Interpreting Statutes – Every Word Counts

The Michigan Supreme Court recently came to an interesting conclusion in SBC Health Midwest, Inc. v City of Kentwood, 2017 Mich LEXIS 734, *6. This case involved SBC Health Midwest Inc.’s petition for a personal property tax exemption for its operation of a for-profit school. MCL 211.9(1)(a)’s language created an exemption for educational institutions. Respondent, the city of Kentwood, argued that the tax exemption was meant to only apply to non-profit organizations.  The City pointed out that only non-profits are exempt from real property taxes, and that there is no reason to treat personal property taxes differently. The Supreme Court held that the statutory language plainly exempted educational institutions, regardless of the company’s “profit” designation; as such, SBC Health was exempt.

The lesson here is that the absence or addition of even a single word may change the meaning of a sentence. Here, the Court has ruled that clear and unambiguous language will be followed, and that the supposed “reach” of a statutory provision is subject to the terms within it. The first step in evaluating statutory regulations in your industry involves procuring the services of counsel; as always, Demorest Law pledges to provide expert knowledge and care throughout the processing of all business matters.


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