Community Health Program Fights Cambridge Over Taxes

The Harvard Community Health Plan (HCHP) is battling the city of Cambridge over the payment of taxes on property the HCHP says is tax-exempt, Harold E. Putnam, HCHP treasurer, said yesterday.

"We appealed for tax exempt status to the Appellate Tax Board and were granted it," Putnam said. "The city has again ignored this and keeps sending tax bills to us," he added.

The city of Cambridge has contested HCHP's tax-exempt status for the past several years, but HCHP has yet to pay any property taxes.

The HCHP is a non-profit medical plan with no corporate connection to the University and obtains its tax-exempt status separately. It owns property in the Cambridge Health Center.

The city of Cambridge is appealing the HCHP's tax exemption status in the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, Michael A. Moreau, Cambridge project director for late tax collection, said yesterday.


HCHP is not tax-exempt until the court rules, Moreau said. In the meantime the board of assessors has the responsibility to determine outstanding taxes and submit a list to the tax collector," he added.

Putnam said HCHP qualifies for tax-exempt status under a section in the Internal Revenue Service code which authorizes exemptions for charitable organizations.

Red Tape

Richard B. Willis, a clerk for the Appellate Tax Board, the agency which officially authorizes tax exemptions, said yesterday "the health plan was judged tax-exempt six months ago and that decision still stands."

A corporation must pay "a nominal fee to the city" for the right to seek tax-exempt status, Willis said.

Rudolph R. Russo, member of the Cambridge board of assessors, said HCHP had paid the fee, but added, "they still have yet to prove that they are tax-exempt."