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August 03, 2016

D.C. May Revisit Payments in Lieu of Taxes for Colleges

Georgetown, George Washington, and other universities in Washington, D.C., hold property that would have added $111 million to city tax coffers were it not nonprofit-owned, The Washington Post writes. The article examines the numbers in the context of years-long calls by some District officials to extract payments in lieu of taxes from colleges that control billions of dollars’ worth of untaxable real estate.

Previous proposals have withered in the face of opposition from university leaders who say their institutions, among them some of the city’s biggest employers, already provide significant economic benefit. The debate could be renewed as Congress scrutinizes the finances of the country’s wealthiest private colleges, with hearings scheduled this fall on hefty tuition increases at institutions with $1 billion-plus endowments.

“I’m sure this is not the end of the issue,” said Fitzroy Lee, the city’s deputy chief financial officer and a member of the D.C. Tax Revision Commission, which periodically reviews the city’s tax structure. “There is so much valuable property outside of the ambit of our tax base, so I’m sure whenever there is any kind of fiscal stress, it will always come up as one way of raising revenue.”