Montana – -(AmmoLand.com)- There was a hearing yesterday (Monday) before the House Appropriations Committee for HB 226, MSSA's bill to exempt nonprofit shooting ranges from property taxes. Ostensibly, HB 226 was re-referred from the House floor to the Appropriations Committee in order to get “clarity” on the Fiscal Note.
A Fiscal Note is an attachment to a bill, prepared usually by the affected state agency, that attempts to identify any fiscal impact to the state (cost of money to implement, decreased revenue, increased revenue, etc.) The Fiscal Note for HB 226 estimated the impact at zero because it says it is unknown how many shooting ranges might drop off the tax rolls if HB 226 were enacted.
You will remember that I recently sent out an email to this list asking for info about local ranges – where, who, if on public or private land, and if a 501(c) or not under IRS rules. I needed this info to address the Fiscal Note for the committee hearing yesterday.
Here's what I learned: FWP reports that there are 143 known shooting ranges in Montana. I got information from you about 30 of these ranges (thanks!) This info established a pattern of land ownership and 501(c) status that I could report to the committee. Here's the summary (updated this morning):
- Total responses (2/11/19) – 30
- Private land no 501(c) (pays property tax) – 1 = 3.3%
- Private land unknown if 501(c) – 3 = 10%
- Private land 501(c) (no property tax paid) – 13 = 43.3%
- Public land (no property tax paid) – 13 = 43.3%
The purpose of HB 226 is to give shooting range clubs a Montana option to avoid property taxes so they can get out from under their federal 501(c) status if they choose. According to projection from my data, an estimated 43% of the 143 ranges in Montana could do this if HB 226 passes.
An argument against HB 226 that was made on the House floor during the previous Second Reading is that HB 226 is not “fair” because it doesn't offer the same opportunity to all the other 501(c) entities in Montana that are not shooting ranges. I told the committee that fairness isn't an issue because shooting ranges are unique in that they require a large footprint of real estate to make them safe for their purpose, thus they have a significant potential property tax bill. The Community Cat Club that is a 501(c) or the Music Appreciation Society that is a 501(c) probably doesn't have any real estate at all, much less the large property required for a safe shooting range.
Plus, if other 501(c) entities in Montana want special treatment under Montana law, let them bring their own bill and make their case to the Legislature.
Back to the Fiscal Note, which was the alleged purpose of the additional public hearing on HB 226, I told the Committee that I could only identify one of 30 ranges, about which I gathered info, that currently pays property tax. If my sample of 30 of 143 ranges in Montana demonstrates the pattern correctly (it is probably very close), then the impact to the state of lost revenue from currently-taxed ranges dropping off the tax rolls would be trivial indeed. And, I said, that this trivial impact is so inconsequential as to justify allowing the 501(c) ranges to bail on their exposure to the IRS over their 501(c) status while avoiding Montana property tax because of this Montana law.
Please message the House Appropriations Committee members and ask them to support HB 226.
About Montana Shooting Sports Association:
Montana Shooting Sports Association ( MSSA ) is the primary political advocate for Montana gun owners.