What should be an allowable non-profit?

In a ruling last December that sent tremors through the not-for-profit world, the Minnesota Supreme Court said a small nonprofit day care agency here had to pay propery taxes because, in essence, it gave nothing away. 

…Almost 88 percent of overall nonprofit revenues in 2005, the most
recent year for which figures are available, came from fees for
services, sales and sources other than charitable contributions…Nonprofit
health care providers, day care centers and retirement homes, among
others, are often difficult to distinguish from their tax-paying

…the Mall of America, a major tourist attraction, was seeking tax
exemptions as part of its plans to expand, arguing that it aids the
state economy by drawing visitors.

Here is the full story, interesting throughout.  I would say the Mall of America no, hospitals no (any subsidy to care should be more selective), the AAA club no, universities yes (ideas are public goods), and charities yes.  And here are important new developments in the world of Harvard philanthropy.


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