S.F. Assessor Phil Ting Takes on the Catholic Church Tomorrow Morning

Nobody expects Phil Ting!
Tomorrow morning, assessor Phil Ting will be arguing in front of the San Francisco Appeals Board that the Catholic Church owes San Francisco up to $15 million in transfer taxes -- one of the largest tax bills in the city's history. The hearing will be held at 1 South Van Ness on the second floor atrium conference room starting at 10 a.m. 

Ting says the Archdiocese of San Francisco transferred ownership of 232 properties among three different nonprofits without paying the required taxes. Nonprofits are exempt from property and federal income taxes, but not from property transfer taxes. The properties in question include such city favorites as: Mission Dolores, Old St. Mary's Cathedral, and St. Francis of Assisi. 

The diocese claims that the three nonprofits aren't actually "separate" per se, as they all fall under the umbrella of the Roman Catholic Church -- and that the transfers were just gifts under canon law.  It refers to the exchange as "internal reorganization." But Ting isn't buying it. Apparently, a gift worth between $210 million and $1.25 billion (estimated worth of the properties in question) is a little suspect.

In a June 6 article, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Ting believes the diocese is primarily trying to shield assets from liability to help pay off the $40 million in settlements related to sexual abuse lawsuits. Ting also said that he has been receiving calls from other religious nonprofits with a stake in the outcome of the case. 

In a recent press release, Archdiocesan General Counsel Jack Hammel called Ting's "extreme position" an "assault on all religious organizations and other nonprofits." But calling Ting a religion/charity-hater is actually pretty mild stuff considering Catholic organizations' track record  of comparing San Francisco officials to the Third Reich.

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