2013 Exempt Status Review FAQs

 Blue Arrow Why did we receive this letter?  
 Blue Arrow What do we need to do to maintain the tax-exempt status of the parcel?  
 Blue Arrow Do we need to hire a lawyer?
 Blue Arrow What type of documentation will be accepted/required in responses?  
 Blue Arrow Will the information submitted be subject to public disclosure?
 Blue Arrow Can we request more time to complete a response?
 Blue Arrow What should we do if our organization has received a letter, but is not an "institution of purely public charity"?  
 Blue Arrow What should we do if our organization has not received a letter, but is an "institution of purely public charity"?  
 Blue Arrow Is property “public” if it is open to the public, or does it have to be publicly owned?  
 Blue Arrow What constitutes a “substantial portion” of services?  
 Blue Arrow When will a determination be made?
 Blue Arrow Will the property remain tax-exempt while the information is being reviewed and a determination made?
 Blue Arrow Which “government” must an institution relieve of some burden: federal, state or local?
 Blue Arrow Who will be reviewing the review applications and HUP test information?
 Blue Arrow Is our organization being singled-out for some reason?  
 Blue Arrow I have misplaced the letter and forms that were sent, how can I get an additional copy?  
 Blue Arrow I have additional questions, who can I contact?  
 Blue Arrow Are there any other resources available?



 Blue Arrow Why did we receive this letter?

Allegheny County is conducting a review of all tax-exempt property in the County pursuant to Ordinance 49-07, passed in 2007. Records indicate that your parcel is designated tax-exempt as an Institution of Purely Public Charity, which is the subject of the ordinance.

 

 Blue Arrow What do we need to do to maintain the tax-exempt status of the parcel?

Your organization must provide the Office of Property Assessments (OPA) with an explanation as to how it meets each of the five criteria put forth by the Supreme Court as the “HUP Test.”  The Court ruled that Institutions of Purely Public Charity must meet a five-prong test to qualify for tax-exempt status under the Pennsylvania Constitution.  To qualify under the HUP Test as an Institution of Purely Public Charity, a property-owning institution must:
  1. Advance a charitable purpose;
  2. Donate or render gratuitously a substantial portion of its services;
  3. Benefit a substantial and indefinite class of persons who are legitimate subjects of charity;
  4. Relieve the government of some of its burden; and
  5. Operate entirely free from private profit motive.

Enclosed with your letter were a “HUP Test” Cover Sheet and Review Application.  Both are mandatory components of your reply.

 

 Blue Arrow Do we need to hire a lawyer?

The decision of whether to seek legal counsel is entirely up to your organization.  You are not required to retain counsel to respond to the review.

 

 Blue Arrow What type of documentation will be accepted/required in responses?

There is no specific documentation that will be required.  Each institution will be reviewed on its own merits based on the information provided to the Office of Property Assessments.  All information will be accepted.  Examples of potentially relevant information include, but are not limited to, financial statements, tax returns, 501(c)(3) status determination and applications, and articles of incorporation.

 

 Blue Arrow Will the information submitted be subject to public disclosure?

Yes.  Information provided will be subject to a request under the Pennsylvania Right-to-Know law once received by the County.

 

 Blue Arrow Can we request more time to complete a response?

Yes, but requests for an extension must be made, in writing, to the Office of Property Assessments (OPA), 400 N Lexington Avenue, Suite LL109, Pittsburgh, PA 15208. If your organization cannot assemble a response within the 60-day time period, a written request should be sent to OPA within the 60-day time period explaining why your organization is unable to respond timely.  Extensions will be granted at the discretion of OPA and your timely response is encouraged.

 

 Blue Arrow What should we do if our organization has received a letter, but is not an 'institution of purely public charity'?

If you determine that you have received the review letter in error, please respond in writing to the Office of Property Assessments, 400 N Lexington Avenue, Suite LL109, Pittsburgh, PA  15208.  Please provide an explanation of why your organization and/or property does not fall under the “institution of purely public charity” prong of the Pennsylvania Constitution.  (An example would be if the property for which you received a letter is publicly owned and used for a public purpose.)

 

 Blue Arrow What should we do if our organization has not received a letter, but is an 'institution of purely public charity'?

If you have not received a letter, but believe that your organization and/or property does fall under the “institution of purely public charity” prong of the Pennsylvania Constitution, please contact the Office of Property Assessments immediately, by phone (412-350-4600), e-mail Email to:  or mail (400 N Lexington Avenue, Suite LL109, Pittsburgh, PA  15208).

 

 Blue Arrow Is property 'public' if it is open to the public, or does it have to be publicly owned?

For the purposes of the HUP analysis, property must be publicly owned to be considered “public.”  Property that is privately-owned, but open to the public and used for a public purpose, must still satisfy the HUP criteria.

  

 Blue Arrow What constitutes a “substantial portion” of services?

There is no bright line test for “substantial portion.”  Your organization should provide the percentage of the services donated or rendered gratuitously, and supporting documentation.

 

 Blue Arrow When will a determination be made?

There is no current timeline for determinations.  OPA will review applications as they are received and the duration of the review process will be determined by the volume and complexity of the information received.

 

 Blue Arrow Will the property remain tax-exempt while the information is being reviewed and a determination made?

If you received the review letter, then your property is designated as tax-exempt and will remain so pending the results of the review.  If your property is tax-exempt as of January 1 of any given tax year, then your property will remain tax-exempt for that year.  Your property, therefore, will remain tax-exempt for tax year 2013 at the very least.

 

 Blue Arrow Which “government” must an institution relieve of some burden: federal, state or local?

The “government” referred to in the “relieving government of some of its burden” prong can mean federal, state and/or local governments.

 

 Blue Arrow Who will be reviewing the review applications and HUP test information?

All information received will be reviewed by the Office of Property Assessments in conjunction with the Allegheny County Law Department.

 

 Blue Arrow Is our organization being singled-out for some reason?

No.  This review will eventually encompass all tax-exempt parcels in Allegheny County.  No single entity or property is under any more scrutiny than any other.

 

 Blue Arrow I have misplaced the letter and forms that were sent, how can I get an additional copy?

Please call (412-350-4600) or e-mail Email to:  and provide the Office of Property Assessments with your Parcel ID.  We can reissue the documents for you.

 

 Blue Arrow I have additional questions, who can I contact?

You can send questions regarding the review via e-mail to Email to: .  You may also contact the call center at 412-350-4600, but please be advised that we will not, and cannot, provide legal advice.

 

Blue Arrow Are there any other resources available?
  • If you do not have a lawyer, and would like to hire one, you can contact the Allegheny County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service at 412/261-5555 or visit the website at World Wide Web Icon www.acbalrs.org.
  • The Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership (GPNP) is hosting informational sessions on the Exempt Status Reviews.  Founded in 2005, the GPNP is a coalition of about 350 nonprofit agencies from across the Southwestern PA region, dedicated to providing a unified voice for the nonprofit sector. If you would like information on upcoming sessions, or have questions, please email the organization at info@forbesfunds.org.