Before 1996, the only option the IRS had when faced with a tax-exempt organization that had violated the private inurement rules was to do nothing or to revoke the organization’s tax-exempt status, a penalty that often punished the organization’s beneficiaries more than the insiders who benefited from the inurement. To cure this problem, Code Section 4958 was added to the Internal Revenue Code in 1996 to provide the IRS with an “intermediate” tool between the extremes of either ignoring the problem or revoking the nonprofit’s tax-exempt status.
We have blogged about the phenomenon of nonprofit hostile takeovers and the fact that no one owns a nonprofit. However, there is always control. Although nonprofits generally lack shares that can be owned and transferred, there are many ways to ensure a level of control or influence over a nonprofit entity. Those seeking to control a nonprofit or balance governance rights among different stakeholders need to understand the available options.
When forming a new nonprofit corporation, one important consideration for incorporators is whether or not term limits should be imposed on members. Additionally, incorporators need to consider whether or not terms should be successive or staggered. There are many pros and cons for both sides of these arguments. However, in our experience, there are more advantages to term limits in the vast majority of cases. Also, we tend to favor staggered terms.
Occasionally, urgent board action is required yet it is not possible or practical to have the board meet in person or even over the telephone. In these cases, most states permit the board members to conduct official business by signing a unanimous written consent.
Often prospective clients call us wanting to know whether we know of any dormant nonprofits that are going out of business that they could take over. The idea is that taking over an existing entity avoids the hassle and expense of incorporation, creating a governance structure and obtaining tax-exempt status for a brand new entity. Presumably, a new board of directors would be substituted in place of the old board and new officers would be elected.