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 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.
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.
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.
The IRS has released preliminary results from their study of tax-exempt organizations’ nonprofit governance practices. As expected, the preliminary findings suggest that organizations with good
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.
The final Form 990 for the 2011 tax year has been released by the IRS and includes a few significant changes that charities should be aware of.
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.