IRS’ Debuts New and Improved Exempt Organization Search

The IRS has debuted a new and improved exempt organization search page.  Previously, the public could use the IRS’ Select Check tool to lookup an organization by name or EIN. However, Select Check only permitted confirmation of an organization’s tax-exempt status and whether the organization was a public charity or private foundation. 

DIY Nonprofit Law – Top Five Mistakes

The state form does not include the tax provisions that the IRS requires tax-exempt organizations to have. Would be founders that file using the state’s form Articles of Incorporation without including an attachment with the appropriate tax provisions will end up with a taxable nonprofit – a result almost no one intends.

Reporting Diversions of Nonprofit Assets

The Washington Post has identified over 1,000 nonprofit organizations that have reported a “significant diversion” of assets. Its important to note that there are over 1,616,000 tax-exempt nonprofits in the U.S. today; thus, these filings represent less than 1% of tax-exempt nonprofits. It’s also interesting to note that a quick review of Arizona’s list includes only 21 organizations – most of which reported the diversions in a clear, transparent, and confidence inspiring manner.

Senate Finance Committee Report Identifies Issues and Proposes Solutions

On June 13, 2013, the Senate Finance Committee released a cooperative, bipartisan report comprised of suggestions on how (and why) to change government regulations on tax-exempt/nonprofit organizations and on the rules of charitable giving. The Committee’s Report set forth a number of issues that need to be addressed in the nonprofit and charitable giving arena, and offer a number of potential solutions.

IRS Audits of Tax-exempt Entities

Although there are many reasons a nonprofit organization may be selected for an audit, several things heighten the chance of being selected. Things like irregularities on Form 990s, failure to file a Form 990, citizen complaints, having a relationship with another taxpayer currently being audited or receiving negative media attention can all increase your chance of being audited beyond the random internal IRS computer process.

IRS Launches Compliance Check of 1300 Self-declared 501(c)(4),(5) and (6) Organizations

As the IRS Exempt Organizations division indicated in its 2013 work plan, it is conducting a compliance check of self-declared tax-exempt organizations. The IRS recently mailed over 1,300 questionnaires to self-declared Section 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), and 501(c)(6) organizations. The project is part of the IRS’ plan to gather information about self-declared exempt organizations, determine whether self-declared exempt organizations are complying with applicable tax-exempt law, and increase voluntary compliance.

Is it time for a Legal Audit?

A legal audit is an overview of an organization’s non-financial compliance, governance and risk management issues. Organizations typically consider a legal audit when new management takes over and wants to ensure they are starting with a clean slate or the in the wake of a costly mistake.

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions: Top 10 Common Pitfalls for Employers

Sure, it takes a good deal more paperwork and money to maintain an employee versus using an independent contractor. But it’s more than worth it to make sure you are properly categorizing an employee. “Independent Contractor” does not have a finite definition under the law. Certain liabilities also don’t apply to independent contractors, such as worker’s compensation, FMLA, paid family leave benefits, unemployment insurance, and other various potential benefits. So, it can be tempting to try to wedge a person into an independent contractor position when they actually should be classified as an employee.

Self-Declared Exempt Organizations – A Guide to Ensure IRS Compliance

In its 2012 workplan, the IRS announced it will be paying closer attention to self-declared 501(c)(4), (c)(5) and (c)(6) organizations. These groups include social welfare organizations; labor, agricultural and horticultural groups; as well as business leagues and chambers of commerce. Such organizations consider themselves to be tax-exempt because of the nature of their activities, but they have not filed for nor received a formal determination letter from the IRS. These groups are allowed to operate without an official IRS determination because, unlike the 27 month filing deadline for 501(c)(3) charities, they are not subject to a deadline for filing an application for exemption.

Start-up Nonprofits Beware: Ensure your Tax Preparer is Registered with the IRS

Charities should be aware that it is now illegal for anyone to receive compensation for preparing a return for someone else if they have not obtained a PTIN from the IRS first; a paid preparer who is not registered with the IRS is perpetrating fraud. If a charity chooses to work with an unregistered paid preparer, it opens itself up to IRS scrutiny and, possibly, denial of tax exemption plus additional attorneys’ fees to resolve any issues arising from the initial filing. Charities also need to keep in mind that the organization, regardless of whether or not a paid preparer was used, is ultimately responsible for the information in it’s exemption application.

Nonprofits that Fail to Timely File Form 990 May Face Steep Penalties

Fortunately, for nonprofits with reasonable cause for filing late, there is a silver lining. Code Section 6652(c)(3) provides that penalties assessed for late filing may be waived when the late filing was due to “reasonable cause.” Accordingly, the IRS will consider waiving the penalties (but not the interest) where the organization can prove the late filing was due to reasonable cause.

Nonprofit Jargon Buster Fiscal Sponsorship vs. Fiscal Agency

The term “Fiscal Sponsorship” describes an arrangement between a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax exempt status and a project, often a new charitable effort, conducted by an organization, group, or an individual that does not have 501(c)(3) status. Fiscal sponsorship permits the exempt sponsor to accept funds restricted for the sponsored project on the project’s behalf. The sponsor, in turn, accepts the responsibility to ensure the funds are properly spent to achieve the project’s goals. This arrangement is useful for new charitable endeavors that want to “test the waters” before deciding whether to form an independent entity as well as temporary projects or coalitions that are looking for a neutral party to administer their funds.