High court backs Maryland fees on national charities

March 28, 1995|By Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Maryland's 5-year-old system of charging fees for charities that seek to raise money in the state withstood a constitutional challenge in the Supreme Court yesterday.

The court turned aside an appeal by the Center for Auto Safety, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group founded by Ralph Nader. The center's appeal contended that the fee system favors local charities over those that raise money nationwide.

The fee schedule was adopted in 1989, after state officials concluded that the fees they were charging were too low to produce the revenue needed to cover state expenses of monitoring charities. A new schedule was adopted, with a sliding scale of fees based on the amount of money raised nationwide.

The smallest charities pay no fee. As a charity's nationwide collections rise, the fee starts at $50 a year and rises to its highest level, $200 a year. That is the fee the Center for Auto Safety must pay, because it raises more than $100,000 a year nationwide.

But, the center contended in its appeal, it actually raises no more XTC than $16,000 a year in Maryland. Its constitutional challenge was rejected in October by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. The Supreme Court left that result intact.

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