105-278.3. Real and personal property used for religious purposes.

(a) Buildings, the land they actually occupy, and additional adjacent land reasonably necessary for the convenient use of any such building shall be exempted from taxation if wholly owned by an agency listed in subsection (c), below, and if:

(1) Wholly and exclusively used by its owner for religious purposes as defined in subsection (d)(1), below; or

(2) Occupied gratuitously by one other than the owner and wholly and exclusively used by the occupant for religious, charitable, or nonprofit educational, literary, scientific, or cultural purposes.

(b) Personal property shall be exempted from taxation if wholly owned by an agency listed in subsection (c), below, and if:

(1) Wholly and exclusively used by its owner for religious purposes; or

(2) Gratuitously made available to one other than the owner and wholly and exclusively used by the possessor for religious, charitable, or nonprofit educational, literary, scientific, or cultural purposes.

(c) The following agencies, when the other requirements of this section are met, may obtain exemption for their properties:

(1) A congregation, parish, mission, or similar local unit of a church or religious body; or

(2) A conference, association, presbytery, diocese, district, synod, or similar unit comprising local units of a church or religious body.

(d) Within the meaning of this section:

(1) A religious purpose is one that pertains to practicing, teaching, and setting forth a religion. Although worship is the most common religious purpose, the term encompasses other activities that demonstrate and further the beliefs and objectives of a given church or religious body. Within the meaning of this section, the ownership and maintenance of a general or promotional office or headquarters by an owner listed in subdivision (2) of subsection (c), above, is a religious purpose and the ownership and maintenance of residences for clergy, rabbis, priests or nuns assigned to or serving a congregation, parish, mission or similar local unit, or a conference, association, presbytery, diocese, district, synod, province or similar unit of a church or religious body or residences for clergy on furlough or unassigned, is also a religious purpose. However, the ownership and maintenance of residences for other employees is not a religious purpose for either a local unit of a church or a religious body or a conference, association, presbytery, diocese, district, synod, or similar unit of a church or religious body. Provided, however, that where part of property which otherwise qualifies for the exemption provided herein is made available as a residence for an individual who provides guardian, janitorial and custodial services for such property, or who oversees and supervises qualifying activities upon and in connection with said property, the entire property shall be considered as wholly and exclusively used for a religious purpose.

(2) A charitable purpose is one that has humane and philanthropic objectives; it is an activity that benefits humanity or a significant rather than limited segment of the community without expectation of pecuniary profit or reward. The humane treatment of animals is also a charitable purpose.

(3) An educational purpose is one that has as its objective the education or instruction of human beings; it comprehends the transmission of information and the training or development of the knowledge or skills of individual persons.

(4) A literary purpose is one that pertains to letters or literature, especially writing, publishing, and the study of literature. It includes the literature of the stage and screen as well as the performance or exhibition of works based on literature.

(5) A cultural purpose is one that is conducive to the enlightenment and refinement of taste acquired through intellectual and aesthetic training, education, and discipline.

(6) A scientific purpose is one that yields knowledge systematically through research, experimentation or other work done in one or more of the natural sciences.

(e) (Repealed effective for taxes imposed for taxable years beginning on or after July 1, 2015.) Notwithstanding the exclusive-use requirement of subsection (a), above, if part of a property that otherwise meets that subsection's requirements is used for a purpose that would require exemption if the entire property were so used, the valuation of the part so used shall be exempted from taxation.

(f) The fact that a building or facility is incidentally available to and patronized by the general public, so long as there is no material amount of business or patronage with the general public, shall not defeat the exemption granted by this section.

(g) (Effective for taxes imposed for taxable years before July 1, 2015.) Notwithstanding the exclusive-use requirement of subsection (a), above, any parking lot wholly owned by an agency listed in subsection (c), above, may be used for parking without removing the tax exemption granted in this section; provided, the total charge for said uses shall not exceed that portion of the actual maintenance expenditures for the parking lot reasonably estimated to have been made on account of said uses. This subsection shall apply beginning with the taxable year that commences on January 1, 1978.

(g) (Effective for taxes imposed for taxable years beginning on or after July 1, 2015.) The following exceptions apply to the exclusive-use requirement of subsection (a) of this section:

(1) If part, but not all, of a property meets the requirements of subsection (a) of this section, the valuation of the part so used is exempt from taxation.

(2) Any parking lot wholly owned by an agency listed in subsection (c) of this section may be used for parking without removing the tax exemption granted in this section if the total charge for parking uses does not exceed that portion of the actual maintenance expenditures for the parking lot reasonably estimated to have been made on account of parking uses. This subsection shall apply beginning with the taxable year that commences on January 1, 1978.

(3) A building and the land occupied by the building is exempt from taxation if it is under construction and intended to be wholly and exclusively used by its owner for religious purposes upon completion. For purposes of this subdivision, a building is under construction starting when a building permit is issued and ending at the earlier of (i) 90 days after a certificate of occupancy is issued or (ii) 180 days after the end of active construction. (1973, c. 695, s. 4; c. 1421; 1975, c. 848; 1977, c. 867; 2005-435, s. 59(a); 2015-185, s. 1(a).)