Thursday, January 21, 2021

Law and Religion: Catholic Bishops Split on How to Deal with President Biden

The Washington Post reports that Joseph Biden, the second-ever Roman Catholic U.S. president, was greeted on his Inauguration Day with contrasting messages from his church: A warm blessing from Pope Francis — and a statement by the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops saying that Biden “will advance moral evils,” including contraception, abortion and same-sex marriage.

The statement by Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez immediately set off a debate among U.S. bishops, who, like U.S. Catholics, are bitterly divided on the direction of their extensive denomination and its entanglement with partisan politics. Those divisions are coming to a head in the figure of Biden, who makes it clear with his weekly churchgoing, his frequent references to Catholic teachings and culture, and his use of Catholic symbols that he is indeed a part of the church. 

The current dispute over how to contend with the new president features dueling comments from leading bishops.

On one hand, Archbishop Gomez stated:

In a time of growing and aggressive secularism in American culture, when religious believers face many challenges, it will be refreshing to engage with a President who clearly understands, in a deep and personal way, the importance of religious faith and institutions. I must point out that our new President has pledged to pursue certain policies that would advance moral evils and threaten human life and dignity, most seriously in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender. Of deep concern is the liberty of the Church and the freedom of believers to live according to their consciences.

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich, rejects this thinking:

Today, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an ill-considered statement on the day of President Biden’s inauguration. Aside from the fact that there is seemingly no precedent for doing so, the statement, critical of President Biden came as a surprise to many bishops, who received it just hours before it was released. The internal institutional failures involved must be addressed, and I look forward to contributing to all efforts to that end, so that, inspired by the Gospel, we can build up the unity of the Church, and together take up the work of healing our nation in this moment of crisis.

The Catholic Bishops have in the past taken a more positive and collaborative tone towards new presidents. For example, in 2016, the conference put out a statement congratulating Donald Trump, saying it “looks forward to working with President-elect Trump to protect human life from its most vulnerable beginning to its natural end.”

San Diego Bishop Robert W. McElroy said he was “echoing Pope Francis’ message to President Biden and calling for dialogue, not judgment; collaboration, not isolation; truth in charity, not harshness. … It is a pathway of reconciliation that places the healing of our society ahead of any specific policy issue, in the recognition that repairing the soul of our country is the pre-requisite for any sustainable effort to advance the common good. … Most importantly of all, Pope Francis’ message to President Biden fundamentally speaks to him in his humanity, a man of Catholic faith striving to serve his nation and his God.”

On Wednesday morning, President Biden received a message from the Pope: “Under your leadership, may the American people continue to draw strength from the lofty political, ethical and religious values that have inspired the nation since its founding,” said Francis, who had called Biden on Nov. 12 to offer his congratulations and to discuss working together on issues including poverty, climate change and integrating immigrants and refugees.

Thursday morning, the USCCB put out four statements — an unusually busy morning for the Conference — praising actions Biden took the day before, including lifting the Muslim ban, and fortifying the “Dreamers” program that allows young immigrants to stay in the U.S. for work and school.

Prof. Vaughn E. James, Texas Tech University

January 21, 2021 in Church and State, Current Affairs, In the News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Metroplitan Museum of Art Receives Endowment for Directorship

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (The Met) on Tuesday announced that it has received a gift from trustee Marina Kellen French to endow the museum's directorship position. 

The gift is being awarded through the Marina Kellen French Trust Foundation and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen French Foundation. The gift will also provide support for general operating expenses. In recognition of the gift, the director's position, which has been held by Max Hollein since 2018, will be renamed the Marina Kellen French Director.

According to a January 19 press release from The Met,

The Director is responsible for the vision and leadership of the Museum and its encyclopedic collection of nearly 2 million objects spanning 5,000 years. The Director’s responsibilities include oversight of the Museum’s curatorial, conservation, and scientific research departments; its exhibition and acquisition activities; education and public outreach; and other mission-oriented areas, including the libraries, digital initiatives, publications, imaging, the registrar, and design.

The release also quoted Daniel H. Weiss, President and CEO of The Met, as saying,

We are immensely grateful to Marina Kellen French for this remarkable gift, which helps ensure the Museum’s strong artistic leadership for many years to come. For more than 70 years—almost half of The Met’s history—her family has championed the arts and enabled the Museum to become a global leader in the cultural sphere.

French previously endowed The Met's Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts' Marina Kellen French Curatorship and helped pioneer the museum's Executive Leadership Program.  

Prof. Vaughn E. James, Texas Tech University 

 

January 21, 2021 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

University of Southern California Study: COVID-19 Has Reduced U.S. Life Expectancy

A recent press release from the University of Southern California reveals that research conducted by the University of Southern California and Princeton University has concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly reduced life expectancy in the United States, with Black and Latinx Americans disproportionately impacted.  

Based on estimates of deaths under four scenarios — one in which the pandemic had not occurred and three that include COVID-19 mortality projections — by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the report, Reductions in 2020 US Life Expectancy due to COVID-19 and the Disproportionate Impact on the Black and Latino Populations, found that as a result of pandemic deaths in 2020, Americans' overall life expectancy will fall 1.13 years, to 77.48 years — the single largest decline in at least forty years and the lowest number since 2003. 

The study also identified significant disparities by race, with researchers projecting that life expectancy for African Americans will fall 2.1 years, to 72.78 years; by 3.05 years, to 78.77 years, for Latinx individuals; and by 0.68 years, to 77.84 years, for white Americans.

Reporting on the projections, today's Philanthropy News Digest quotes Theresa Andrasfay, a postdoctoral fellow at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology and co-author of the report as stating: "While the arrival of effective vaccines is hopeful, the U.S. is currently experiencing more daily COVID-19 deaths than at any other point in the pandemic. Because of that, and because we expect there will be long-term health and economic effects that may result in worse mortality for many years to come, we expect there will be lingering effects on life expectancy in 2021. That said, no cohort may ever experience a reduction in life expectancy of the magnitude attributed to COVID-19 in 2020."

As an African American, I dare say the result of this study does not make me too happy.

Vaughn E. James, Texas Tech University 

 

 

January 20, 2021 in Current Affairs, In the News, Studies and Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 18, 2021

A ray of hope for nonprofits in the arts

While nonprofits of many hues have suffered greatly during the COVID epidemic, perhaps among those most terribly affected are 501(c)(3) organizations operating theaters and other performance-based venues. In a recent poll done by Nonprofit Quarterly, representatives of organizations from a variety of corners in the nonprofit industry were polled on how badly the ongoing global crisis has impacted their revenue: a majority of arts-oriented organizations reported above 16% reductions in their revenue.

The data tells an unsurprising tale: when your business relies upon drawing large crowds of people into confined spaces so that they can be entertained by your staff, a worldwide virus running rampant and corresponding countermeasures by harried governments adds up to hard times ahead. However the United States legislature seems to be cognizant of this at-risk industry: included in December’s coronavirus bill was $15 billion set aside especially for theaters, concert halls, museums and others which have more than a 25% loss in gross revenues in 2020. Naturally a number of restrictions apply on which organizations (strip clubs are for, example, disqualified) can apply for a grant under the Save Our Stages section of the relief bill, this legislation indicates that the country’s lawmakers are considering particular industries which have been especially injured by the epidemic and aiming to lend financial support when it is most needed.

For a more thorough explanation of the Save Our Stages section as well as testimony from a number of nonprofit leaders in the aforementioned affected industry, see the Nonprofit Quarterly publication on the subject at https://nonprofitquarterly.org/save-our-stages-provides-a-lifeline-for-nonprofit-museums-and-theaters/

David Brennen, University of Kentucky College of Law

January 18, 2021 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The next stage of resolving Boy Scouts sexual abuse allegations

Further developments arose for the scandal-beset Boy Scouts of America toward the end of 2020. Along with suffering significant financial setbacks like many other businesses due to the COVID epidemic, this year the BSA has also had to contend with both filing for bankruptcy and the consequences of mounting accusations of sexual abuse within its ranks. As part of its bankruptcy filing early in the year, BSA was required to create a trust fund for persons sexually abused by Scout personnel and to provide a deadline by which the victims should bring forward a case. That deadline passed in November and the total number of cases currently up for consideration is staggering: nearly 100,000 people have come forward stating that they were abused by the organization.

What remains to be seen is whether the national BSA organization will manage to successfully stay financially afloat during its bankruptcy as well as shield the assets of local Boy Scout councils from claims: currently, only the national organization’s $1 billion in assets are certainly under threat.

David Brennen, University of Kentucky College of Law

For the full story read the Washington Post article on the subject: https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2020/11/19/boy-scouts-bankruptcy-abuse/

January 14, 2021 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Parking lot tax refunds available to nonprofits

2020 was undoubtedly an unkind year to nonprofits in America, but there were at least a couple of positive developments for the industry: one of these was the IRS granting retroactive refunds for taxes nonprofit organizations paid for the “parking lot tax” which the legislature repealed in 2019. This tax, included in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, imposed a sizable unrelated business income tax on subsidized parking offered by these organizations to their employees. Many in the nonprofit industry objected to the parking lot tax on the grounds that it went too far in expanding the unrelated business income tax and placed an unfair burden on the often slim resources of nonprofit organizations. While the relevant legislation went into effect in 2019, the IRS has been issuing and updating guidance about getting a refund for parking lot taxes paid in prior years throughout 2020: for the IRS’s official statement, see https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/how-to-claim-a-refund-or-credit-of-unrelated-business-income-tax-ubit-or-adjust-form-990-t-for-qualified-transportation-fringe-amounts.

For additional reading on this topic see https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/irs-authorizes-parking-benefit-tax-refunds-for-nonprofits.aspx.

David Brennen, University of Kentucky College of Law

January 14, 2021 in Current Affairs, Federal – Legislative | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The changing face of policing nonprofits

An article written by Joshua Rosenberg of Law360 last month provides interesting insight for persons not intimately familiar with the oftentimes intricate subject area of tax-exempt organization regulation. Where once the IRS led the way in prosecuting potential tax infractions by nonprofit organizations, it now seems that state governments have stepped to the fore in that arena. As illustration, Rosenberg points to events such as the recent victory by New York’s attorney general in bringing a case against the National Rifle Association which made headlines nationwide last year. Developments such as this, says the article author, “have set the tone at the state level for policing charities, even though they’re unable to directly adjudicate the tax-exempt status of those organizations.”

Balanced against this upswing in the vigilance of state governments is a certain amount of apathy by the Internal Revenue Service in policing nonprofit organizations. This is likely due in no small part to dramatic funding cuts in 2013 when the Agency faced criticism (and indeed was ultimately found liable in the matter) for subjecting to strict scrutiny a number of conservative groups applying for charitable organization status 

For Rosenberg’s succinct and informative discussion of the topic including what this means for nonprofit tax infraction enforcement moving forward, see: https://www-law360-com.ezproxy.law.uky.edu/articles/1336984/states-not-irs-lead-in-policing-tax-exempt-organizations

David Brennen, University of Kentucky College of Law

January 12, 2021 in Current Affairs, In the News, Publications – Articles | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, January 8, 2021

Watchdog Group Lists Nonprofits That Supported Save America March

Download (1)The watchdog group Documented reports that a number of nonprofits were listed on the March to Save America website as supporting Wednesday's Save America March that led to the attack on Congress. The link to that website provided in the article no longer shows the list, but the article names eleven groups, including the following eight ones I have verified are tax-exempt nonprofits using the IRS Exempt Organization Search feature:

  • Peaceably Gather (501(c)(3) if, as appears, its legal name is First Liberty Institute)
  • Phyllis Schlafly Eagles (501(c)(3) if, as appears, its legal name is the Eagle Forum Education & Legal Defense Fund)

The article notes that the Rule of Law Defense Fund, which states on its website that it is "the public policy organization for issues relevant to the nation’s conservative attorneys general," is the 501(c)(4) arm of the Republican Attorneys General Association.

So far only one of these groups (Women for America First) has posted on its website a statement condemning the violence.

Lloyd Mayer

January 8, 2021 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 7, 2021

501(c)(3)s and Post-Election Activities

5f752f9926650.imageThere are no indications that any nonprofits, including 501(c)(3)s, were involved in yesterday's shocking riot at the Capital Building. (UPDATE: But nonprofits were apparently involved in supporting the Save America March that turned into the riot.) This is not surprising, in part because of the longstanding prohibition on 501(c)(3)s and other types of tax-exempt nonprofits promoting illegal activity of any type. But a number of 501(c)(3)s have been involved in the legal challenges to the election of President Biden and Vice President Harris, raising questions about if and when such post-election activity constitutes prohibited political campaign intervention.

For example, the Washington Post reported that the 501(c)(3) Thomas More Society recent expanded its religious liberty mission to include "election integrity" work and launched "the Amistad Project" to file lawsuits alleging election problems in several battleground states both before and after the election. Its role came to light in part because of its ties to President Trump's legal adviser Jenna Ellis, who is special counsel to the organization. Fellow blogger Philip Hackney is cited as noting that the Society was "putting its tax-exempt status at risk" by working with partisan figures on these activities, although he also cautioned that the IRS would find it difficult to challenge the Society's claims that it was acting in the wider public interest and so not attempting to intervene in a political campaign. 

In another example, the Houston Chronicle reported that a prominent donor to President Trump's campaign is now suing 501(c)(3) True the Vote for allegedly promising to use $2.5 million in donations to expose election fraud only to drop its post-election lawsuits after consulting with counsel for the Trump campaign. While the success of the lawsuit will turn on Texas law relating to charitable gifts, the alleged coordination with the Trump campaign raises questions about whether True the Vote engaged in political campaign intervention by seeking to support President Trump's reelection. (It also could raise questions about whether True the Vote made in-kind contributions to the Trump campaign that would be illegal under federal election law.) But as with the Thomas More Society, True the Vote presumably would argue its goal is to protect election integrity more broadly, a claim bolstered by its longstanding involvement with this issue (as reflected in its name).

There have also been reports of broader, election-related activities involving tax-exempt nonprofits. For example, Politico recently published "In final years of Liberty [University], Falwell spent millions on pro-Trump causes," including raising concerns about a university-funded "think tank" that ran pro-Trump ads, hired Trump allies as fellows,  and promoted Trump's false claims of election fraud.  And non-501(c)(3)s were also heavily involved in the 2020 election, and not only on the conversative side. For example, Politico published "Liberal dark-money behemoth raised nearly $140M last year," describing the issue advocacy, legislative, and election-related activities of the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a section 501(c)(4) social welfare organization. (Hat tip for both stories: EO Tax Journal.)

Lloyd Mayer

 

January 7, 2021 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, December 11, 2020

CA Counters US Call for SCOTUS to Grant Cert in CA Sched B Disclosure Case

In Americans For Prosperity Foundation v. Becerra, California recently filed a Supplemental Brief countering the US brief in the case, which argued that while the US Schedule B requiring donor disclosure of charitable organizations was constitutional, the California version was unconstitutional:

"1. The United States principally contends that the court of appeals applied the wrong standard of scrutiny. U.S. Br. 8-19. But it is difficult to see any material difference between the standard embraced by the United States and the one applied below. According to the United States, “compelled disclosures that carry a reasonable probability of harassment, reprisals, and similar harms are subject to exacting scrutiny.” Id. at7. Exacting scrutiny, in turn, calls for “a form of narrow tailoring” (id.) that requires “‘the strength of the governmental interest [to] reflect the seriousness of the actual burden on First Amendment rights’” (id. at 9); that dem ands a means-ends fit that is “‘reasonable’” but not “‘perfect’” (id. at 16); and that ensures that the compelled disclosure does “not sweep significantly more broadly than necessary to achieve [a] substantial governmental interest” (id. at 12). See also id. at 9 (compelled disclosure requirements are valid where “the public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm”) (internal quotation marks and ellipses omitted). The United States also asserts that “narrow tailoring is to  some degree implicit in the requirement that the governmental interest in the compelled disclosure be ‘legitimate and substantial’” because “it is difficult to demonstrate a ‘substantial’ interest in a broad disclosure scheme when narrower disclosures would be sufficient.” Id. at 10-11.

The court of appeals held that California’s Schedule B filing requirement is subject to “‘exacting scrutiny,’” and it understood exacting scrutiny in the same way as the United States. Pet. App. 15a.1 It recognized that the “strength of the governmental interest must reflect the seriousness of the actual burden on First Amendment rights.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). It examined whether the State’s chosen approach swept too broadly. See id. at 19a-23a, 29a. And it determined that concerns about overly broad regulation are part and parcel of the substantial-relationship test. See id. at 15a-16a (requirement “that the State employ means ‘narrowly drawn’ to  avoid needlessly stifling expressive association” is not “distinguishable from the ordinary ‘substantial relation’ standard”).

The United States ignores the overlap between the court of appeals’ approach and its own and asserts that the lower court erred in declining to require an adequate means-ends fit. U.S. Br. 16. But what the court of appeals declined to adopt was “the kind of ‘narrow tailoring’ traditionally required in the context of strict scrutiny,” including the requirement that “the state . . . choose the least restrictive means of accomplishing its purposes.” Pet. App. 16a; see also Opp. 6, 14-15. And the United States itself agrees that strict scrutiny and its “particularly stringent form of narrow tailoring” do not apply to information-reporting requirements like the one at issue here. See U.S. Br. 16."

Philip Hackney

December 11, 2020 in Current Affairs, Federal – Judicial, State – Executive | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 13, 2020

Prairie View A&M University Receives $10 Million for Scholarships

A press release from Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas, has announced that a donor who wishes to remain anonymous has made a $10 million gift to the institution to fund scholarships for students struggling to complete their degrees during the pandemic.

The Panther Success Grants initiative will provide unrestricted funds to juniors and seniors impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, enabling them to remain enrolled and graduate on time. In-state, out-of-state, and international students all will be eligible to apply for a scholarship of up to $2,000 per semester and $4,000 per academic year — the average amount that Prairie View students with jobs contribute annually to their education. The university will give priority to students who are making satisfactory progress toward the completion of their degrees, as well as those whose finances and any financial aid they receive are insufficient to cover their college costs.

While enrollment at Prairie View is up slightly this fall, many students report that staying enrolled in school will be a challenge. University president, Ruth J. Simmons, opines that the scholarship assistance made possible by this gift "will be the critical difference in enabling these students to continue and complete their studies."

I certainly agree with Dr. Simmons and hope other anonymous donors will show up at more than a few more educational institutions.

Prof. Vaughn E. James, Texas Tech University School of Law  

 

November 13, 2020 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 12, 2020

IRS Announces Tax Exempt and Government Entities Compliance Programs and Priorities

Following up on the announcement of its compliance programs in the Tax Exempt and Government Entities (TE/GE) FY2020 Program Letter the IRS has announced its intention to continue its compliance programs in FY2021 and to share information about new compliance priorities at the end of each quarter during the fiscal year. According to the IRS's announcement, the TE/GE Program protects the public interest by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all. To accomplish its mission, the IRS plans to deliver a compliance platform of six programs that together promote tax law compliance by tax-exempt and government entities. These programs are: 

  • Compliance Strategies - issues approved by the TE/GE Compliance Governance Board to identify, prioritize and allocate resources within the TE/GE filing population.
  • Data-Driven Approaches - data and queries based on quantitative criteria, used to identify the highest risk areas of noncompliance and focus on issues with the greatest impact.
  • Referrals, Claims and Other Casework - alleged noncompliance referrals from internal and external sources, and claims for refunds, credits or adjustments.
  • Compliance Contacts - address potential noncompliance through correspondence contacts known as “compliance checks” and “soft letters” to limit costs and taxpayer burden.
  • Determinations - letters issued to exempt organizations on exempt status, private foundation classification and other determinations related to exempt organizations and qualified retirement plans that meet legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Voluntary Compliance and Other Technical Programs – voluntary correction program to enable a plan sponsor (at any time before exam) to pay a fee and receive IRS approval for correction of plan failures. Other technical programs, including Knowledge Management, work to ensure the quality and consistency of technical positions, provide timely assistance to employees and preserve and share TE/GE’s knowledge base.

 The Service's 2021 priorities for scrutiny include Employee Plans: Participant Loans; Exempt Organizations: Excise Tax on Excess Compensation; Exempt Organizations, Federal, State and Local Government, and Indian Tribal Governments: Form W-2 and 1099-Misc to the Same Payee; and Tax-Exempt Bonds: Arbitrage Violations.

Sounds like we have an interesting year ahead.

Prof. Vaughn E. James, Texas Tech University School of Law

 

 

  

November 12, 2020 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 2, 2020

Nonprofit Standing to Challenge Electoral Policies

Surprising no one, there is a flurry of litigation in federal and state courts right now seeking various remedies regarding the right to vote. While some of these challenges are brought by political parties or candidates or individual voters, many of these challenges are brought by nonpartisan nonprofits asserting standing on their own behalf and/or their members to challenge state laws that impede ballot access. Drawn from the SCOTUSBlog Election Litigation Tracker, meet some of the nonprofit litigants shaping election litigation in the courts, and the interests that they represent (below the break).

Continue reading

November 2, 2020 in Current Affairs, Federal – Judicial | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, October 30, 2020

Blurring the lines between the political and nonpolitical spheres

            With the presidential election less than a week away, politics is never far from anyone’s mind: that would seem to include organizations that, strictly speaking, are expected to avoid the political arena. The Falkirk Center, a subsidiary think tank of conservative private nonprofit Liberty University, recently featured an advertisement showing President Trump amid a closely-gathered group of people in the Oval Office, heads bowed in prayer. Alongside the picture appears text quoting Scripture and the phrase “Pray for our President.”

            The Falkirk Center is organized under Liberty University’s 501(c)(3) charter granting the group tax exemption: language used by the IRS unambiguously forbids such organizations from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in, any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office.” To violate the IRS’ rule is a risky proposition for any tax-exempt organization, as its puts their tax exemption at risk: on the whole, however, it appears that the Falkirk Center’s advertisements fall on the right side of the tax code’s bright red line. An Inside Higher Ed piece reporting on the potential tax implications of the advertisements pointed to a statement by a Liberty spokesman stating that the Bible calls for believers to pray for kings and authority figures in order to secure peace for all, regardless of which political party that leader hails from. “[Expert] consensus,” says the article, “was that the ads push the envelope but probably don’t cross into being ‘functionally equivalent to express advocacy,’ which would make them electioneering and out of bounds for a 501(c)(3).” While Liberty University’s advertising practices may be safe from the IRS’ wrath, it has drawn sharp criticism from a number of academics and other nonprofits: to assess these viewpoints, see the Inside Higher Ed article analyzing the advertisement here.

David Brennen, Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law

October 30, 2020 in Current Affairs, In the News, Religion | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 29, 2020

NRA executive personally under investigation by the IRS

Further troubles continue to rain down upon the heads of the top authorities at the National Rifle Association. Earlier this month it was announced that the Internal Revenue Service is investigating the possibility of bringing criminal charges against Wayne LaPierre, the executive vice president of the organization since 1991. Given the extent of the civil charges brought against the organization and its leaders by New York Attorney General Letitia James, which have been discussed in this blog in several prior posts, it is perhaps unsurprising that criminal prosecution might follow.

The Wall Street Journal, which reported this development at the beginning of October, states that the IRS is investigating LaPierre in particular (as opposed to the NRA at large) for potential tax fraud. Possibly the agency is investigating LaPierre’s taxes for activities entirely outside his decades-long role as an executive for the powerful nonprofit: however, given the proximity of this news in relation to Attorney General James’ attempt to entirely dissolve the NRA for its alleged shady business dealings, the possibility seems remote. LaPierre was unquestionably a central piece in the high-level decision making of the large 501(c)(3) organization, and the New York Attorney General called LaPierre out by name when she brought suit. It would seem that the civil suit seeking its dissolution is only the beginning for the NRA, and whether leaders within its network besides LaPierre will draw the Internal Revenue Service’s ire remains to be seen.

For a discussion of the Wall Street Journal piece and the underlying facts, see this article by Nonprofit Quarterly.

David Brennen, Professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law

 

 

October 29, 2020 in Current Affairs, Federal – Judicial | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

24th Western Conference on Tax Exempt Organizations - coming in December

From December 3rd through the 4th, Loyola Law School will be holding its annual Western Conference on Tax Exempt Organizations. Attendees will be able to learn about a wealth of pressing developments in tax law for tax exempt organizations from top tax experts with nationwide recognition.

For more information, see Loyola's posting of the event.

David Brennen, University of Kentucky College of Law

October 28, 2020 in Conferences, Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

The mystery of the automatic revocations is solved

    The end of last week saw a further development in the sharp increase in automatic revocations of tax-exempt status sent out by the IRS this year. To review the initial phase of this series of events, nearly thirty thousand tax-exempt organizations had their status automatically revoked despite the fact that the IRS had changed the relevant filing deadline from May to July. In response, Democrats from the House of Representatives demanded an explanation from Treasury Secretary Mnuchin. To read more about events leading up to that point in the situation, see this blog’s post from last week here.

    Shortly after the letter in question was sent, the IRS issued a statement confirming the suspicion voiced in our earlier blog post: namely, that the IRS messed up. Blaming “systemic limitations,” the Service admitted that it had been unable to correct the program it uses to send automatic revocation notices to tax-exempt organizations. As a result, organizations abiding by the IRS's extended deadlines were sent revocation notices anyway. However, the Service did prevent organizations properly filing before the updated July deadline from having their status listed as ‘revoked’ on the agency’s official site. Tax-exempt organizations who believe they received a revocation notice in error should contact the IRS at the fax number they have dedicated to resolving this mishap.

For the IRS’s statement, see https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/current-edition-of-exempt-organizations-update

 

By David Brennen, University of Kentucky College of Law 

October 28, 2020 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

IRS offers tax relief for the victims of California wildfires

Last week, the IRS continued to expand an important list which has been growing since late August: the tally of counties in California where taxpayers can, in light of the catastrophic wildfires that continue to ravage the state, claim a (temporary) reprieve from filing their taxes. On October 19th the IRS announced that “affected” taxpayers in Fresno, Los Angeles, Madera, Mendocino, Napa, San Bernadino, San Diego, Shasta, Siskiyou, and Sonoma have a delayed deadline of January 15th to file their taxes. This deadline applies to individual taxpayers as well as many businesses (including tax-exempt organizations), all of whom have likely been affected in some way by the natural disasters plaguing the area. Whether these measures, among other forms of disaster relief, will be enough to offset the damages caused by these events is another matter entirely: while the IRS adds in its statement that affected taxpayers, businesses, and nonprofit organizations “should explain how the disaster impacts them so that the IRS can provide appropriate consideration to their case,” a few month’s delay in filing taxes may be a small comfort to many taxpayers whose homes and livelihoods have been severely impacted or else completely destroyed. Taxpayers in counties affected by Californian wildfires should note that this particular deadline extension is one of many: the IRS has declared different extensions to reflect the multitude of different fires raging throughout the state.

For the Forbes story on this development, see https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2020/10/25/irs-tax-extension-to-jan-15-for-california-wildfire-victims/?ss=taxes#5125e70425bc

For the IRS official statement, see https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-announces-tax-relief-for-september-california-wildfire-victims

By Professor David Brennen, University of Kentucky College of Law

October 27, 2020 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, October 26, 2020

IRS partners with non-profits to raise fraud awareness

    Last week the Internal Revenue Service joined with a coalition of charities and other not-for-profit organizations in raising awareness against frauds targeting the nonprofit sector in particular. The third International Charity Fraud Awareness Week, which took place between October 19th and the 23rd, provides resources regarding safety precautions, proper business practices, and recognition of potential fraud attempts to non-profit organizations both large and small. Given that many nonprofits are guided by an explicit mission to give aid to those in need, it is by no means novel that criminals seek to exploit that goodwill. However the issue is of particular vitality in a time when natural disasters and the COVID epidemic are causing suffering across the nation: people are more in need of help than ever. In aid of this cause, the IRS published a statement last week on its website directing tax-exempt organizations to several practical tools including tutorials, videos, webinars, COVID-specific resources.

For the IRS’ published statement, see https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-fights-fraud-aimed-at-charities-joins-international-awareness-week

 

By Professor David Brennen, University of Kentucky College of Law

October 26, 2020 in Conferences, Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 22, 2020

IRS Automatic Revocation Forgot to Give Covid Extension?

Democrats sent a letter to the IRS recently inquiring about the fact that the IRS seems to have automatically revoked the tax exempt status of 10s of thousands of charities based on the normal filing date of those charities on May 15, rather than the extended date of July 15. 

Forbes has the story: "More than 30,000 nonprofit organizations in the U.S. have had their tax-exempt status automatically revoked by the Internal Revenue Service since May, Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, after an “apparent error” by the IRS may have erroneously revoked thousands of organizations’ tax-exempt status."

It almost surely is an error on the IRS's part, that will likely take some real work to fix, unfortunately.

Philip Hackney

October 22, 2020 in Current Affairs, Federal – Executive | Permalink | Comments (0)