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How a local scouting troop got saddled with $3K in personal property taxes

Troop 167 member Griffin Crouch addresses the Arlington County Board during its meeting on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2022 (via Arlington County)

A local scouting troop says it has been blindsided by a $3,000 personal property tax bill on its vans.

So a scout decided to seek relief from the bill — which would take a big chunk of its $21,000 budget — by going to the Arlington County Board.

“These vans take scouts on campouts and hikes, and to once in a lifetime adventures, backpacking in New Mexico and scuba diving in Florida,” Griffin Crouch told the Board on Saturday. “A lot of members are first-generation immigrants and the vans help us ensure that every scout gets to participate in practicing leadership and serving the community and have fun doing it — regardless of their families’ income.”

He told the County Board he hopes Arlington can find a way for the troop to remain tax-exempt, like Arlington’s other scout troops and youth organizations, before taxes are due.

More than 50 boys and girls who make up Troop 167 meet at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church (1500 N. Glebe Road), near Ballston. Up until last year, he said, the church officially sponsored the troop.

But this summer, the United Methodist Church, the largest supporter of scouting troops, told local churches to stop officially sponsoring local troops. Troops can still use their facilities, however.

The decision came the Boy Scouts of America declared bankruptcy following numerous legal battles over child sexual-abuse and dwindling participation due to the pandemic. As part of the BSA’s sexual-abuse bankruptcy and settlement plan, United Methodist Church paid $30 million to victims.

So Troop 167 decided to incorporate a nonprofit to sponsor the troop, Crouch said.

What the troop didn’t realize was that getting 501(c)(3) status and federal tax-exempt status did not protect it from state tax code or Arlington’s personal property tax.

“We have discussed the matter with our Commissioner of Revenue (COR), and although we are prohibited under state law from discussing the details of a particular taxpayer’s liability, the COR has confirmed that as a general matter, personal property belonging to a federally income-tax-exempt 501(c)(3) entity is subject to the personal property tax in Arlington with a few limited exceptions,” Arlington County spokeswoman Jessica Baxter told ARLnow.

Boy Scout troops are not a mentioned in the list of entities whose property is tax exempt: churches, museums, the YMCA and similar religious groups, for example.

“It seems wrong a scout troop has to pay that because it’s being sponsored by a non-religious nonprofit rather than a church,” Crouch said. “We still help the church and it considers us a part of its social justice ministries.”

Board Chair Katie Cristol praised Crouch for demonstrating “the best of the values of scouting: community organization, leadership and critical thinking and analysis.”

“I know some of my colleagues have started this conversation with you all, and will continue it,” she said. “The principle that’s at stake here is one of fairness. We don’t exempt nonprofits in general from personal property taxes, and so exceptions we would make we would need to understand in context of, or have a framework for how we can be fair across nonprofits.”

Cristol said she will follow-up personally regarding next steps.

“I think you have done a great job of summarizing how it’s been a complicated series of events to get the troop here,” she said. “I wonder if there may be some opportunities for us to figure out your incorporation status, and if there are ways we can help in that regard.”

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Join Us on Monday, October 17, 2022, for our General Membership Meeting & Arlington County Candidate Forum led by the NAACP Arlington Branch Political Action CommitteeTime: 7:00-9:00 pmLocation: Virtual on Zoom County Board (3 candidates)Matt de Ferranti (https://mattforarlington.com/)Audrey Clement (https://audreyclement.com/)Adam Theo (https://www.theoforarlington.org/) School Board (2 candidates)James “Vell” Rives (https://www.rivesforsb.com/)Bethany Sutton (https://www.bethany4aps.org/)Open to the PublicRegister: https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwvdu- gpzkpE9XJn5vI3Fy-LO6f1r0qli7V After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.”The NAACP is a non-partisan organization and does not endorse candidates for political office at any level. Persons affiliated with the NAACP at the national, state, and local levels are free to make candidate endorsements in a personal capacity, but they do not reflect support by the NAACP as an organization.” Derrick Johnson, President/CEO, NAACP, May 22, 2022

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