Win for Democracy – Federal Court Rejects Change to Substantial Contributor Reporting Requirement

The Service announced in Rev. Proc. 2018-38 that it would no longer require most tax-exempt organizations to report the names and addresses of substantial contributors. The change did not apply to purely public charities exempt under Sec. 501(c)(3). Substantial donor information is currently reported on Schedule B, Schedule of Contributors, of Form 990, Form 990-EZ, Form 990-PF and Form 990-BL. The ruling reduced transparency with respect to substantial contributors and was widely seen as a boon to dark-money forces seeking to influence our elections.

The new Revenue Procedure was swiftly challenged in court. Montana and New Jersey filed suit to challenge the rule change on the basis that the federal data is shared with the states and they rely on the substantial-contributor information in enforcing their own laws. On July 30, 2019, a federal district court in Montana ruled that the IRS violated federal law when it adopted Revenue Procedure 2018-38.