By editorial board • 

Nonprofit tax law needs a careful policy review

Property tax problems plaguing Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, and challenging other nonprofits, need more public policy consideration. We hope that happens in 2015, since this year’s proposed legislative fix didn’t allow for sufficient caution in the lawmaking process.

For-profit Evergreen International Aviation seems a thing of the past, but still, having an Evergreen 747 sit atop the Wings & Waves Waterpark doesn’t make the building a history museum.

Neither is it a science museum, argues Yamhill County Assessor Scott Maytubby. 

Evergreen’s waterpark is the main attraction of a property tax battle with nine cases in various stages of litigation. Museum officials believe the waterpark should be 100-percent exempt from property taxes, as Oregon state law exempts science institutions from such. The assessor’s office offered a 5 percent exemption, claiming that just a small portion of the building’s activities are educational, while the rest are recreational and commercial in nature. 

The question is, to what extent should Oregon tax nonprofit museums when they make money for their educational endeavors? There must be a line somewhere, but drawing that line can be tricky.

Years of appeals have tied up more than $1 million in taxes and interest the county insists is owed by the museum. Last week, with the help of State Rep. Jim Weidner, museum attorney Kevin Mannix tried to move a bill that would exempt museums showcasing history and science from property tax. The bill died in committee. 

Oregon case law provides property tax exemptions for facilities actually and exclusively occupied or used in the “scientific work carried on by such institutions.” With that definition, Oregon tax appeal courts thus far have sided with Maytubby and Yamhill County.

Museum officials believe any ancillary parts of the campus that generate revenue to support the educational mission should qualify for exemption. They would include the once-planned, now-stalled, lodge development that could generate revenue for the museum.

The lodge example adds some clarity to the debate, since such lodging services would be in direct competition with many private operations not receiving property tax breaks.

Another issue involves small museum components such as gift shops and, at Evergreen, the wine bar.

The assessor’s office has exempted between 90 and 95 percent of the air museum and IMAX theater facilities in the past, saying a small portion of the property was used to promote the for-profit Evergreen company. Examples included sale of EIA merchandise in the gift shop, and a few offices populated by EIA personnel with overlapping responsibility for museum operations.

Some of that seems nit-picky, but the assessor was trying to evaluate the situation within guidelines of current law.

The Evergreen museum complex is a one-of-a-kind institution, so it is not surprising it would end up in some gray area of state law. It’s clear that the issues need more evaluation, and it’s important that Evergreen receives fair treatment befitting its unique situation.

A property-specific bill during a short session wasn’t the right solution. But a full airing, with all parties at the table, is needed at the 2015 legislative session.



There is no gray area. You just can't co mingle for profits and non profits.

The whole Evergreen complex is a great asset to the community but the waterpark prices aren't even close to the non profit prices charged at a few other places around Oregon. They should have an in county price for locals to make it reasonable for a whole family to attend.

You can co-mingle the private land the non-profits businesses sit on and expect a tax break.


donate the land and all the planes to the non-profit company and then the issue takes care of itself. If you are really serious about this complex being a non profit then do that SIMPLE thing and then the IRS will get off your back. If yo don't do this then they will always see you as trying to play both sides of the fence and they WON'T ease up on you.

I wish you the best of luck as the Museum and the waterpark are great assets and we would all hate to lose them in a dumb fight over who's attorneys are smarter....the feds almost always win that battle.

Best of Luck for all our benefit.


I think the real tax relief should come to all ex-Evergreen employees who were indiscriminantly fired at will for no reason over the many, many years of Evergreen existence. There is a large contingent of people who feel no sorrow for Evergreen and its management in general. Doesn't anyone put together the fact that if Evergreen is relieved of several hundred thousands of dollars in property taxes, then the rest of us will have to pick up the slack for them? Especially for that tax burden that's known as bonded indebtedness. That amount must be paid, and if Evergreen doesn't pay, then all the rest of us have to pay it for them. Call the Assessor's Office and confirm this. Evergreen is making a case that a waterpark is non-profit and/or educational. Get real, it's a waterpark!

E.J. Farrar

hardwood, it's hard to argue with your logic.

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