Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1952 No. 288 -
Attorney General Smith Troy


Property of non-sectarian, religious organization operating bookstore to gain income for solely religious purposes is exempt county property tax.

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                                                                   April 22, 1952 

Honorable Tom A. Durham
Prosecuting Attorney
Whatcom County
Court House, 311 Grand Avenue
Bellingham, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 288

 Dear Sir:

             You inquire whether:

             the personal property of a non-profit [[nonprofit]], non-sectarian [[nonsectarian]]organization which operates a leased book store to obtain monies solely used for furthering the religious purposes of the organization is exempt the county property tax.

             We conclude that:

             that such property is exempt.


             RCW 84.36.030 (RRS § 11111, as amended) exempts from county property taxation:

             "property of non-sectarian  [[nonsectarian]] organizations or associations, organized and conducted primarily and chiefly for religious purposes and not for profit, which shall be used, or to the extent solely  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] used, for the religious purposes of such associations, or for the educational, benevolent, protective, or social departments growing out of, or related to, the religious work of such associations;"

             "Taxation is the rule, and exemption is the exception."  Spokane County v. Spokane, 169 Wash. 355, 358, 13 P. (2d) 1084 (1932) and exemption statutes require strict construction in favor of the right to tax.  Norwegian Lutheran Church v. Wooster, 176 Wash. 581, 30 P. (2d) 381 (1934).  The question, in substance, is whether the conducting of what is normally considered a commercial enterprise and using the returns for furthering organizational purposes is the operation for profit.  Profit is defined as the gain made by sale, or the excess of receipts over expenditures.  See cases cited in Black's Law Dict. (3d Ed.) 1933.  Thus, as the bookstore is operated for commercial gain to the organization, such is profit.  The question, then, is whether the statute contemplated as profit, this type of gain when used for

             "the religious work of such organizations."

             We think it did "to the extent such profit was solely used" for the furtherance of such work.  Profit is income and income is property.  Power, Inc. v. Huntley, 139 Wash. Dec. (Aug. 20, 1951) [[39 Wn. 2d 191]].  The statute was designed to assist such worthwhile efforts and to hold otherwise would in effect penalize the organization which took the most active steps to pursue such legislatively approved purposes.  AlthoughWilson's Mod. Bus. Coll. v. King, 4 Wn. (2d) 636, 104 P. (2d) 580 (1940) is not directly in point, it adheres to this general principle, ofNorwegian Lutheran Church v. Wooster, supra.

             We caution that this opinion involves only the county property or ad valorem tax.

 Very truly yours,
Attorney General 

Assistant Attorney General