Thursday, March 16, 2017

Global Philanthropy: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

GlobeRecent events and news stories highlight the uncertain future of global philanthropy. On one hand, the Hudson Institute recently celebrated global philanthropy as it transferred its Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances and its Index of Philanthropy Freedom to the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, and the Christian Science Monitor reported late last year that China is encouraging domestic philanthropy by its growing number of billionaires.  On the other hand, various news outlets have reported on numerous countries cracking down on foreign charities and foreign-funded domestics charities, including:

  • Hungary, where the Budapest Beacon reported earlier this year that the government is attacking allegedly "fake civil organizations," including the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, and Transparency International.
  • India, where the N.Y. Times reported last week that the child-sponsorship organization Compassion International is ending its support of 145,000 children in that country, joining more than 11,000 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that have lost their licenses to accept foreign funds since 2014. According to an earlier L.A. Times story from earlier this year, those NGOs include a domestic charity that fought caste-based discrimination for decades. (The N.Y. Times also reported that U.S. officials are trying to resolve the Compassion International case through diplomatic channels.)
  • Kenya, where a watchdog group reported late last year that government authorities froze the bank accounts of a U.S. NGO carrying out an electoral assistance program ahead of this year's general elections.

Tomorrow I will do a post about my recent article addressing these trends and the limited legal options NGOs currently have for countering them.

Lloyd Mayer

March 16, 2017 in In the News, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

IRS Targets Syndicated Conservation Easement Donation Transactions

1 IRS LogoIn December 2016, the IRS issued Notice 2017-10, which states that the Treasury and the IRS are aware that promoters are syndicating conservation easement donation transactions through partnerships or other pass-through entities, and these transactions purport to give investors the opportunity to obtain charitable deductions in amounts that significantly exceed the amounts invested.

These transactions generally take the following form: investors invest in a pass-through entity that owns real property, the pass-through entity then donates a conservation easement to a tax-exempt entity and the resulting charitable deduction is allocated to the investors, and the investors rely on the pass-through entity's holding period in the underlying real property to treat the donated conservation easement as long-term capital gain property under IRC § 170(e)(1). The promoters of these transactions greatly inflate the value of the deductions that are allocated to the investors by obtaining appraisals that greatly inflate the value of the conservation easements based on unreasonable conclusions about the development potential of the underlying property.

The Notice identities the following transactions (or those substantially similar thereto) as "listed" (tax avoidance) transactions: if an investor received oral or written promotional materials that offered prospective investors in a pass-through entity the possibility of a deduction that equals or exceeds two and one-half times the investor’s investment. Participants and material advisors, including appraisers, involved in these transactions since January 2010 may be required to disclose pertinent facts about the transactions to the IRS by May 1, 2017, and may be subject to significant penalties for failing to do so. 

The Notice further provides that the IRS intends to challenge the purported tax benefits from these transactions based on the overvaluation of the conservation easements and the partnership anti-abuse rule, economic substance, and other rules or doctrines.

For purposes of the Notice, tax-exempt organizations accepting conservation easements are not treated as parties to or participants in these transactions. However, if  an organization was involved in setting up such a transaction, it may be deemed to have acted as a promoter or material advisor and should consult with its legal advisors regarding its potential obligations under the Notice.

Nancy A. McLaughlin, Robert W. Swenson Professor of Law, University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law

 

March 15, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Most Litigated Issue #8: Charitable Contribution Deductions

Taxpayer Advocate ServiceIn her Annual Report to Congress, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson listed charitable contribution deductions under Internal Revenue Code section 170 as number eight on her list of ten Most Litigated Issues. The topics that led to the most disputes in the 26 decisions from the June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016 twelve-month period that she reviewed were substantiation (12 cases), easements (9 cases), and valuation (5 cases), with some cases involving multiple issues. For summaries of all 26 decisions, see Appendix 3, Table 8 in the Appendices to Volume One of the report.

Lloyd Mayer

March 15, 2017 in Federal – Executive, Federal – Judicial | Permalink | Comments (0)

501(c)(4) Application Controversy - Litigation Grinds On, No Impeachment or Firing in Sight

IRSIn case we needed any reminders that litigation takes a long time, the past several months have seen a few minor developments in the litigation that grew out of the section 501(c)(4) application controversy that exploded in May 2013 (!). In no particular order:

  • The Supreme Court denied certiorari in True the Vote, Inc. v. Lois Lerner, et al., No. 16-613, and a related case, rejecting the plaintiffs' attempt to get the Bivens claims against Ms. Lerner and other IRS officials reinstated. The underlying case of True the Vote, Inc. v. IRS, et al. continues in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia as Civil Action No. 13-734, without the Bivens claims and so limited to injunctive and declaratory relief, along with the related case of Linchpins of Liberty v. United States, et al., Civil Action No. 13-777, in the same court. UPDATE: I should have noted in my original post that a case raising similar claims is also proceeding in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Freedom Path, Inc. v. Lerner, Civil Action No. 3:14-CV-1537-D), although there have been no major developments in that case since a decision last May on the government's motion to dismiss.
  • A class action lawsuit continues in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, NorCal Tea Party Patriots, et al. v. IRS, et al., Civil Action No. 13-341, after the judge in the case ruled late last year that the IRS had to continue processing the application of one of the class members (the Texas Patriots Tea Party).
  • Judicial Watch announced the IRS has discovered an additional 6,924 responsive documents relating to Judicial Watch's pending FOIA lawsuit against the IRS (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Civil Action No. 15-220); it is not clear if these documents contain any new information, and the timetable for public disclosure of the documents is uncertain.

At the same time, Republican leaders in Congress have shown no appetite for pursuing impeachment of current IRS Commissioner John Koskinen even as conservative members argue for it and the Trump administration has quietly avoided demanding Koskinen's resignation even in the face of calls to fire him. For recent coverage, see The Hill and the Washington Post. It is hard not to imagine that the Commissioner is silently counting the days until his term ends in November, however. It will also be interesting to see who will be willing to replace him in the current political environment.

Lloyd Mayer

March 15, 2017 in Federal – Executive, Federal – Judicial, Federal – Legislative, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 13, 2017

What About University & College Endowments?

HarvardLast year Congress began hammering away again at the topic of university and college endowments, sending letters to 56 private universities with endowments exceeding $1 billion about how they use that money (see, for example, this Washington Post story). Yet in in its current session the topic appears to have fallen off at the least the public legislative agenda. While this is likely in part because of the many other controversial items on that agenda, part of the explanation may also lie with the recent struggles universities and colleges have faced relating to their endowments. The most recent survey of endowment returns and spending showed both a negative return on average for the endowments at 805 institutions and increased spending for the year ended June 30, 2016, according to a Bloomberg story (see also this Washington Post story). These disappointing results in the face of increasing financial demands have led to the major restructuring of at least one endowment fund office, with Harvard University laying off half of its investment group's employees according to a Boston Globe report.

UPDATE: Harvard Gazette article regarding the endowment fund office changes (hat tip: Ellen Aprill).

Lloyd Mayer

March 13, 2017 in Federal – Legislative, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Legislation Update: ACA Repeal, Johnson Amendment, and Tax Reform

CongressCongress is attempting to advance legislation in at least three major areas that could directly impact tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.

Affordable Care Act Repeal (and Replace?)

The effort to repeal (and replace?) the Affordable Care Act would almost certainly have major effects on nonprofit health care providers, particularly hospitals, as well as likely every nonprofit that provides health insurance or health care to its employees or beneficiaries. The Nonprofit Quarterly provides a good summary of the current version of the repeal and replace legislation, including its likely effect on nonprofits. The full text of the current bill is available here.

"Johnson Amendment" Repeal or Modification

OpEds and lobbying letters continue to proliferate even as it is unclear when legislation removing or modifying the political campaign intervention prohibition for charities will advance. Pending bills include:

  • The Free Speech Fairness Act (H.R. 781 and S. 264), which would modify the prohibition so as not to apply to "any statement which (A) is made in the ordinary course of the organization's regular and customary activities in carrying out its exempt purpose, and (B) results in the organization incurring not more than de minimis incremental expenses."
  • H.R. 172, which would remove the prohibition entirely but, in an apparent oversight, only from Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) and so not from  section 170(c)(2) and other sections relating to charitable contribution deductions.

The two House bills have been referred to the House Ways and Means Committee, while the Senate bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee.

Recently expressed views on the legislation including statements from Douglas Laycock (UVA), Edward Zelinsky (Cardozo), the Council on Foundations, a community letter campaign launched by the National Council of Nonprofits and others, a letter from 86, mostly progressive groups (including the National Council of Churches), and a published debate in U.S. News & World Report featuring Doug Bandow (Cato Institute), Alan Brownstein (U.C. Davis), Roger Colinvaux (Catholic University), Barry Lynn (Americans United for Separation of Church and State), and Matthew Schmalz (College of Holy Cross).

Tax Reform

The year began with fears that tax reform could sharply limit the availability of the charitable contribution deduction through such measures as limits on itemized deductions and estate tax repeal (see, for example, this Forbes piece). There are, however some recent indications that Congress is moving away from measures that would limit the deduction for at least income tax purposes, and even considering expanding the income tax deduction in several ways (see, for example, this report from the Council on Foundations on recent comments by members of Congress). The Trump administration  has yet to release its tax reform proposals, however, and tax reform generally is a moving target as this story from The Hill underlines.

Lloyd Mayer

March 13, 2017 in Federal – Legislative, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 3, 2017

FTC & NASCO Will be Hosting a Conference to Discuss Consumer Protection and Charitable Giving: March 21

The Federal Trade Commission and the National Association of State Charities Officials will be hosting a conference to bring together various stakeholders to discuss charitable solicitation and consumer protection.  It will take place all day on March 21, 2017, at the Constitution Center, 400 7th St., SW, Washington, DC 20024. From the event website:

The event will bring together leading stakeholders -- regulators, researchers, practitioners, charity watchdogs, donor advocates, and members of the nonprofit sector. Discussions will focus on consumer protection concerns in the sector, including available data on donor expectations and perceptions, deceptive fundraising practices, the regulatory and enforcement environment, and new charitable giving options...

The conference is free and the first day is open to the public. 

See you there!

@JosephWMead

 

 

March 3, 2017 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Paypal's Online Giving Platform

Yesterday, a class action lawsuit was filed against PayPal, accusing the website of redirecting donations made through its "Giving Fund" portal. 

Screenshot 2017-03-01 15.42.10
Complaint, Figure 5

The website invites users to donate to more than a million charities through their system, promising that 100% of the funds will go to the identified nonprofit.  However, the complaint alleges, if the donee nonprofit does not have a registered account set up with PayPal (and many organizations don't), the money will never reach the intended organization, and instead be redistributed to other nonprofits. 

The complaint asserts legal theories of theft, breach of fiduciary obligations, and violation of consumer protection laws.

@JosephWMead

March 1, 2017 in In the News, State – Judicial | Permalink | Comments (0)

Schizer: Subsidies and Nonprofit Governance: Comparing the Charitable Deduction with the Exemption for Endowment Income

David Schizer has posted a new working paper, entitled "Subsidies and Nonprofit Governance: Comparing the Charitable Deduction with the Exemption for Endowment Income." From the abstract:

Charitable subsidies are supposed to encourage positive externalities from charity. In principle, the government can pursue this goal by evaluating specific charitable initiatives and deciding how much each should receive. But this Article focuses on two income tax rules that leave the government very little discretion about which charities to fund: the deduction for donations to charity (“the deduction”) and the exemption of a charity’s investment income (“the exemption”). Under each rule, as long as charities satisfy very general criteria, federal dollars flow automatically. While both of these sibling subsidies delegate key decisions to private individuals, they create very different incentives and effects. This Article breaks new ground by showing their different effects on the governance of nonprofits.

Specifically, the deduction has three advantages over the exemption. First, the deduction uses a more reliable test for determining whether a charity should receive government funding: a charity has to attract donations, which means donors believe in the charity. For the exemption, by contrast, a charity has to run a surplus, which is less dependable evidence of social value. Second, the deduction empowers donors to monitor nonprofit managers, while the exemption undercuts this monitoring. Since the exemption offers tax-free returns only to charities, and not to donors, it encourages donors to turn over assets to charities (“endowment gifts”), instead of keeping these assets and making annual gifts of the investment return (“spendable gifts”). But once a donor gives an endowment to an operating charity, she cannot redirect this money to another charity, even if she later develops doubts about the charity’s mission or management. Third, in favoring endowments, the exemption exacerbates another familiar governance problem: cumbersome or stale limits on endowments.

These governance issues are an important, but largely overlooked, reason to favor the deduction over the exemption. Yet although scaling back the exemption solves one set of problems, it creates another: charities would begin making tax-motivated saving and investment decisions. In deciding how much of the subsidy for charities should be delivered through the exemption, as opposed to the deduction, Congress needs to manage this tradeoff. This Article explores various ways to do so.

-JWM

March 1, 2017 in Publications – Articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Hundreds of Churches Appear to Receive Exemption Determinations Using Form 1023-EZ

Today, the IRS released complete publicly available data on the over 105,000 organizations that were approved for tax-exemption using the streamlined application process, Form 1023-EZ from its inception in July 2014 through December 2016.  From the IRS news release:

The data on IRS.gov is available in spreadsheet format and includes information for approved applications beginning in mid-2014, when the 1023-EZ form was introduced, through 2016. The information will be updated quarterly, starting with the first quarter of calendar year 2017. The IRS’s Tax Exempt and Government Entities division approved more than 105,000 applications for exemption submitted on the Form 1023-EZ from 2014 through 2016.

In reviewing the data for these organizations, I noted something odd -- there was an organization approved using the streamlined process which by its name appeared to be a church.  According to the Form 1023-EZ instructions and Form 1023-EZ eligibility worksheet, churches are not eligible to use Form 1023-EZ and instead must use Form 1023 to apply for a determination letter from the IRS.  In particular, the eligibility worksheet states that if the applicant answers "yes" to any question on the worksheet, the applicant is not eligible to use Form 1023-EZ.  Question 12 on the worksheet asks, "Are you a church . . .?"  Applicants using Form 1023-EZ must attest on the form that the applicant has completed the eligibility worksheet and is eligible to use the form. 

The Form 1023-EZ is filed electronically and is composed of several self-certifying statements made by the applicant to the effect that the applicant qualifies for tax-exempt status as an organization described in Section 501(c)(3).  No supporting documentation is required to be submitted with the application so that the IRS can verify the applicant's qualification for tax-exemption.  With over 105,000 organizations approved and no way to verify the information, I was not surprised that perhaps a few organizations not eligible to file slipped through the cracks. 

However, I was curious to see just how many churches incorrectly used Form 1023-EZ to obtain an IRS determination letter.  I conducted a search of the names of all of the organizations approved for exemption using Form 1023-EZ for the word "church" using the new searchable data released by the IRS.  I found 623 of the approved organizations had "church" in the name.  Upon closer review, not all of these organizations appeared to be churches.  Some appeared to be a separately organized ministry of a church or a church foundation or an organization in a town named "Churchville." But in my cursory review of the names of these 623 organizations, I would estimate that over 90% appeared to be churches.  Some of these organizations provided website addresses, and a visit to these website addresses confirmed these organizations operated as churches.  Even though churches are not eligible to file Form 1023-EZ, all of these organizations attested that they had completed the eligibility worksheet and were eligible to use Form 1023-EZ.

Churches are not required to file an application for exemption to be exempt as a church described in Section 501(c)(3).  However, many churches opt to apply for exemption so that the church can receive an IRS determination letter stating that the church qualifies for exemption.  The IRS determination letter serves as evidence to donors that the church is recognized as being tax-exempt and contributions made to the church qualify for the charitable contribution deduction. 

The churches that received an IRS determination letter using the Form 1023-EZ process may very well meet the requirements for exemption as a church described in Section 501(c)(3).  But the IRS decided that it wanted to take a closer look at the applicants claiming to be churches, and thus requires them to use the normal Form 1023 process.  By inappropriately using the Form 1023-EZ process, these churches have gotten the benefit of voluntarily applying for tax exemption - the IRS determination letter - without having to go through the scrutiny of the normal Form 1023 application process as the IRS requires.

Additionally, this information is but one example of the problems with the streamlined Form 1023-EZ process.  A quick review of the organization's name (for example "** Baptist Church" or "** Church of Christ") should have given one pause about whether the organization was eligible to use Form 1023-EZ.  This should have resulted in an inquiry to the organization about whether it planned to operate as a church, or one could have visited the organization's website provided on the form to see that the organization had regularly scheduled church services and appeared to operate as a church.  The organization then should have been directed to apply using Form 1023. All of these organizations attested that they were eligible to use Form 1023-EZ, but a quick independent verification of this attestation likely would have shown the attestation to be false in a significant number of cases.  This is one small example of the need to independently verify the applicant's statements made on the Form 1023-EZ, or organizations which do not meet the requirements for exemption or the eligibility requirements to use Form 1023-EZ will inappropriately be approved for exemption. 

For additional examples of the need for independent verification of the information provided on Form 1023-EZ, see the Taxpayer Advocate Service 2015 Report to Congress and the Taxpayer Advocate Service 2016 Report to Congress.

 

TLH

 

 

February 22, 2017 in Current Affairs, Federal – Executive | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Articles Relating to Repealing the Johnson Amendment

Plenty of articles regarding whether to repeal or relax the Johnson Amendment. Here is a sample:

Chronicle of Philanthropy: Doug White, “Mr. Trump, Let’s End the Hypocrisy and Deny Tax Breaks to Churches"

Tax Prof Blog: collecting articles by the New York Times, Daniel Hemel (Chicago), Roger Colinvaux (Catholic), Ellen Aprill (Loyola-LA), and Andrew Lewis (Cincinnati).

Washington Post: containing a defense of legislation not to repeal but relax the Johnson amendment from the legislation’s sponsors: James Lankford, Steve Scalise, and Jody Hice.

Washington Times (editorial): Be Careful What You Wish For.

Inside Philanthropy: Jon Levine and David Callahan, "The Biggest Loser From Repealing the Johnson Amendment? Philanthropy.

RC

 

 

February 8, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Is the Emporer Naked? Non-Enforcement of Tax-Exempt Organization Laws

In this post on the Surly Subgroup, Prof. Lloyd Mayer discusses the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the IRS as a regulator of the nonprofit sector. Here is the opening paragraph:

The Donald J. Trump Foundation admits to illegal self-dealing (The Washington Post). The Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation files amended annual returns to correct numerous reporting errors (Amended Returns Fact Sheet). A white nationalist group avoids filing annual returns for several years, apparently in reliance on a bureaucratic misclassification (The Washington Post). On “Pulpit Freedom Sunday,” thousands of churches violate the prohibition on IRC section 501(c)(3) organizations supporting or opposing candidates (CNN). These and numerous other recent examples of behavior by tax-exempt organizations that clearly violates the applicable tax laws lead to one obvious question: where was the IRS? The growing perception – and sometimes although not always the reality – is that when it comes to the administration and enforcement of those laws there is no one home.

RC

February 6, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 3, 2017

That's me in the corner/ that's me in the spotlight/ losing my religion*

...but gaining a tax deduction!

At the recent National Prayer Breakfast, President Trump stated:

It was the great Thomas Jefferson** who said, the God who gave us life, gave us liberty. Jefferson asked, can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God. Among those freedoms is the right to worship according to our own beliefs. That is why I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution. I will do that, remember.

Some may not know the term “the Johnson Amendment,” but I am guessing that most of the readers of this blog would be familiar with Code Section 501(c)(3)’s prohibition on election intervention (“and which does not participate in, or intervene in (including the publishing or distributing of statements), any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for public office.”)   Famously, Lyndon Johnson was somewhat irritated by negative comments made by a tax-exempt organization (note: not a church… ) during his campaign for re-election to the Senate; thus the Johnson Amendment adding the prohibition on electioneering was born in 1954

Of course, “totally destroying” statutory provisions is traditionally the prerogative of Congress, so it remains to be seen whether this change will come to pass.   A bill repealing the Johnson Amendment is introduced regularly each legislative session and rarely makes any progress; query if the current political climate would give it more traction.   One wonders if the change takes the form of a repeal of the Section 501(c)(3) language (which would open electioneering to all c3s) or a special exception just for churches or religious organizations.   Finally, would such repeal include rules that mirror the income tax provisions that disallow deductions for membership dues allocable to lobbying?   If not, I suspect that a large number of political donors of all stripes will suddenly find religion right quick.

For further discussion of these issues, please see this piece by the most awesome Ellen Aprill in the Washington Post, who has probably forgotten more about the political and lobbying rules for nonprofits than I ever hope to know.

EWW

*With apologies to R.E.M.

**cough** This is me not commenting on the fact that Trump is quoting Thomas Jefferson, author of the First Amendment.  Of course, all political commentary (or non-commentary, as the case may be) is my own individually and should not be attributed to anyone else.  EWW

February 3, 2017 in Current Affairs, Federal – Executive, Federal – Legislative, In the News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

H-1B Visa Program Facing Unclear Future

The NonProfit Times reports that the new year and new administration brings uncertainty to the future of the H-1B visa program. “The H-1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that allows for-profit companies and nonprofits to employ people in graduate level fields that require expertise in areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).”

The program is a vital way in which universities attract and retain the best and brightest minds across the globe. In 2016, 29,227 H-1B applications were approved for non-profits, with almost 27,000 of those being universities. Commentators are concerned that a change in the program could hinder both the quantity and quality of research in American universities.

While President Trump has not taken an official stance on the H-1B program, his insistence on immigration reform leaves the future of the program less than certain. Some of President Trump’s appointees have openly opposed H-1B visas, leading to further speculation of the program’s prospects.

Anita Drummond, a non-profit attorney, stated that the United States higher education sector “prides itself on being a global citizen, bringing together perspectives and the best of the best.” Hopefully the new administration can build on this pride, offering our students a place where they may thrive.

 

David A. Brennen

January 25, 2017 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Accumulating Digital Assets for Non-Profits

A recent article from Non-Profit Quarterly speaks to the ability of not-for-profits to accumulate valuable assets, that is, social media capital. Although not appearing on the balance sheet, a solid social media presence can help non-profits reach their target audience both more efficiently and effectively.

While many non-profit managers may assume that spending valuable resources on a social media presence may be frivolous, in the end it may be a more economical way to solicit donations and spread the organizational mission to others. On the flip side, having immediate access and accessibility to these organizations changes the competitive landscape of non-profits.

The article brings to light an outline of how to both understand social media capital, and leverage it to your organization’s benefit. Although there are currently no accounting methods to account for social media assets, with the growing importance of social media coupled with the massive value associated with these presences, it is not impossible to envision a time in the coming years where these assets appear on the balance sheet, fundamentally changing how non-profits operate.

 In a digital age it is of the utmost importance of all those involved in the management of a non-profit to understand how their organizations can build a sustainable advantage, lowering their operating costs while maximizing their potential reach.

David A. Brennen

January 24, 2017 in Current Affairs, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (0)

Has Illinois Offered an Unconstitutional Tax-Exemption to Hospitals?

The Supreme Court of Illinois is hearing arguments to determine the constitutionality of a 2012 law which exempts not-for-profit hospitals from paying property taxes, as long as their charity provided is at least equal to their property tax liability.

Some Illinois municipalities believe the hospitals are in fact making a profit, and should be held accountable for their fair share of property taxes. These municipalities believe the exemption may only be constitutionally granted if the property is used exclusively for charitable purposes.

The hospitals under review, however, argue that under the constitution the “exclusive use for charitable purposes” standard may be met as long as the hospital is “made available to all who need it regardless of ability to pay.”

Clearly this ruling will carry important policy implications that will impact the landscape of the health care industry. 156 of Illinois’ approximately 200 hospitals carry a not-for-profit status. Further, a report furnished for this case indicates that 47 Chicago area non-profit hospitals received property tax exemptions worth $279 million.

David A. Brennen

January 24, 2017 in In the News, State – Judicial, State – Legislative | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Is Protest Travel Tax-Deductible?

More than a million people attended protests and marches over the weekend, including half a million in Washington DC.  Gettyimages-632287522_slide-dd0cdc47115cc7c17152c8d4bffd893dfc7f7260-s900-c85Protests and social movements are obviously an important part of civil society, but are rarely the focus of nonprofit scholars (aside: why is this?).  But can one deduct the out-of-pocket expenses for traveling to participate in a protest/march?

Maybe.  The tax code allows an itemized deduction for contributions made to a recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which includes out-of-pocket expenses (such as travel) incurred while performing volunteer services for a nonprofit.  Under some circumstances, traveling to a demonstration could meet this standard.

Continue reading

January 21, 2017 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

H/T to the Business Law Prof Blog: Alexander on Benefit Corporations

Haskell Murray, one of our co-conspirators over at the Business Law Prof Blog,  recently wrote about a recent post by Rick Alexander, the head of Legal Policy at B Lab (of B Corp certification fame) on Benefit Corporations.   Here's Prof. Murray's post:

Over at the Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation, Rick Alexander has a post on benefit corporations. I plan to post some comments on Rick's post next week, when I have a bit more time, but for now, I will just bring our readers' attention to the post and include a small portion of his post below:

Benefit corporations dovetail with the movement to require corporations to act more sustainably. However, the sustainability movement often treats the symptom (irresponsible behavior), not the root cause—the focus on individual corporate financial performance. Proponents of corporate responsibility often emphasize “responsible” actions that increase share value, by protecting reputation or decreasing costs. Enlightened self-interest is an excellent idea, but it is not enough. As long as investment managers and corporate executives are rewarded for maximizing the share value of individual companies, they will have incentives to impose costs and risks on everyone else.

Personally, I would argue that part of the root cause is that corporate financial performance is not required to appropriate take into account societal externalities, such as pollution - the true root cause.    Nothing is going to make a corporation be a good citizen if it doesn't want to do so, even if it could under a benefit corporation structure.   But that's just me.   I am really looking forward to Prof. Murray's thoughts, and will try to post them when I see them.

EWW

 

 

January 19, 2017 in In the News, State – Legislative, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Article: Alina S. Ball, "Social Enterprise Governance"

By Professor Alina S. Ball, UC Hastings - from the SSRN Abstract: 

 

The social enterprise movement has ushered in a promising new wave of companies using market-based strategies to advance social and environmental change. The
longevity and growth of social enterprises will be determined by their ability to balance the complex and often competing interests within these unique business entities. The established corporate governance regime, which predominately addresses the characteristics of public companies, does not provide adequate oversight for promoting good corporate governance within the social enterprise sector. This Article argues that the benefit reporting requirements in hybrid-corporation statutes offer an innovative mechanism for encouraging and maintaining good social enterprise governance. Using the benefit reporting requirements within hybrid-corporation statutes as a model, this Article provides a normative framework and establishes the implementation principles for social enterprise governance across various legal entities. By counseling social enterprises on how to promote participatory democracy and increase the company’s capacity to detect and address problems, corporate lawyers serve a critical function in developing social enterprise governance. Using an approach guided by corporate lawyers and informed by social enterprise practitioners would build on the traditional corporate governance paradigm to develop narrowly tailored mechanisms that facilitate a more resilient social enterprise sector.

 

Suggested Citation: Ball, Alina S, Social Enterprise Governance (August 22, 2016). 18 U. PA. J. BUS. L. 919 (2016); UC Hastings Research Paper No. 179. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2827913.  

 

EWW

January 18, 2017 in Publications – Articles | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Lecy, Van Lyke and Yoon: "What Do We Know About Nonprofit Entrepreneurs?: Results from a Large-Scale Survey"

Jesse Lecy, David Van Slyke, and Nara Yoon (all affiliated with Syracuse University) recently posted to SSRN an article detailing the results of a survey of the motivations behind the creation of new tax-exempt organizations.  The SSRN abstract reads as follows:

While the academic fields of entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship have grown rapidly, nonprofit entrepreneurship has remained a minor field of inquiry, even though 50,000 nonprofits are started each year. Using a survey of 7,000 nonprofit founders, we provide baseline data on key dimensions of nonprofit entrepreneurship. We find that typical nonprofit entrepreneurs are distinct from for-profit entrepreneurs in several ways; they have bigger founding teams, are wealthier, older, more educated, and are less driven by self-employment. These differences inform a research agenda for the field. This study represents the first large-scale empirical analysis of entrepreneurship in the nonprofit sector.

Suggested Citation: Lecy, Jesse D. and Van Slyke, David M. and Yoon, Nara, What Do We Know About Nonprofit Entrepreneurs?: Results from a Large-Scale Survey (December 01, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2890231

From a legal perspective, I found two items immediately interesting: (1) the high number of new organizations that were "spin-offs" of projects that were housed elsewhere or had been operating informally, and (2) the barriers to entry created by paperwork (and knowledge thereof).    It reinforces my personal concerns about the  "informal" charitable economy, which simultaneously accomplishes many great things off-the-grid, and yet raises issues for me of inefficiency and diversion in limited charitable resources.   An interesting read!

EWW

 

January 17, 2017 in Publications – Articles | Permalink | Comments (0)