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.

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.

Estate Tax Repeal Alert

It appears that Congress will adjourn this year without reaching an agreement on transfer tax legislation. This means that a one-year repeal of estate and generation-skipping transfer (GST) taxes is scheduled to begin on January 1. The one-year repeal results from provisions in the 2001 tax act that reduced estate and GST taxes from 2001 through 2009, culminating in complete repeal in 2010. The provisions in the 2001 act are scheduled to “sunset” in 2011, meaning that estate and GST tax rates and exemptions will return to pre-2001 levels on January 1, 2011.