Tuesday, June 11, 2019

University of Alabama returns $21.5 Million Gift, Citing Attempts to Improperly Influence Academic Decisions

On June 7, the University of Alabama voted to return more than $20 million in donations from Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. CulverhouseCulverhouse initially claimed that the refund was retaliation for his comments on Alabama's recent abortion legislation. In response, the University recently released emails from the donor in which he repeatedly cited his large donations as entitling him to influence administrative appointments, faculty hiring and firing, decisions about student admissions, and other issues. In one passage, he writes:

You seem to think the quid pro quo is I give you the largest sum and commitment in the school's history and you have no return consideration as your end of the transaction."Thanks for the money--Good-Bye."

Other places, he insults the dean of the law school, describes applicants for a chair position as "mediocre" and unacceptable, and demands free rein to wander the law school and attend classes without restriction.

Joe Patrice at Above the Law offers a different take, suggesting that the University's decision was simply because it had a philosophical disagreement about what constitutes quality education, implying that the law school has chosen a path towards mediocrity. Patrice suggests that the University "interpreted [everything Culverhouse wrote] through a sinister lens." Patrice concludes: "At least the school seemingly wasn’t trying to cut him out over his opposition to the Alabama abortion law. Too bad they were actually trying to kick him to the curb for other ill-considered reasons."

-Joseph Mead

June 11, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

New HistPhil Post: "Fairbairn v. Fidelity: The Lawsuit That Reflects Rising Concerns About The DAF Boom"

Samuel Brunson posted a week ago about an interesting new lawsuit against Fidelity Charitable and DAFs. Today, Brian Mittendorf has this interesting post in HistPhil blog: Mittendorf.3

The lawsuit features a philanthropic twist: the complaint centers not around how their own money was invested but rather around how the money they donated to charity was handled. This twist provides a window into the evolving and rapidly expanding use of once-niche giving vehicles – donor-advised funds – and in doing so highlights the philanthropic minefield they present.

Read the rest here.

-Joseph Mead

June 11, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

MacKenzie Bezos and the Giving Pledge

About a week and a half ago, MacKenzie Bezos signed the Giving Pledge, promising to give away at least half of her almost $37 billion wealth either over the course of her life or in her will. With her signature, she's joined more than 200 other people, from around the world, in making this promise.

In the first instance, I think this commitment to philanthropy is tremendously laudable. She recognizes that she has a disproportionate share of assets, and that she has a moral obligation to share those assets with those who don't have her fortune:

We each come by the gifts we have to offer by an infinite series of influences and lucky breaks we can never fully understand. In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share. My approach to philanthropy will continue to be thoughtful. It will take time and effort and care. But I won’t wait. And I will keep at it until the safe is empty.

Still, I have a couple questions. The first is, as a practical matter, how she'll give. After all, the bulk of her wealth is in Amazon stock. And she gave her ex-husband voting control over her Amazon stock. I don't know exactly what that looks like, but I imagine there are some limitations on her ability to liquidate (or donate) that stock.

The second is, how quickly will she give? Half of $37 billion is $18.5 billion. If she donates to a private foundation, she can only deduct up to 30% of her contribution base (which is, roughly, her adjusted gross income). If she gives directly to a public charity, she can still only deduct up to 50% of her contribution base (or 60% if she gives cash before 2026). In other words, to fully deduct her charitable contributions, she would have to earn at least roughly roughly $37 billion.

Now, it absolutely may be that she's not worried about fully deducting her contributions. (Facebook founder Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan certainly don't seem to be.) Or maybe she'll wait until her death, when charitable donations are excluded from her estate, to fully make her contributions. (Of course, actuarial tables put her expected death about 34 years in the future, so that would be charity delayed.)

Which brings us, briefly, to yesterday's Chronicle of Philanthropy, which reports that the Giving Pledge has not, contrary to its original expectations, turbocharged charitable giving. While more than 200 people have signed, the vast majority of the wealthy have not. Nor has it inspired increased generosity by non-wealthy Americans. Charitable giving stood at about 2% of GDP before the introduction of the Giving Pledge, and it has continued there since.

That's not to say, of course, that Bezos's pledge is insincere, that she's not actually planning on giving away more than half her money, or that she won't do it during her lifetime. It is to say that, while the Giving Pledge is theoretically nice, though, if we want to increase charitable giving, or if we want to reduce income inequality, the Giving Pledge isn't the solution.

Samuel D. Brunson

June 5, 2019 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (2)

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Controlling a Donor-Advised Fund

A couple months ago, I presented a work-in-progress on donor-advised funds to my colleagues at Loyola (a work-in-progress I hope to finish and post on SSRN soon). That evening, I got an email from one of those colleagues. It turned out that that same night, some donor-advised fund sponsored a bunch of the programming on WBEZ, our local NPR station, and the words donor-advised fund now meant something to my colleague.

Fast-forward to last Friday. A New York Times story popped up on my phone which, serendipitously, was about donor-advised funds. More specifically, it was about a lawsuit that, according to the Times, may cool donor enthusiasm for DAFs.

As a quick summary: commercial DAFs are essentially low-cost replacements for private foundations. They're often run by big mutual fund companies, which established a public charity. Donors donate to the charity, and the charity keeps their donations in separate accounts. The donor has given up ownership and control over the donation (and thus gets a deduction), but can advise the sponsoring organization about how to invest and distribute her donation.

And, as a legal matter, it's clear that the donor has given up the ownership and control. As a practical matter, though, I assume that donors have a lot of influence over their donations. If the sponsoring organization were to start going rogue, it's probably fair to assume that donors would be less excited to give their money to that particular sponsoring organization.

Tick-1271763_960_720But, again, as a legal matter, the sponsoring organization, not the donor, has control. And that's where the lawsuit the Times mentions comes in. According to the Fairbairns' complaint, in 2017, they donated 1.93 million shares of Energous stock--which is publicly traded on the NASDAQ--to Fidelity Charitable. They wanted Fidelity to eventually distribute their donation to charities that combat Lyme disease.

The Fairbairns allege that Fidelity promised them four things to induce the donation:

  1. Fidelity would use state-of-the-art methods for liquidating large blocks of the stock;
  2. It wouldn't trade more than 10% of the daily trading volume of Energous shares;
  3. It would allow the Fairbairns to set a floor on the price it would accept; and
  4. It wouldn't start selling Energous shares until 2018.

Fidelity didn't do, well, any of those things. According to the complaint (which Fidelity admits is true), it sold all of the shares on December 29, 2017. The Fairbairns claim that the sale drove the value of the stock down by 30%. And why do they care?

The complaint gives two reasons:

Catastrophic

It turns out, according to the complaint, that the 2017 changes to the tax law meant that the Fairbairns couldn't defer a sizeable tax hit any longer. Moreover, a couple days before the donation, the value of Energous stock jumped 39%. By making this donation, they managed to avoid paying taxes on the appreciation, and could, at the same time, offset their deferred income.

Now here's the thing about the lawsuit: by donating to Fidelity (rather than donating directly to their Lyme disease charity or donating to a private foundation), the Fairbairns had given up their legal right to control both the investment decisions and the distribution decisions. So instead, the complaint alleges that Fidelity misrepresented what they would do to induce the Fairnairns' investment, that it breached an enforceable agreement about how it would deal with their donation, that it was estopped from doing what it did, and that it was negligent in the manner it liquidated the stock.

Will this affect donors' willingness to provide charity through donor-advised funds? I honestly don't know. Frankly, investors should be aware that their right to advise is limited. On the other hand, large donors prefer to have control and, while a private foundation is more costly and provides a lower ceiling on deductibility, if they really want the control, perhaps they should give through foundations (or, heaven forbid, directly to active charities).

Samuel D. Brunson

 

June 4, 2019 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Thinking Big Thoughts: Nonprofits and Democracy… on Twitter….

With summer here and the day-to-day craziness mostly (!) under control, I have the luxury of a few moments of just … thinking.   It’s easy to get wrapped up in the text of the Code, the most recent case law, or the scandal du jour (I’m looking at you, NRA).   But I rarely have the time to step back and take a wider scope on things.   

At this particular moment, it is courtesy of Twitter, which seems somewhat antithetical to big thoughts (literally, given the word count), but one never knows from whence inspiration may come. In the matter of just a few days, a number of Twitter posts came across my feed that connect indirectly in my mind to a larger questions of the role of charity in a democracy. 

Twitter post number 1.  Nonprofit Quarterly posted an article on its website entitled “The Road Less Traveled: Establishing the Link between Nonprofit Governance and Democracy.”

https://twitter.com/npquarterly/status/1133559834203308033?s=20

This article discusses how best practices in nonprofit board governance increase the representation of the various communities served by a nonprofit.  The failure to follow these best practices results in a “’democratic deficit’ in board governance- that is, an absence of democratic structures and processes.” Addressing the democratic deficit doesn’t just benefit the charity – it benefits our democracy writ large: “Wider constituent participation in nonprofit governance will not only help citizens develop civic skills and democratic values … .”  

Twitter post number 2.   The second Twitter post links to a Nonprofit Quarterly podcast that discusses “No White Saviors,” a movement that discusses the impact of race on hierarchy and power in the international charitable economic development space.  

https://twitter.com/npquarterly/status/1132662674855202817

This links a Nonprofit Quarterly podcast that discusses “No White Saviors,” a movement that discusses the impact of race on hierarchy and power in the international charitable economic development space.   “Those with power hav[e] the resources and capability to make decisions on what should the outcome should be for vulnerable populations.” Podcast at 6:42.

Twitter post number 3. The third post is an interview with Phil Buchanan of The Center for Effective Philanthropy, posted on vox.com, where he responds to criticism of that wealthy philanthropy is undemocratic (set for the more fully in his book, Giving Done Right).

https://twitter.com/voxdotcom/status/1132995143378845697?s=20

In the interview, Buchanan is quoted as saying:

The structural critiques are important and they play out in our democratic politics. But in the meantime, here we are. We have significant wealth that’s been accumulated in this country. We have endowed private foundations that don’t even have a connection on the board to the original donor. These are institutions that are focused on a mission. They’re focused on the public good. I like working in the day to day, in the practical reality, where there are people with decision-making power to allocate these resources. I want to help them to do it effectively.

I think all of these pieces raise interesting views on the role of power and money and the role of the charitable sector in a democracy.  At the end of the Buchanan interview, he specifically asks if we should be subsidizing all of this through the tax code, and specifically the Section 170 charitable deduction (spoiler alert: he says yes, and expand it to non-itemizers).

I’m more interested, however, in the Section 501(c)(3) implications on all of this.  Since Section 501(c)(3) is the section that creates the boundaries between that which is charitable (at least, charitable in tax terms) and that which is not, does it make sense for those rules to play a role in policing this issue.   One could view the 1969 passage of the private foundation excise taxes as the historical pre-cursor for this discussion, as at least part of the background of that legislation was to minimize the benefit to and the influence of the most wealthy through charitable vehicles.  My thoughts aren’t fully formed on this, but I found it an interesting crossing of the Twitter streams in a very short 48 hour period.  Any musings and other big thoughts are, of course, most welcome.

EWW

May 29, 2019 in Books, Current Affairs, In the News, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 1, 2019

Links to recent stories of potential interest to readers

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Effect of TCJA on Charitable Giving: "Sluggish" Growth in 2018

As reported by The Washington Post and other news outlets, the Fundraising Effectiveness Project's most recent report announced an unimpressive 1.6 percent increase in charitable giving for calendar year 2018.  Donations from general donors (gifts under $250) and mid-level donors (gifts between $250 and $999) each dropped by 4 percent from the prior year.  On the other hand, donations from major donors (gifts of $1,000 and more) rose by 2.6 percent.  The report also revealed that the number of donors decreased by 4.5 percent from the prior year.  Although not conclusive evidence, the report does lend some credence to the conclusion that the TCJA and the resulting decrease in taxpayers itemizing their deductions (which includes the charitable contributions deduction) has negatively affected charitable giving. 

 

Nicholas Mirkay

March 12, 2019 in Current Affairs, Federal – Legislative, In the News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Hackney: Testimony for Hearing on Oversight of Nonprofit Organizations

Philip Hackney (Pittsburgh) posted to SSRN his Written Testimony for the Hearing on Oversight of Nonprofit Organizations:  A Case Study on the Clinton Foundation (House Committee on Oversight, December 13, 2018).  Here is the abstract:

This is written testimony offered to the House Committee on Oversight's Subcommittee on Government Operations on December 13, 2018: Our nation has tasked the IRS with the large and complex responsibility for regulating the nonprofit sector, but has failed to provide the IRS with resources commensurate with that task. This is important work. Nonprofits constitute a large and growing part of our economy, and they are granted a highly preferential tax status. An organization that abuses that preferential status will obtain a significant and unfair advantage over the organizations and individuals who play by the rules. If we are to grant such a substantial advantage to nonprofits, and if we are going to rely on the IRS to oversee regulation of these entities, it is essential that the IRS have the resources it needs to ensure that this preferential status is not abused.

Lloyd Mayer previously discussed the hearing on this blog (here).

Nicholas Mirkay

January 31, 2019 in Current Affairs, Federal – Executive, Federal – Legislative | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

NYTimes: Hospitals Are Asking Their Own Patients to Donate Money

An article in today's New York Times highlights the practices of hospitals seeking donations from their patients while they are being treated:

Those who seem promising targets for fund-raising may receive a visit from a hospital executive in their rooms, as well as extra amenities like a bathrobe or a nicer waiting area for their families.

Some hospitals train doctors and nurses to identify patients who have expressed gratitude for their care, and then put the patients in touch with staff fund-raisers.

Read the full piece here.

January 24, 2019 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Congress Lives Up to "Lame Duck" Label: Failed Attempt to Reverse Schedule B Change & Clinton/Trump Foundation Hearing

DownloadWhile Congress may actually keep the government funded during the current lame duck session, its efforts relating to nonprofits appear doomed to amount to nothing. First, with much fanfare the Senate narrowly passed legislation to reverse the IRS decision to no longer require reporting of contributor information for tax-exempt organizations other than 501(c)(3)s and 527s, but that legislation is almost certain not to advance in the House (or survive a trip to the White House, if it came to that). Second, the House Subcommittee on Government Oversight held a hearing on the Clinton Foundation (and, at the insistence of Democratic members, the Trump Foundation). I have not watched the C-SPAN recording, but by all accounts it was a last gasp attack on Hillary Clinton, with even the Washington Examiner calling it "a fiasco" as Republicans clashed with their own witnesses. The only relative bright spot was the testimony of Professor Philip Hackney (Pittsburgh), who used the platform to highlight the congressionally created resource constraints hindering the ability of the IRS to effectively oversee tax-exempt organizations.

There is also the lame duck tax bill (H.R. 88, the Retirement, Savings, and Other Tax Relief Act of 2018), which in its latest iteration would repeal new section 512(a)(7) (includes the costs of certain fringe benefits, most notably parking provided to employees, in unrelated business taxable income), modify the section 4943 rules for excess business holdings with respect to certain purchases of employee-owned stock, relax the Johnson Amendment by not applying it to statements "made in the ordinary course of the [501(c)(3)] organization's regular and customary activities in carrying out its exempt purpose" that do not result in more than de minimis incremental expenses, permit section 501(3) organizations to make collegiate housing and infrastructure grants, and relax some of the section 170 limitations with respect to disaster relief. But it seems that passage of that bill is unlikely.

Lloyd Mayer

December 18, 2018 in Current Affairs, Federal – Legislative, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

David Pozen, "The Tax-Code Shift That's Changing Liberal Activism"

C(4)influence

David Pozen has an interesting piece in The Atlantic regarding social justice organizations' increasing embrace of 501(c)(4) status over (c)(3) status.  Here is an excerpt:

Many groups gravitated to section 501(c)(3) because public charities enjoy unique tax benefits—most notably, they can receive deductible donations—and tend to be favored by wealthy foundation funders. But these perks come at a price. Public charities are required by law to keep their legislative lobbying to a minimum and to forgo politicking altogether. Taking a stand for or against a candidate for elective office is strictly prohibited. The 501(c)(3) form fit snugly into the postwar theory of legal liberalism, in which the federal courts were seen as the key agents of social reform and professionally managed nonprofits as their partners in that effort.  

This model had been fraying long before the Trump presidency. Labor unions, under sustained attack from the right, suffered a steep decline in membership and clout over the latter half of the 20th century. Public charities continued to proliferate, but as progress on racial integration stalled out and levels of economic inequality and partisan polarization crept up and up, many on the left began to question whether a court-centric approach was capable of producing lasting social change.

The 2016 election pushed these concerns past the breaking point. Thousands upon thousands of well-established public charities, after all, didn’t translate into robust voter turnout. Nor did they halt the ascent of a demagogue. And with Brett Kavanaugh’s recent confirmation, whatever remained of the left’s faith in the Supreme Court as an engine of justice has crumbled. While lawsuits may be crucial for challenging certain flagrant abuses of power, many resistance groups feel compelled to participate directly in the rough-and-tumble of electoral politics.

And so they have turned to … section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. Many of the key groups founded to resist Trump, including Indivisible Project, Onward Together, Our Revolution, Sixteen Thirty Fund, Stand Up America, and Women’s March, are abandoning the 501(c)(3) public-charity route and incorporating as 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations instead. Social-welfare organizations are also exempt from federal income tax, but they have fewer fiscal privileges. Donations to them are not deductible. Yet unlike public charities, they may lobby as much as they wish, and they may engage in partisan political work—from asking candidates to sign pledges to registering like-minded voters to endorsing specific pieces of legislation—as long as that work is not their “primary” purpose or activity (a requirement so hard to define and enforce that, in the words of one leading nonprofit tax scholar [John Colombo], it “virtually invites wholesale noncompliance”). Since this past summer, social-welfare organizations have also been allowed to withhold the names of their donors from the Internal Revenue Service.

. . . 

Federal tax law allows social-welfare organizations to be affiliated with public charities as well as with pacs. So while anti-Trump start-ups are setting up shop as 501(c)(4)s, long-standing civil-liberties and civil-rights groups are reallocating resources to (c)(4) arms. In fiscal year 2017, for example, total assets of the American Civil Liberties Union’s (c)(3) grew 17 percent. Total assets of its (c)(4), on the other hand, grew 89 percent. This past June, the Southern Poverty Law Center spun off a (c)(4), the SPLC Action Fund. The NAACP went further and transformed itself entirely last year from a 501(c)(3) into a 501(c)(4). This restructuring was necessary, the incoming president explained, for the NAACP to “have the collective voice and impact that a civil-rights organization in 2017 and forward should have.”

Hat Tip:  Nonprofit Law Blog

dkj

December 12, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 3, 2018

#AccountabilityMonday

In the first ever #AccountabilityMonday, which took place before Giving Tuesday, a group of scholars and journalists initiated a conversation (covered by Nonprofit Times) about nonprofit accountability and transparency. Using the hashtag #AccountabilityMonday, people posed questions and offered ideas on nonprofit topics ranging from DAFs to reading a Form 990. One of the most interesting exchanges was prompted by Phillip Hackney, who asked "What would you add to (or remove from) the Form 990 that charities file with the IRS to make it a more useful document for holding charities accountable?"

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">What would you add to (or remove from) the Form 990 that charities file with the IRS to make it a more useful document for holding charities accountable? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AccountabilityMonday?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AccountabilityMonday</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/CountingCharity?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CountingCharity</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/BenSoskis?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BenSoskis</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/EllenAprill?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@EllenAprill</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/BDGesq?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@BDGesq</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/joshnathankazis?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@joshnathankazis</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/JosephWMead?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JosephWMead</a></p>&mdash; Philip Hackney (@EOTaxProf) <a href="https://twitter.com/EOTaxProf/status/1067215438436884480?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 27, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

Lots of great ideas in the replies. What would you like to see changed?

@JosephWMead

December 3, 2018 in Current Affairs, Federal – Executive | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 9, 2018

Can a Community Hospital Stick to its Mission When it Goes For-Profit?

From a recent NPR report:

From 2013 to 2017, nearly 1 in 5 of the nation's 5,500-plus hospitals were acquired or merged with another hospital, according to Irving Levin Associates, a health care analytics firm in Norwalk, Conn. Industry analysts say for-profit hospital companies are poised to grow more rapidly as they buy up both for-profits and nonprofits — potentially altering the character and role of public health-oriented nonprofits.  Nonprofit hospitals are exempt from state and local taxes. In return, they must provide community services and care to poor and uninsured patients — a commitment that is honored to varying degrees nationwide.  Of the nation's 4,840 general hospitals that aren't run by the federal government, 2,849 are nonprofit, 1,035 are for-profit and 956 are owned by state or local governments, according to the American Hospital Association.  In 2017, 29 for-profit companies bought 18 for-profit hospitals and 11 not-for-profits, according to an analysis for Kaiser Health News by Irving Levin Associates.  

Rethinking Rural Health Solutions To Save Patients And Communities

dkj

 

November 9, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 5, 2018

Today's SALT/170 Proposed Regulations Public Hearing in Brief

The SALT/170 Proposed Regulations issued on August 27, 2018 had their day in the court of public opinion today – that being the public hearing held at 10:00 A.M. today at the IRS.   I am still trying to find video or a transcript of the hearing (I will update the post with a link should I find one or if any kind reader passes one my way.)

If you aren’t familiar with these Regulations, they were described in this post (which includes many, many links to commentary by lots of smart people).  An additional post highlights further commentary by Andy Grewal regarding the significant flaws in the Proposed Regulations (both posts by my co-blogger, Lloyd Mayer.)

Richard Rubin of the Wall Street Journal did live tweet the hearing (his Twitter feed can be found here, which you should follow anyway if you are tax type.)  According to him, there were 24 speakers signed up, including an 8th grader talking about the benefits of private school.   From Rubin's description, many of the speakers were specifically objecting to the treatment of state level education credit programs.  In addition, it appears that 7,749 comments were received on the www.regulations.gov website.  

Rubin noted that at the end of the hearings, Scott Dinwiddie of the IRS was quoted as saying, “We have our work cut out for us.”   If you believe the underlying theory advanced by the IRS, then I’m not sure what work needs to be done, as they did take a pretty straightforward stance on it all.    I’ll be curious to see what direction the final regs take…

UPDATE: Thanks to Mr. Linville in the comments, who provided a link for the hearing transcript, so please see below. 

EWW

November 5, 2018 in Current Affairs, Federal – Executive, In the News | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Nonprofits Are Cutting Ties to Saudi Arabia In Wake of Khashoggi Murder

From CNBC:

A youth charity founded by Saudi Arabia's crown prince just lost an influential backer, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in the latest sign of fallout after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  The charitable organization started by the Microsoft co-founder and his philanthropist wife is canceling much of its $5 million pledge to the MiSk Foundation, a Saudi youth empowerment nonprofit chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.  Last week, a Saudi prosecutor acknowledged for the first time that agents of the kingdom planned Khashoggi's slaying at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. The prosecutor initially said the Washington Post columnist and U.S. resident was unintentionally killed during a physical altercation. The Saudis earlier claimed Khashoggi, a critic of Prince Mohammed, left the consulate unharmed.  . . .  Virgin Group co-founder Richard Branson, another high-profile philanthropist, has also in light of Khashoggi's killing.

dkj

November 2, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Charities Regulation on the International Front: Emerging Issues in Globalization

The Nonprofit Management Program at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies is presenting its next Master Class in the program's Professional Development Series on November 15, 2018:  "Charities Regulation on the International Front: Emerging Issues in Globalization."

A description of the program:

Regulation and enforcement in the charitable sector are increasingly global in scope. Whether addressing cross-border charitable solicitation, oversight issues within religiously based organizations, terrorism concerns, money laundering, or the burgeoning technological platforms that enable new and expanded reach for these activities internationally, charities regulators are on the front lines of some of the most cutting-edge international legal issues. Join us for a deep-dive discussion with our panel of experts discussing the new globalized context of charities regulation.

Panelists:

James G. Sheehan, Chief, Charities Bureau, New York State Attorney General's Office

Ruth M. Madrigal Partner, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, Former Attorney-Advisor, Office of Tax Policy Department of the Treasury

Marcus S. Owens Partner, Loeb & Loeb, Former Director, Exempt Organizations Division of the Internal Revenue Service

Sarah Atkinson, Director of Policy and Communications Charity Commission for England and Wales

Tony Manconi, Director General, Charities Directorate Canada Revenue Agency

Moderator: Cindy M. Lott, Esq., Academic Director, Nonprofit Management Programs and Senior Lecturer'

 

NMirkay

October 23, 2018 in Conferences, Current Affairs, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, July 16, 2018

ABA's Business Law Section Recognizes Ellen Aprill with the 2018 Outstanding Nonprofit Academic Award

I am very pleased to share the news that Ellen Aprill has been given the Outstanding Academic Award for 2018 for distinguished academic achievement in the nonprofit section by the Nonprofit Organizations Committee of the American Bar Association's Business Law Section -  although we all know that her academic achievements should be recognized well beyond just the nonprofit sector.   For anyone involved in nonprofit legal issues, especially in the area of political activity and advocacy, Ellen's work is required reading.   I have had the privilege of knowing Ellen from our work at the ABA before I became an academic.   Now that I am part of the academy, she has always been available for the random bit of advice or for expert scholarly opinion.   I personally can't imagine anyone more deserving.    From the ABA announcement:

 

Ellen Aprill is the John E. Anderson Chair in Tax Law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and is the
founding director of its Tax LLM program. She has been a member of the Loyola Law School faculty since
1989.


Professor Aprill is one of the founders of the Loyola Law School Western Conference on Tax Exempt
Organizations, considered by many to be the premier nonprofit law conference on the West coast. She
has co-hosted this conference for twenty years and has been instrumental in bringing together leaders in
government, academia and the nonprofit law bar each year for this conference.


Professor Aprill has written extensively on issues of nonprofit law and is a reliable source of knowledge
both for her students and the public. Her other accomplishments include serving as a fellow of the
American College of Tax Counsel and the American Law Institute, and serving as a member of the
Executive Committee of the USC Federal Tax Institute and the Academic Advisory Board of the
Tannenwald Foundation for Excellence in Tax Scholarship. She is a former Chair of the Los Angeles
County Bar Tax Section, which has honored her with the Dana Latham Award for outstanding contribution
to the community and to the legal profession in the field of taxation.

 

Congratulations to Ellen and to all of the other individuals recognized by the ABA (including Greg Colvin and Eve Borenstein (among others), who many of us in this community know as well) on their honors.

See also a similar write up on our sister Tax Prof Blog.

 

EWW

July 16, 2018 in Current Affairs, In the News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

New Slate Series on the Largest Nonprofits

Slate has started a new series -- Slate 90 -- that "examines the multibillion-dollar nonprofit sector" by scrutinizing the behavior of the largest nonprofits. As the introductory article explains:

The Slate 90 represents the top 10 American nonprofits by revenue in nine categories: arts, culture, and humanities; education; environment and animals; health; human services; international, foreign affairs; mutual/membership benefit; public, societal benefit; and religion-related...

Some of these organizations are good and worthy; others aren’t. But they’re all equally tax-exempt under the law, answerable in practice to almost no one except overstretched state attorneys general. Every single organization on this list represents a significant tax expenditure; collectively, they represent a massive pot of uncollected taxes that, ultimately, need to be made up by the rest of us. Is that a bargain worth making? Take a look ..., and decide for yourself.

Scroll through available stories here.

May 10, 2018 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

New Zealand Denies Greenpeace Charitable Status because its Views on Environment Wouldn't Benefit the Public

Earlier this year, New Zealand denied charity status to Greenpeace because it found its policy positions to be contrary to the public interest. Under New Zealand law, charitable activities may involve seeking policy changes, but the purpose must be in furtherance of the public benefit. (For thorough coverage of New Zealand charity law, see this book by Poirier.) The registration board rejected Greenpeace's application on two grounds: image from world.350.org

  1. Greenpeace promotes its points of view on the environment and other issues in ways that cannot be found to be for the benefit of the public.
  2. Greenpeace and its members’ involvement in illegal activities amounts to an illegal purpose which disqualifies it from registration.

On the first point, the Charities Registration Board reasoned:

Although the Supreme Court in Greenpeace held that advocacy can be charitable, it indicated that promoting a cause or advocating a particular viewpoint will not often be charitable. This is because it is not possible to say whether the views promoted are for the public benefit in the way the law recognises as charitable.

The Board considers that Greenpeace’s focus is on advocating its point of view on environmental issues such fossil fuel exploration and the expansion of intensive dairy farming.  Most of Greenpeace’s environmental advocacy cannot be determined to be in the public benefit when all the potential consequences of adopting its views are taken into account.

The Board noted that advocacy for protection of the environment could be considered charitable, but Greenpeace's positions were simply too extreme to be considered in the public benefit. For example, the Board acknowledged that "in general" advocacy for sustainability is charitable, Greenpeace's concern about climate change and advocacy for specific policies such as the role of fossil fuels "is a complex issue that requires in-depth consideration of the potential consequences of New Zealand's international obligations and interests, environmental risks, the importance of fossil fuels in New Zealand's economy, the competing interests of industries, economic costs, and New Zealand's dealings with other nations." Finding Greenpeace's position on policy to not consider the other criteria, the Board couldn't find that "the views promoted by Greenpeace on climate change are of a benefit in the way that the law recognises as charitable."

The rejection of Greenpeace's application on the first ground may seem surprising to those in the US. Although there was once a time when governments in the US weighed whether an organization's policy viewpoints were in the public interest (and while some who dislike the NRA, the ACLU, or other advocacy grounds have urged a return to the discretionary denial of yesteryear), those days have largely passed, in no small part to Constitutional/First Amendment concerns.

Back to New Zealand, Greenpeace appealed an earlier board decision against it, so it will be interesting to see if this is heading up the courts again.

May 8, 2018 in Current Affairs, International | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 26, 2018

Webb: 99% of UK charities should lose their charitable status

image from www.ft.com

Merryn Somerset Webb penned an op-ed in The Financial Times entitled The charitable giving model is an undemocratic use of funds. Focused on the UK, the piece proposes that "99 per cent of the organisations with charitable status in the UK should have it removed." Instead, tax subsidies would apply to a limited number of official charities that would be tightly regulated. Read the entire piece at: https://www.ft.com/content/1093fcec-187a-11e8-9376-4a6390addb44 

February 26, 2018 in Current Affairs, In the News, International | Permalink | Comments (0)