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McClain Museum, Inc. v. Madison County Assessor

Tax Court of Indiana

November 7, 2019

McCLAIN MUSEUM, INC., Petitioner,
v.
MADISON COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent.

          ON APPEAL FROM A FINAL DETERMINATION OF THE INDIANA BOARD OF TAX REVIEW

          ATTORNEY FOR PETITIONER: JONATHON T. COOK SANSBERRY DICKMANN BUILTA & COOK Anderson, IN

          ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: CURTIS T. HILL, JR. ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA REBECCA L. McCLAIN WINSTON LIN ALEKSANDRINA P. PRATT DEPUTY ATTORNEYS GENERAL Indianapolis, IN

          WENTWORTH, J.

         McClain Museum, Inc. challenges the final determination of the Indiana Board of Tax Review holding that its real property did not qualify for either the educational purposes exemption or the charitable purposes exemption for the 2014 tax year. Upon review, the Court affirms in part and reverses in part the Indiana Board's final determination.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The McClain Museum, located in Anderson, Indiana, exhibits military equipment that was used by the United States' armed forces in various conflicts ranging from World War I through Desert Storm. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 98, 102, 151-64, 191-257, 1054-55, 1404-13.) Founded in 1989 by Joseph McClain, a local Vietnam War veteran, the Museum was established as an Indiana not-for-profit corporation and granted an exemption from federal income taxation pursuant to IRC § 501(c)(3). (See Cert. Admin. R. at 99, 118-19, 1044, 1092.) The Museum's purpose, as stated in its Bylaws, is:

(1) To acquire and conserve motorized and non-motorized vehicles and equipment for historical preservation.
(2) To exhibit the collection of vehicles and equipment for purpose of educating visiting public.
(3) To collect, restore and exhibit military armored equipment.
(4) To conduct research in the area of motorized and non-motorized vehicles and equipment and collect information for future preservation.
(5) To acquire, rebuild, and rent vehicles and equipment for public use and display.
(6) Establish a facility for display of vehicles and equipment.
(7) To acquire and conserve historical items of Madison County's industrial and manufacturing history for an in-house, outreach and traveling exhibits.
(8) To use the historical collection to educate and preserve Madison County's natural and cultural history and technological accomplishments.
(9) To use the collection for scholarly research.
(10)Solely in furtherance of the aforesaid purposes to transact any and all lawful business for which a not-for-profit corporation may be incorporated under the Indiana Business Corporation Law, provided such business is not inconsistent with the corporation being organized and operated exclusively for charitable, educational, vocational and scientific purposes.

(Cert. Admin. R. at 102.) The Museum is recognized by the United States Army as a historical preservation site for military equipment. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 135, 1066-74.)

         The Museum's property consists of two buildings and a parking lot situated on approximately 18 acres of partially wooded land. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 150-90, 699-700.) The larger of the two buildings, at approximately 88, 600 square feet, is divided into several discrete sections:

(1) an exhibition area and library where retired military tanks, vehicles, equipment, artillery-related items, uniforms, photographs, manuals and books are displayed for public viewing;[1]
(2) a restoration area where military vehicles are serviced, repaired and maintained;
(3) a storage area where exhibit items and excess vehicle parts are housed when not on display or in use;
(4) a reception/meeting hall known as the "Officer's Club."

(See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 150, 191-340, 1124-28, 1198-99, 1315-19.) (See also generally Cert. Admin. R. at 1194-1233 (testimony describing the approximately 200 photographs of the subject property).) The smaller building, at approximately 5, 400 square feet, is used entirely for military vehicle storage. (Cert. Admin. R. at 150.) (See also Oral Arg. Tr. at 3.)

         During the year at issue, the Museum was open to the general public Wednesday through Friday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 567, 662-63.) Nevertheless, the Museum was open upon request and guided tours were available by appointment. (See Cert. Admin. R. at 567, 662-63, 1093-94, 1375.) Guided tours were conducted for various veterans groups, school groups, scouting groups, police groups, and groups interested in military communications. (See, e.g., Cert. Admin. R. at 567, 1370-77.) With volunteer ...


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