Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Denial of Religious Property Tax Exemption


In Armenian Church of Lake Bluff v. Department of Revenue, the First District Appellate Court upheld the denial of a property tax exemption for a 5-acre property on the shore of Lake Michigan improved with a single family residence that the owners claimed was the parsonage and cathedral of a church they created. The facts of the case are an extreme example of the lengths to which taxpayers will go in order to obtain a property tax exemption.

After purchasing the property in 2004 for $3 million and building additions to the home, including an indoor swimming pool and racquetball court, the owner of the property visited the website of a humanist church and obtained an instant online ordination as a Reverend for $75. The next year, the property was transferred to a newly formed corporation called “Armenian Church of Lake Bluff.” A property tax exemption application was then filed in 2007. The application claimed the property was housing for a religious officer as well as the administrative offices and cathedral of the church.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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