Thursday, September 29, 2011

Inside the World of One Supporting Organization

If you follow the world of exempt organizations under 501(c)(3), you are aware of the changes made in the law in 2006 regarding the regulation of supporting organizations, particularly those that we call "Type III" supporting organizations.  This article in the Washington Post about the George Kaiser Foundation and its investments in the failed solar firm Solyndra is a good insight into the kinds of problems created by supporting organizations in general and Type III supporting organizations in particular (note that the story does not say whether, in fact, the George Kaiser Foundation was a Type III organization).

I understand the general rationale for supporting organizations not being classified as private foundations.  If an organization truly is accountable to a public charity (which by definition must be accountable to the "general public" as a result of the various tests in Section 509(a)), then there is reason to believe that the supporting organization will not suffer from the kinds of abuses that the private foundation regulatory scheme enacted in 1969 (and updated since then) was designed to address.  But some "supporting organizations" (particularly the Type III's) historically have not had this level of accountability, and I tend to agree that they should simply be abolished; let's have "real" public charities with real public accountability, private foundations with the tighter regulatory scheme necessary to overcome the lack of accountability, and no "in-betweens."


Hat tip on story to Karly Simon

September 29, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wendy Gerzog on Expert Valuation Testimony

Wendy Gerzog (University of Baltimore) has posted an article on SSRN previously published in Tax Notes entitled "Excluding Expert Valuation Testimony."  The article centers around Boltar LLC v. Commissioner, a case dealing with the valuation of a conservation easement for purposes of the charitable contribution deduction.  Abstract and dowload link are here.


September 28, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sugar Bowl Reports Violations of Campaign Limitations

The picture isn't getting any prettier for scandals in college athletics.  While reporters uncover ever-more dismaying information regarding the operation of athletic programs at major universities, operations of the college bowls have come under increasing scrutiny on the tax side.  Last year it was the Fiesta Bowl (see post here).  Now, Sports Illustrated reports that the Sugar Bowl made donations to then-governor Kathleen Blanco's (Louisiana) campaign in the mid-2000's, a clear violation of the prohibition in Section 501(c)(3) against campaign intervention by charities.

Are college football bowls REALLY charities?  Nah.  Just like the athletic programs that participate in them, the bowls have become simply part of the big business machine of major college athletics.  And just like I argue that most nonprofit hospitals are just big businesses with little charitable about their operation, the bowls are even worse - there is hardly even a pretense of "educational" content.  And like nonprofit hospitals, perhaps the time has come to strip the entire college bowl system of exempt status under 501(c)(3) status.   Operating a minor league playoff system (and doing it poorly, at that) is hardly a charitable enterprise.


September 27, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Are Children's Hospitals The Next Exemption Target?

Whenever I talk about tax-exemption for nonprofit hospitals, I generally take pains to note that while I am opposed to exemption for a number of such hospitals, some such hospitals "clearly" should continue to enjoy exempt status.  Teaching hospitals (e.g., university-affiliated medical centers that have a primary mission of educating doctors as part of the university's MD degree program) and children's hospitals have always been my leading examples.

Now, I'm not so sure.  This story in the Bellingham Herald summarizes a study done by Kaiser Health News on children's hospitals, and it appears that some of the same issues that currently are under discussion with general acute care nonprofit hospitals - lack of charity care coupled with significant net revenues and building programs gone wild - are surfacing in the children's hospital area.

I think I need to avoid generalities these days.  SOME children's hospitals certainly should enjoy exemption, just as SOME general acute-care hospitals also should.  But instead of starting with a presumption that nonprofit hospitals are charities, why don't we start with the presumption that they are all big businesses, and let them carry the burden of proving their "charitable-ness"???


September 26, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Illinois Governor Puts Moratorium on Tax Exemption Rulings for Nonprofit Hospitals

In an earlier post I noted that the Illinois Department of Revenue had denied tax exemption to three other nonprofit hospitals in Illinois in the wake of the Provena Covenant litigation.  The Chicago Tribune recently reported that Governor Quinn has imposed a moratorium on any further action by the Department on nonprofit hospital tax exemptions pending discussions with the Illinois Hospital Association regarding a legislative solution to this issue.  The governor has targeted March 1, 2012, as a date for recommendations regarding legislation.  It appears, however, that litigation proceeds in the meantime.  The story noted that while each of the three denied hospitals welcomed the moratorium, "they would pursue appeals."


September 26, 2011 in State – Executive, State – Judicial, State – Legislative | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, September 17, 2011


A contentious law aimed at regulating Cambodia’s non-governmental sector has been sent back to the Ministry of Interior, following international concern that the draft as it stood could damage the country’s development, according to reports by Voice of America’s Khmer service.  The NGO law was approved in August by the Council of Ministers (reported in IJCSL-N for August), despite widespread disapproval from local and international organizations, who said provisions in the draft would make it hard for them to operate and could leave them vulnerable to arbitrary punitive action by government officials. Nouth Sa An, secretary of state for the Ministry of Interior, said the law would not go to the National Assembly as planned but has instead been sent back to the ministry for reconsideration, following international “reaction.”  Ministry officials will now “review and reconsider” the draft before sending it back a second time to the Council of Ministers for approval. Lam Chea, a legal counselor for the Council of Ministers, confirmed the decision.  The move was widely welcomed by members of Cambodian civil society, who had worried the law would stifle organizations critical of the government through excessive red tape or court action. Many also worried it would stymie the growth of small-scale associations at the grassroots.  For more information, see



September 17, 2011 in International | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Atkinson Posts Papers on SSRN

Rob E. Atkinson, Jr., Ruden, McClosky, Smith, Schuster & Russell Professor at the Florida State University College of Law, has recently posted four papers on SSRN.  Below I reproduce the title of each article, accompanied by its abstract:

The Future of Philanthropy: Questioning Today’s Orthodoxies, Re-Affirming Yesterday’s Foundations:

Philanthropy today has reached an impasse, in both theory and practice. This article maps a way beyond that impasse by taking us back to philanthropy’s core function and traditional values. The standard academic model sees philanthropy as subordinate and supplemental to our society’s other public sectors, the market and the state, and uses their metrics to measure its performance. Current law, best reflected in the federal income tax code, closely parallels that perspective. This article proposes to reverse the dominant theoretical perspective and reveal a radically different relationship among society’s three public sectors, the market, the state, and the philanthropic. Following both classical western philosophy and the West’s three Abrahamist faiths, this perspective places philanthropy first and measures everything, including our current economic and political systems, by a neo-classical philanthropic standard: the highest good of all humankind.

Philanthropy's Function: A Neo-Classical Reconsideration:

This essay lays the groundwork for a “new unified field theory” of philanthropy. That theory must have two complementary parts, an account of philanthropy’s core function and a measure of its performance, a metric for comparing philanthropic organizations both among themselves and with their counterparts in the for-profit, governmental, and household sectors. The essay first explains the need for such a measure, in both theory and practice. It then considers the critical shortcomings of today’s standard theory of philanthropy, which accounts for the philanthropic sector as subordinate and supplementary to our capitalist market economy and liberal democratic polity. Chief among the limits of standard theory is taking the ends of that economy and polity, satisfying aggregate consumer demand and majority voter preference, as given. After showing how this critical assumption begs the basic normative questions of classical political and ethical theory, this essay outlines a way of reconciling the two in a neo-classical theory of philanthropy. In that theory, the goal of both the market and the state, guided by philanthropy, would be to ensure all citizens the fullest possible development of their best abilities. That regime would require no one to agree with its goals and values, but it would give everyone every possible opportunity to be able to appreciate them.

Re-Focusing on Philanthropy: Revising and Re-Orienting the Standard Model:

This paper undertakes a detailed analysis of today’s standard theory of the philanthropic sector, in order to provide a new model that is both more accurate in its details and more comprehensive in its scope. The standard theory accounts for the philanthropic sector as subordinate and supplementary to our capitalist market economy and liberal democratic polity. That approach has two basic short-comings: Its explanation of both the state and philanthropy as adjuncts to the market fails to appreciate the ways in which all three sectors support and supplement each other. Even more basically, the standard model’s primary focus on the market ignores how the demands that we make on both the state and the market ultimately derive from value systems the philanthropic sector not only gives us, but also shapes us to accept. From this perspective, the philanthropic sector functions, not as an adjunct to the state and the market, under their standards of consumer demand and majority preference, but rather as both their foundation and their metric.

Tax Favors for Philanthropy: Should Our Republic Underwrite de Tocqueville's Democracy?:

Tax theorists have long debated the rationales for the federal income tax system’s favorable treatment of philanthropy. The debate has certainly become more sophisticated, but it has nonetheless failed to produce anything near full convergence of opinion. This article reviews that debate and reaches a paradoxical conclusion: Although the present system of exemption and deduction is perhaps impossible to justify in any other way, that system almost perfectly co-ordinates three basic features of American society: the populist and anti-statist sources of American philanthropy, the consumerist orientation of our form of market capitalism, and our tax system’s reliance on income as its principal revenue source.

To say that the Code’s treatment of philanthropy accommodates these three features well, however, is not to say that any of them is itself good; as an alternative to the current system’s fundamental populism and consumerism, this paper proposes a neo-classically republican view of the public good, grounded in the constitutional values of justice and general welfare. Philanthropy’s core function will be to promote those values. This, in turn, implies not only a very different tax treatment of philanthropy, but also a very different relationship between philanthropy and the state. The Code implicitly endorses the philanthropy of Jacksonian democracy and consumerist capitalism; the philanthropy of both Jefferson and Lincoln’s republicanism would look quite different (and much more like that of Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Ethics and Politics). It would better fit both the neo-classically republican elements of our constitutional culture and what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”


September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Owley on Exacted Conservation Easements

Jessica Owley, Associate Professor at the University at Buffalo Law School, has recently posted The Enforceability of Exacted Conservation Easements on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The use of exacted conservation easements is widespread. Yet, the study of the implications of their use has been minimal. Conservation easements are nonpossessory interests in land restricting a landowner’s ability to use her land in an otherwise permissible way, with the goal of yielding a conservation benefit. Exacted conservation easements arise in permitting contexts where, in exchange for a government benefit, landowners either create conservation easements on their own property or arrange for conservation easements on other land.

To explore the concern associated with the enforceability of exacted conservation easements in a concrete way, this article examines exacted conservation easements in California, demonstrating that despite their frequent use in the state, their enforceability is uncertain. The three California statutes governing conservation easements limit the ability to exact conservation easements. California caselaw, although thin, indicates that courts may be willing to uphold exacted conservation easements even when they conflict with the state statutes. This examination of the California situation highlights California-specific concerns while providing a framework for examining exacted conservation easements in other states.

This article illustrates not only challenges of enforceability that arise with exacted conservation easements, but uncertainty in their fundamental validity and concerns about public accountability. This exploration illustrates that enforceability is not straightforward. This raises significant concerns about using exacted conservation easements to promote conservation goals, calling into question specifically the use of conservation easements as exactions.


September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

McLaughlin on Conservation Easements and the Doctrine of Merger

Nancy McLaughlin, Robert W. Swenson Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development at the University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law, has recently posted Conservation Easements and the Doctrine of Merger on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Conservation easements raise a number of interesting legal issues, not the least of which is whether a conservation easement is automatically extinguished pursuant to the real property law doctrine of merger if its government or nonprofit holder acquires title to the encumbered land. This article explains that merger generally should not occur in such cases because the unity of ownership that is required for the doctrine to apply typically will not be present. This article also explains that extinguishing conservation easements that continue to provide significant benefits to the public through the doctrine of merger would be contrary to the conservation and historic preservation policies that underlie the state enabling statutes and the federal and state easement purchase and tax incentive programs.


September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Hoyt on Charitable Gifts by S Corporations and S Corporation Shareholders

Christopher R. Hoyt, Professor of Law at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, has recently posted on SSRN two related articles: Charitable Gifts by S Corporations: Opportunities and Challenges, 36 ACTEC L. J. 477 (2010); and Charitable Gifts by S Corporations and Their Shareholders: Two Worlds of Law Collide, 36 ACTEC L. J. 693 (2011).

Here is the abstract for Charitable Gifts by S Corporations:

This article examines the tax opportunities and tax hazards when a subchapter S corporation makes a charitable gift. The article demonstrates that usually the shareholders of an S corporation and the charity are both better off when an S corporation makes a charitable gift compared to having a shareholder make a charitable gift of S corporation stock. Either way, the income tax benefit will be on the S corporation shareholder’s personal income tax return. By having the S corporation make the gift, the parties avoid the “three bad things” that happen when a shareholder donates S corporation stock. The problems and solutions for a charitable gift of S corporation stock are analyzed in the companion article: Charitable Gifts by Subchapter S Corporations and Their Shareholders: Two Worlds of Law Collide, 36 ACTEC L.J. 693-768 (Spring 2011).

The opportunities include the ability to donate corporate property to a charitable remainder trust (CRT), a temporary enhanced income tax deduction for a gift of appreciated property (such as a conservation easement), the ability to avoid the Section 1374 built-in gains tax (even with a gift to a CRT), and the avoidance of the unrelated business income tax (UBIT).

The article also identifies hazards and ways to solve them. For example, an S corporation should avoid making a charitable gift to a charity while the charity is also a shareholder. It could be a prohibited “second class of stock.” Even a charitable gift to an unrelated charity can be a problem: a gift of a substantial portion of the corporation’s assets could be treated as a taxable corporate liquidation. Professor Hoyt identifies ways to reduce or even eliminate the potential tax liability triggered by such a large gift.

Here is the abstract for Charitable Gifts by S Corporations and Their Shareholders:

This comprehensive article analyzes the rules that apply to, and the tax planning strategies for, a charitable gift of S corporation stock. It describes the interaction of the laws governing S corporations and tax-exempt organizations and describes the best ways to solve the challenges posed by each set of laws. The article also addresses additional challenges that can occur when specific types of tax-exempt organizations own S corporation stock, notably private foundations, donor advised funds, supporting organizations and ESOPs.

From the perspective of both the donor and the charity, three “bad things" happen when S corporation stock is contributed to a charity: (1) the donor's income tax deduction is usually less than the stock’s appraised value; (2) the charity must pay the unrelated business income tax (UBIT) on its share of S corporation income; and (3) the charity must pay UBIT on its gain when it sells the stock. This is much harsher tax treatment than if the charity had received and sold an ownership interest in an identical closely-held business that had been organized as a C corporation, a limited liability company or a partnership. Professor Hoyt suggests specific legal reforms to make the tax treatment more consistent.

The article also identifies the best ways to structure a charitable gift under the existing laws, such as a donation to an intermediary charitable trust. In most cases, though, both the donor and the charity will be better off if the S corporation makes a charitable contribution of some of its assets compared to having a shareholder contribute S corporation stock.

Hat Tip: TaxProf Blog


September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Valentine on the Popular Meaning of Charity and the Charitable Contributions Deduction

In  A Lay Word for a Legal Term: How the Popular Definition of Charity Has Muddled the Perception of the Charitable Deduction, 89 Neb. L. Rev. (2010), Paul Valentine argues that lay conceptions of the meaning of "charity" impede critical analysis of the charitable contributions deduction authorized by section 170 of the Internal Revenue Code.  Here is a copy of the abstract:

In the United States there is a deeply held conviction “that taxpayers who donate to charity should generally not be subject to the same income tax liability as similarly situated taxpayers.” This innate sense about the Internal Revenue Code’s § 170, otherwise known as the charitable deduction, resonates with Americans’ sense of fairness and creates strong barriers to curtailing its function.

This same sense of fairness is tied to the perceived effects of the charitable deduction. Yet, how “charitable” is the charitable deduction, and how charitable do we expect it to be? This Article argues that the discrepancy between the popular meaning of the word “charitable” and the legal meaning has distorted both the perception of, and the political justifications for, the provision.

The charitable deduction’s definitional discrepancy is perhaps not immediately apparent, because often the legal and layperson’s definitions of the word are the same. However, on occasion, the legal and popular definitions vary. One such example is the difference between the Tax Code’s and layperson’s definition of the word “charitable.” Although the legal definition does cover direct relief of the poor, it also has a much wider mandate, including advancing religion, science and education, constructing public buildings, lessening neighborhood tensions, and other public benefit purposes. These types of causes may provide a service to society, but they are neither charitable under the popular meaning of the word nor would most individuals consider organizations that provide such services a charity.

This broad legal definition of “charitable” has created a misperception in the American psyche of where the benefits of the charitable deduction are allocated. The very use of the word “charitable” in the statutory language creates a powerful association in most non-lawyers that ties the deduction to churches and poverty relief organizations, when in reality this is only a small portion of the tax subsidy. Further, the emotive rhetoric used by politicians when attacking proposed amendments curtailing the charitable deduction is grossly out of sync with the primary beneficiaries of the provision.

This Article argues that that the definitional gap between the legal and lay definition of “charitable” impedes meaningful discussion of amendments to the charitable deduction. This has led to mistaken or underestimated assumptions about the allocation of the subsidy. A clearer understanding of where the § 170 subsidy is allocated would allow politicians and the public to more critically examine this tax expenditure. In light of this confusion, the Article proposes Congress should rename § 170 the “qualified donation deduction”—a term that would not create the same poverty relief associations as the charitable deduction misnomer.

This Article is structured as follows: Part II looks at how Congress and commentators justify the charitable contribution, examining the historical, theoretical and political justifications of the section. Part III examines the data associated with the charitable deduction and calculates the percentage of the charitable deduction expenditure that is allocated to direct poverty relief. Part IV proposes that Congress rename the charitable deduction to break the association between the charitable deduction and poverty relief. This section also addresses the main critiques of this proposal. Part V concludes.

The conclusion of the article is also worth reproducing in full:

A former chief economist at the U.S. Department of Labor stated that if any proposed amendments curtailing the charitable deduction passed, “the government would gain billions in tax revenue, but charities and others would lose. That would lessen the ability of charities to help the neediest . . . .” It is these types of misleading assertions that this Article hopes to address. The neediest receive only 8% in direct assistance from the charitable deduction. High-income individuals contribute less as a percentage of their total giving to direct assistance of poverty organizations than their middle- and-low-income counterparts. To continue justifying the 35% deduction for high-income individuals under the assumption that it protects the neediest is a fallacy, and to continue advertising it as such constitutes fraud. Renaming the charitable deduction to the qualified donation deduction makes this deception more difficult and allows the American public to decide, based on more informed information, where their tax dollars are spent.

Hat Tip: TaxProf Blog


September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Eisenberg on the Hershey School

In Hershey School Scandal Underscores Need for Watchful Governance, published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Pablo Eisenberg, senior fellow at the Center for Public & Nonprofit Leadership of the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, forcefully calls for more effective governmental oversight of the Milton Hershey School:

For two decades neither the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office nor the Internal Revenue Service has been willing to take serious action to remedy the abuses that have plagued one of the wealthiest nonprofits in America, the Milton Hershey School for poor children. 

It is one of the longest lingering scandals in the modern nonprofit world and one of the most glaring examples of the abuses of the public trust that can happen when regulators fail to keep a close eye on a charity’s governance.

Eisenberg summarizes various problems that have plagued school operations over several years, and takes particular aim at decisions made by the school’s managers, also members of the board governing the Hershey Trust.  Recognizing that the Pennsylvania Attorney General will soon announce findings of its investigation that might force the school to alter its operations, Eisenberg laments that the AG may do little more “than slap the organization’s wrist or impose modest fines.”  Says Eisenberg, “Odds are that the state will leave the Hershey School’s structure, governance, and practices essentially intact.”   Arguing that just the opposite is the proper response, Eisenberg opines:

If the attorney general, Linda Kelly, were serious, she would order that the board restructure itself to include a majority of members with expertise in education and child welfare and a real concern for the future of the school. She would also force the board’s chair, Mr. Zimmerman, to step down, along with his longtime cronies on the governance bodies.  …. And state regulators should impose tight restrictions on self-dealing, conflicts of interest, and compensation.

Eisenberg further asserts that the status quo “reflects a failure of both federal and state government oversight and enforcement.”  He continues:

Protect the Hersheys’ Children has asked the Internal Revenue Service to take action, charging that the attorney general’s office has spent years mostly looking the other way when it comes to abuses at the Hershey nonprofits.  …. If neither the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office nor the IRS is willing to demand that Hershey change its operations, then it will be up to the public to take action.


September 16, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Halperin: Is Income Tax Exemption for Charities a Subsidy?

Daniel I. Halperin, Stanley S. Surrey Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School, has recently published Is Income Tax Exemption for Charities a Subsidy?, 64 Tax L. Rev. 283 (2011), available on SSRN.  The following is the abstract of the paper:

Article considers whether income tax exemption for charities is consistent with normal income tax.  It finds that exemption for contributions is not special treatment and that exemption for income from sale of goods or performance of services related to the purpose of the charity is special treatment only if profits are used for expansion. It concludes that a subsidy for expansion can be justified. Most importantly the article finds that exemption for investment income is a subsidy. It concludes that exemption for such income depends on a value judgment as to whether public policy should favor less accumulation and more current spending by charities. It suggests that the exemption for investment income and the charitable deduction should be limited in certain circumstances.


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Simplified Procedure Sought for Ensuring Tax-Compliant International Grant Making by Private Foundations

Tax Notes Today reports that Janne Gallagher of the Council on Foundations has requested a meeting with Treasury officials “to discuss equivalency determination information repositories for international grantmaking, the group's proposed amendments to Rev. Proc. 92-94, and final regulations on the redesigned annual exempt organization information return.” 

Rev. Proc. 92-94, 1992-2 C.B. 507, explains the legal background and purpose of the current administrative framework as follows:

Private foundations generally want their grants to foreign grantees to be treated as qualifying distributions for purposes of section 4942 of the Internal Revenue Code rather than as taxable expenditures for purposes of section 4945 of the Code. This treatment is assured if the foreign grantee has a ruling or determination letter classifying it as a public charity within the meaning of section 509 (a) (1), (2), or (3), or a private operating foundation under section 4942 (j) (3) of the Code. If a foreign grantee does not have such a ruling or determination letter, the Foundation Excise Tax Regulations set forth requirements that must be satisfied in order to assure that the grant will be considered a qualifying distribution.

In response to requests from private foundations, this revenue procedure provides a simplified procedure that private foundations (including nonexempt charitable trusts) may follow in making "reasonable judgments" and "good faith determinations" under sections 53.4945-6 (c)-(2) (ii), 53.4942 (a)-3 (a) (6) and 53.4945-5 (a) (5) of the Foundation Excise Tax Regulations. If the requirements of this revenue procedure are met, a grant to a foreign grantee will be treated as a grant to an organization that is described in section 501 (c) (3) or section 4947 (a) (1) of the Internal Revenue Code, and, that is either a public charity within the meaning of section 509 (a) (1), (2), or (3), or a private operating foundation under section 4942 (j) (3) of the Code.

In her letter addressed jointly to an attorney in the Office of Tax Policy and the head of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division, Ms. Gallagher writes of the need “to allow grantmakers to rely upon affidavits, documents, and equivalency determinations maintained by ‘equivalency determination information repositories’ (EDIRs).”  Expressing approval of the government’s decision to include an update to Revenue Procedure 92-94 in the most recent fiscal year's priority guidance plan, Ms. Gallagher reports that “I and others involved with the centralized repository project have continued to be approached by numerous grantmakers indicating the strong need for such a repository as a mechanism for simplifying and streamlining international grantmaking.”

The full text of the letter is available at 2011 TNT 178-41.  Tax Notes Today reports that Jean J. Lim, President of the Amgen Foundation, has written a similar letter, the text of which is available at 2011 TNT 178-38.


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Recent Report on Nonprofit CEO Pay

In Growth Slows in Nonprofit CEO Pay, the Philanthropy Journal reports recent data on compensation paid to senior executives of nonprofit organizations.  From the first three paragraphs of the story:

The recession has taken a toll on nonprofit compensation, with median increases for CEOs growing at a slower pace, a new report says.

The 2011 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report also finds a continuing gap in median compensation between male and female CEOs, although the gap has narrowed since 1999 for most nonprofits, and the percentage of female CEOs has increased for nonprofits of all sizes.
Based on GuideStar's database of digitized information from Form 990s for fiscal 2009 that roughly 88,000 nonprofits filed with the IRS, the report says median increases for compensation for incumbent CEOs generally grew 2 percent or less in 2009, compared to 4 percent or more in 2008.


September 15, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Calvin Johnson on Payout by Charities Over 50 Years

Calvin H. Johnson, Andrews & Kurth Centennial Professor at the University of Texas School of Law, has just published his latest Shelf Project proposal, Payout by Charity Over 50 Years, 132 Tax Notes 1161 (Sept. 12, 2011).  The Summary of the proposal states as follows:

This proposal would require a section 501(c)(3) charitable organization to spend or distribute a gift, both as to principal and interest, over the 50 years following receipt of the gift. The goal of the rule is to increase the good that comes from charitable deductions and reduce the administrative burden. Within broad definitions of charity, the worthiness of a charity is defined more by process than by detailed substantive rules -- a donor can be presumed to be trying to do the most good with his money. The world changes over time, however, and after 50 years it is different. The 50-year payout requirement would strengthen the tie between the wisdom of the donor and the most pressing needs of the times.
The requirement would also diminish the problems from charitable boards that are accountable on substance to nobody but themselves. A board without competition, recent donations, or meaningful substantive accountability should lose its special claim to control the money over time. A charity with continuing support, however, would not go out of business. The accounting would treat the earliest gifts as given out first, so that an active charity with both new contributions and high expenditures would have long since distributed its old funds.

In introducing his reasons for recommending changes to current law, Professor Johnson cites the limited ability of donors to foresee the future, and (in his view) the lack of accountability of charitable boards and (again, in his view) their consequent inability to justify their own administrative expenses over time.  Mechanically, Professor Johnson explains his proposal as follows:

The charity should be required to use or distribute both its income and the corpus of the gift over the 50-year period. The same considerations that imply the 50-year period imply that earlier is better. The charity should not distribute everything all at once at the end of the 50-year period. A norm should be that the charity will pay out funds at least as fast as the annuity that will distribute all the gift over 50 years. Thus, a charity making a 5 percent return on its funds will meet its 50-year payout if it spends or distributes 5.48 percent of its funds every year. A charity should be allowed to save up its funds for a grand project like a library or cathedral, but if it falls behind the annuity schedule that would distribute everything evenly, then it should have prior IRS approval on a showing that the deferring payout (for as much as five years) would better service an identifiable project.

Hat Tip: TaxProf Blog


September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

IRS Web Page on Disaster Relief

With tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires, and other natural disasters ravaging the country, and indeed the world, in recent weeks and months, I thought it would be helpful to remind blog readers that numerous resources are available to educate donors, charities and victims about the tax implications of providing disaster relief.  The Internal Revenue Service has a web page providing links to numerous sources, including Publication 3833, Disaster Relief, Providing Assistance Through Charitable Organizations, and several professional educational publications. 


September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Charities React to Deduction Limitation Proposed in President’s American Jobs Act of 2011

Yesterday, we blogged about selected provisions of the American Jobs Act of 2011 proposed by President Obama.  One provision that we observed is section 401, which, in relevant part, would essentially limit the value of itemized deductions for high-income earners to the value that they would have were the high-income taxpayers in the 28 percent marginal income tax bracket.  In Jobs Bill Would Limit Charity Tax Breaks, the Chronicle of Philanthropy takes a critical view of this feature of the proposal:

President Obama’s proposed $447-billion jobs bill would be financed mainly by limiting the percentage of income wealthy donors could write off, including tax breaks for charitable gifts.

Mr. Obama, who today released the details of the plan he outlined to Congress last week, suggested limiting write-offs for itemized deductions to 28 percent. The nation’s most affluent people are currently allowed to write off 35 cents of every $1 they spend on charitable giving, housing, medical expenses, and other deductible items.

Of course, if (as provided by current law) the so-called Bush tax cuts do indeed expire with no further reduction in marginal income tax rates, and if the proposed itemized deduction limitation is enacted and remains in place, the tax-adjusted cost of charitable giving by wealthy donors would increase to an even greater degree than that illustrated in the above excerpt.  Nonprofit leaders are aware of the possible consequences, as the story continues:

The president, who has proposed similar changes to the charitable deduction several times throughout his presidency, has faced stiff opposition from nonprofit leaders. They say that limiting the value of the tax break would cause wealthy people to reduce their giving.

Today’s announcement quickly drew a similar outcry among nonprofit leaders, many of whom said the idea would force job cuts at charities just as the president is seeking to increase employment.

A competing view was offered by Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who argued that charities should also contemplate the negative effects of sustained economic sluggishness on charitable giving.  Charities stand to gain more from a healthy economic recovery than they stand to lose from this proposal, according to Van de Water.  


September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Analysis of Nonprofits Forfeiting Federal Income Tax Exemption for Failure to File Annual Information Returns

The Urban Institute ("UI") recently published on its website Revoked: A Snapshot of  organizations that Lost Their Tax-Exempt Status -- a brief study of the 275,000 plus nonprofit organizations that have lost their federal income tax exemption on account of failing to file an information return with the Internal Revenue Service within the last three years. Based on its review of the Automatic Revocation of Exemption List released by the IRS on June 8, 2011, the UI provides in its study “a snapshot of the organizations that have lost their tax-exempt status and examine[s] these organizations by type, age, and location.”  The study concludes as follows:

While it may be tempting to attribute the failing of these organizations to the recession, it is more likely that these organizations have been out of operation for many years. In fact, more than a quarter of all organizations whose exempt status was revoked last appeared in the IRS Business Master File before 2007, and only 10 percent of organizations that lost their tax-exempt status filed a financial return (Form 990 or Form 990-EZ) during their lifespan.

Some organizations whose status has been revoked are likely still operating; only time will tell how many. IRS efforts to communicate the new requirements were extraordinary, with multiple mailings to addresses on file, public announcements on TV and the radio, pamphlets in libraries, and many public presentations. This coupled with the fact that the vast majority of these organizations have never filed an information return and many of them have not appeared in the IRS Business Master File for four years lead us to believe that most of these organizations are, in fact, defunct and have been for several years.

Losing tax-exempt status can be detrimental for an operating nonprofit. Everyone involved with small nonprofits should go to the Nonfiler Automatic Revocation List published by the IRS … to make certain that the organization has not lost its status. If an organization’s status has been revoked, taxes and donations made to the organization will no longer be tax deductible. Donations made to organizations before revocation remain tax deductible. To have tax-exempt status reinstated, organizations will need to reapply. The IRS announced transition relief for certain small tax-exempt organizations—those with annual gross receipts in 2010 of $50,000 or less—to regain their tax-exempt status retroactive to the date of revocation and pay a reduced application fee of $100 rather than the typical $400 or $850 fee. Full details are available on the IRS web site ….

The IRS News Release announcing the Automatic Revocation of Exemption List provides links to publications that explain how a nonprofit that has lost its exempt status can apply for reinstatement of exemption.


September 14, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nonprofits and the American Jobs Act of 2011 Proposed by President Obama

The White House has released the text of the American Jobs Act of 2011, as well as a section-by-section summary of the proposed legislation.  Reproduced below are a few provisions of the sectional summary that should interest the nonprofit sector:

Section 101 – Temporary Payroll Tax Cut for Employers, Employees, and the Self-Employed. This section extends and expands the existing temporary reduction in payroll taxes. For calendar year 2012, it: (a) further reduces the Old Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (social security) portion of the payroll tax that was paid by employees during 2011 from 4.2 percent (reflecting the existing 2 percent temporary reduction from the permanent rate) to 3.1 percent; and (b) adds a new reduction in the portion of this tax that is paid by employers from 6.2 percent to 3.1 percent. The employer reduction applies to up to $5 million of wages that are paid by the employer. With limited exceptions, the reduction in amounts paid by employers is available to all employers, whether private businesses or tax-exempt organizations. The employer reduction is not available, however, to Federal, State and local government employers (other than State colleges and universities) or with respect to household workers. This section contains equivalent reductions for individuals subject to self-employment taxes. Transfers from general revenues are provided to protect the social security trust fund.
Section 102 – Temporary Tax Credit for Increased Payroll. For the last quarter of 2011 and for calendar year 2012, the proposal provides a payroll tax credit that fully offsets the employer social security tax that otherwise would apply to increases in wages from the corresponding period of the prior year. For example, if an employer paid wages subject to social security tax of $5 million in 2011 and $6 million in 2012, the credit to which the employer would be entitled would eliminate the employer’s portion of social security taxes on the $1 million of increased wages. The credit would be available on up to $50 million of an employer’s increased wages. Generally, the credit is available to all employers, whether private businesses or tax-exempt organizations, but would not be available to Federal, State and local government employers (other than State colleges and universities) or with respect to household workers. Transfers from general revenues are provided to protect the social security trust fund.

Section 201 – Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors Work Opportunity Tax Credits. Under current law, employers that hire veterans who have been unemployed for at least 6 months and have a service-connected disability are eligible for a maximum tax credit of $4,800. This section increases the amount of that credit to $9,600. This section also creates two new hiring credits for veterans. The first is a credit of $2,400 for employers that hire veterans who have been unemployed for at least 4 weeks. The second is credit of $5,600 for veterans who have been unemployed for at least 6 months. Under this section, these credits are also available to tax-exempt entities and public universities. Finally, this section authorizes the Secretary of the treasury to provide alternative methods for certifying a veteran’s unemployed status.

Section 227 – Private Schools. This section allows certain private, nonprofit elementary or secondary schools to be eligible to receive program services for limited purposes, including meeting requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.

Section 401 – 28 Percent Limitation on Certain Deductions And Exclusions. This section would limit the value of all itemized deductions and certain other tax expenditures for high-income taxpayers by limiting the tax value of otherwise allowable deductions and exclusions to 28 percent. No taxpayer with adjusted gross income under $250,000 for married couples filing jointly (or $200,000 for single taxpayers) would be subject to this limitation. The limitation would affect itemized deductions and certain other tax expenditures that would otherwise reduce taxable income in the 36 or 39.6 percent tax brackets. A similar limitation also would apply under the alternative minimum tax. This section would be effective for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2013.


September 13, 2011 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)