Act of 1943. The Superior Court and the court below found that it was not, and their opinions denied the exemption on the basis of their determination of that issue. If the West Indies Mission is a charitable entity entitled to an exemption, then it is necessary to make the further ...