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.
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.
The IRS has released a new form for tax-exempt organizations to use when they request determinations (other than initial exemption […]
Today, the IRS has made public the long awaited list of organizations that automatically lost their tax-exempt status due to their failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ or 990-N for three consecutive years. The IRS announced that it has revoked the tax-exempt status of approximately 275,000 such organizations, including over 4,000 in Arizona.
The IRS’ continuing delays in launching the CyberAssistant program have left many would be nonprofit founders struggling with the question of whether CyberAssistant and its promise of significantly lower filing fees is worth the wait. Due to the ongoing delays and lack of information regarding an expected launch date, we think not.
Finding support and funding in the nonprofit world is often more challenging than finding funding for a for-profit venture. In addition, contrary to the belief of many nonprofit founders, foundation grant dollars do not grow on trees and are, in fact, the most competitive and scarce source of funding available.
To qualify as a U.S. “Friends of” affiliate of a foreign charity, U.S. law dictates how the U.S. organization must relate to its foreign affiliate. Under United States tax law, U.S. Friends of organizations must be operated independently of the foreign organizations they support.
A social welfare organization is an nonprofit organization exempt under Code Section 501(c)(4). It is similar to a 501(c)(3) organization in that its income is generally exempt from tax and is subject to the same limits on private inurement and excessive payments to insiders. It is different, however, in that contributions to it are not deductible as charitable contributions and it is able to conduct unlimited lobbying activities. Section 501(c)(4) exempts:
* nonprofit civic organizations operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare; and
* local associations of employees whose earnings are devoted to charitable, educational, or recreational purposes.
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.
Review of “Prepare Your Own 501(c)(3) Application” by Sandy Deja
In 2003, the number of applications for exemption had gone up by over 40% with no corresponding increase in the number of IRS Exempt Organization employees. This motivated the IRS to consider how to streamline the application for exemption process to make processing easier for both the IRS and the applicant. The IRS invited a panel of experts from the nonprofit legal community to make recommendations to improve the application process. The panel’s key recommendation was that the IRS revive earlier plans to develop and fund an interactive online Form 1023 filing tool accessible through the IRS website known as the “Cyber Assistant.”
UPDATE: On May 7, 2010, IRS announced in IRS Exempt Organization Update 2010-11, that Cyber Assistant is delayed – no release this year.
In my practice representing nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations, there are often themes that emerge. Over the last few weeks I have had a spate of calls from would be nonprofits that paid either a nonprofit start-up “consultant” or a document preparation company to form their nonprofit and handle their IRS filings. In each case, the work product that made it to my office required substantially more work to fix than it would have taken to do properly the first time around. You get what you pay for, and sometimes, you pay dearly for what you get. Before hiring someone to help you with the legal and tax aspects of starting a nonprofit, make sure they are licensed to provide the type of assistance they are offering, have specific experience representing nonprofits, and are in fact representing you rather than helping you to commit malpractice on yourself.
Here’s a tip for nonprofits planning to apply for tax exempt status: submit the application for exemption in 2009, before […]
As discussed in last week’s Nonprofit Law Jargon Buster, there are some organizations that are, by their very nature, considered “public.” These include churches, schools, and hospitals. Other types of charitable organizations must pass one of two mathematical tests calculated on a four year rolling average to qualify is public.
Forming a nonprofit corporation is not the same as being tax-exempt. To obtain 501(c)(3) status, newly formed entities must apply to the IRS for a formal determination of exemption. Entities seeking 501(c)(3) status apply by filing Form 1023. (Entities seeking exemption under other sections of 501(c) file Form 1024.)
Newly formed organizations applying for exemption face a chicken and egg dilemma. Form 1023 requests considerable detail regarding the charity’s planned programs and activities. The attitude of the IRS is that requiring applicants to articulate detailed plans is a small price to pay for the significant tax benefits associated with 501(c)(3) status.
I receive several calls a week from people who want to start a new non-profit. Looking back on my legal career, I realize that many of the tax-exempt organizations I helped to create early on never got off the ground. Today, I consider it part of my responsibility to the potential new client and to the sector to educate would be founders on the realities of the marketplace. What follows is a walk through the typical discussion that I have with potential founders.
To ensure its decisions will stand up to the scrutiny of the media, regulators, and donors, and protect the employee as well as the board from personal liability, nonprofits that employ executive staff should consider implementing practices and procedures that ensure its executive compensation procedures are thorough, well-documented, and free of conflicts of interest.
The I.R.S. has made the guidelines it provides to its exempt organization determination specialists for processing tax exemption applications publicly available.