Duquesne Law Review


Pennsylvania has historically exempted institutions of purely public charity from paying property taxes, though that practice is currently under fire from critics who argue many charities no longer warrant this exemption. Adding to this tension is a struggle between the Pennsylvania General Assembly and Pennsylvania Supreme Court over who has the power to define "institutions of purely public charity, " which has culminated in the introduction of Senate Bill 4, a proposed constitutional amendment which purports to give that power solely to the legislature. This article explores the evolution of institutions of purely public charity in Pennsylvania and explores the arguments surrounding Senate Bill 4. Additionally, the article particularly explains how Senate Bill 4 is contradictory to the intent of the original constitutional provision regarding institutions of purely public charity, which was intended to limit legislative abuse. The article also briefly describes problems of lost revenue due to property tax exemptions and concerns that many tax-exempt organizations no longer warrant that status, and concludes by exploring various measures that can be adopted to limit the existing criteria defining which institutions qualify as purely public charities.

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