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Boston asks BU, other non-profits, to pay greater share of taxes

Boston University is among several other tax-exempt institutions being asked to make regular payments to the city, according to an April 24 report in The Boston Globe.

Hospitals, universities and cultural centers are among the organizations that Boston has asked to make voluntary payments in proportion to the value of their property to help pay for risings costs and cuts in state financial aid.

Boston officials hope to increase revenue from tax-exempt organizations from this year’s $15 million to $48 million in five years to help pay for city services including police and fire protection, snow removal and emergency medical treatment, which account for about 25 percent of the city’s budget.

“We’re looking for fairness for Boston taxpayers and the nonprofits,’’ said Mayor Thomas Menino. “This isn’t something we drew up on the back of an envelope. It’s something we put a lot of thought into.’’

The Globe reported that Boston’s 40 largest nonprofit organizations have a collective value of $13.6 billion, more than half the city’s commercial tax base, and would pay $40 million in taxes if they were not exempt, according to Boston’s Assessing Department.

Although BU voluntarily paid more than $5 million in 2011, city officials have requested the university increase its payment to about $6.8 million. BU pays the most of educational organizations in Boston.

“My primary goal in life is to make Boston University a better institution, but it can only be a better institution if the city thrives,’’ said BU president Robert Brown to the Globe.

Harvard University currently pays about $2 million and has been asked to increase its contribution to about $5.8 million in five years and Northeastern University has been asked to increase contributions from $30,571 in 2011 to about $4 million in five years.

Northeastern’s senior vice president for external affairs Michael Armini told The Globe that the university’s payments should include more than $2 million in property taxes and scholarships provided to Boston residents.

Some nonprofit leaders expressed concern that the plan, which asks organizations to make regular payments like normal taxpayers, would set a precedent that would eventually compromise the organization’s tax-exempt status.

President of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts Richard Doherty told The Globe that some nonprofit organizations were worried the plan may be a slippery slope.

“We have some boards of trustees that are asking, ‘What are the implications? Does this exist elsewhere in the country? Are there precedents we need to be considering?’’’ Doherty said.

 

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