Islamic Center of Nashville v. State of Tennessee (6th Cir. 2017): Ijāra Financing Cancels Real Estate Tax Exemption for Financed Property

To fund construction for a new building without violating Islamic law’s prohibition against interest, the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN) entered into an ijāra agreement with Devon Bank; the bank created a subsidiary for the purpose of the ijāra agreement. Under the agreement, Devon Bank had legal ownership of the building’s title until ICN could fully purchase the building. After ICN paid for the building, ownership was transferred to ICN from Devon Bank. ICN applied for a property tax exemption, including for the time period in which Devon Bank held the title for the building. The state of Tennessee denied ICN the exemption for the period in which Devon owned the building, but granted it for the time after. ICN appealed that decision. The appellate court affirmed the district court’s judgment on the basis of the Tax Injunction Act, which prohibits federal courts from hearing challenges to tax obligations if the taxpayer has adequate access to judicial review in state courts.

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