Monday, June 24, 2019
As this is my first post on Nonprofit Law Prof Blog, I thought I would do an introductory post. Excited to be blogging here. My name is Philip Hackney, and I am an Associate Professor of Law at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. I primarily teach tax law related courses and my scholarship focuses on nonprofit organizations, tax-exemption, tax law, and the IRS. You can see my scholarship here and you can see some articles I have written for more popular press here.
I worked for five years at the Office of the Chief Counsel of the IRS in Washington DC regulating the nonprofit sector. That work very much influences my research and scholarship and likely what I will blog about here. For instance, I will likely speak about stories like the Taxpayer Advocate Service ("TAS") criticizing the IRS on its new Form 1023-EZ. I note this story because in TAS's 2020 Objectives Report to Congress, TAS again criticizes the IRS's management of its tax-exempt application system. The Form 1023 EZ is a relatively new cursory form that allows small nonprofits to quickly qualify with the IRS as tax exempt organizations. The form was a response to chronic backups at the IRS for approval of routine applications for tax-exemption. TAS is not wrong about the problems raised by the adoption of Form 1023 EZ, a form that will be abused. Charities that should not get tax benefits will be approved by the IRS as a result of the cursory form. The IRS is not doing the kind of audit work that will ensure those organizations are caught. But the reality is that the IRS does not have the resources to do the oversight of the nonprofit sector to the extent many people seem to want. I don't want to get deeply into this issue here, other than to highlight a perspective that I try to bring to the table, which is that as we think about the nonprofit community it is important to be realistic about the resources we are willing to dedicate to their oversight -- not much -- and then work from there.
I will also blog about the role of nonprofits in our democracy. Values of democracy deeply inform my scholarship, and I will work to highlight the democratic role, or often lack thereof, of nonprofit entities in the US, states, and local governments. Because I believe the well-working of our nonprofit community in its democratic role is critical to the governance fabric of our nation, I think thoughtful laws and well operated oversight of the sector matters greatly. I hope to talk about that.
My wife, who is an artist, and I are deeply engaged in the arts community. I have taken an interest in art law as a result and will likely blog about art law matters as well, particularly as they intersect with nonprofits.
Look forward to interacting with this community.
Monday, June 3, 2019
I'm excited to be here! (Thanks to the Nonprofit Law Prof Blog folks for inviting me!)
Because I wasn't told any differently, I thought I'd take today to briefly introduce myself. I'll get to more substantive blogging tomorrow.
I've been teaching at Loyola University Chicago for a decade now. In addition to here, I do some tax blogging at the Surly Subgroup and some religious/Mormon/tax blogging at By Common Consent. I'm broadly interest in tax and nonprofit issues, and am really interested in questions of the taxation of religious stuff.
My outside-of-work time largely consists of two things: shuttling kids to (and sometimes participating in) an insane number of extracurricular activities and listening to jazz. (I'd like it to involve a little more saxophone playing, but you do what you can.) And both of these things implicate tax-exempt organizations and nonprofits, and may provide me with future blogging fodder.
For instance: today after work, I'll take a bus to pick my daughter up from school. Then we'll take the train to First Ascent. I'll climb and work out while she (and my other daughter) practice with their climbing teams. (Side note: did you know that competitive rock climbing was a thing? Me either, until my kids started doing it. But it'll be in the 2020 Olympics.) Competitive rock climbing is governed by USA Climbing, a 501(c)(3) organization.
I also coach my son's soccer team, through AYSO. (My sister is still incredulous, probably rightfully, since I quit soccer when I was 8. Still, I know more than my son and his cohort, and by coaching, I get to choose when we hold practice, which is kind of critical given my family's schedule.) Like USA Climbing, AYSO is a 501(c)(3) exempt organization.
It makes sense, of course: section 501(c)(3) explicitly allows an exemption for organizations that "foster national or international amateur sports competition." I'll admit, though, that I haven't yet carefully thought through this exemption. When I've thought about it, the two organizations that first come to mind are the NCAA and the US Olympic Committee. My suspicion is that both of these organizations are substantially different, though, from USA Climbing and AYSO. I'll be interested in casually exploring the amateur athletics exemption in future posts.
On the jazz front, I've recently become aware of Giant Step Arts, a nonprofit focused on presenting and recording live jazz. I know basically nothing about Giant Step Arts, though several of the projects it has recorded have made for great listening. I plan on looking at it, its mission, and its tax-exempt status (I think, assuming the linked organization is the same as the jazz nonprofit).
Until those posts, though, thanks for having me, and I look forward to my time on this blog!
Samuel D. Brunson
Sunday, October 7, 2018
Brody Receives ARNOVA Distinguished Achievement in Leadership and Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research Award
I am pleased to share the good news that Evelyn Brody (Chicago-Kent) is the recipient of the 2018 ARNOVA Distinguished Achievement in Leadership and Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Research Award.
The Distinguished Achievement Award is given annually for significant and sustained contributions to the field through research and leadership. Nominees must have demonstrated outstanding achievement(s) in the field of nonprofit and voluntary action research and/or significant leadership achievements in the advancement and promotion of such research over an extended period of time.
Professor Brody will be presented with this award at the ARNOVA Annual Conference in Austin, Texas from November 15-17, 2018. Please join me in congratulating Evelyn on this outstanding achievement.
I am delighted to share the good news that Lloyd Hitoshi Mayer (Notre Dame) was honored last weekend as a member of the 2018 Notre Dame All-Faculty Team. The Notre Dame All-Faculty Team borrows from the tradition of recognizing outstanding student-athletes being named to All-American teams. In doing so, Notre Dame recognizes the accomplishments of its most outstanding professors:
At every home football game, the provost will honor a different member of the faculty on the field during a timeout. These . . . individuals have been chosen from across Notre Dame’s colleges and schools for their excellence in research, teaching, and service to the University.
Please join me in congratulating Lloyd on this well-deserved honor.
Tuesday, July 10, 2018
I am pleased to cross post this article by the very wonderful Joan Heminway (University of Tennessee) from our sister blog, the Business Law Prof Blog, entitled "A Lawyer Helping Wounded Warriors, One House at a Time"
As a legal advisor to both for-profit and not-for-profit ventures for more than 30 years, I have had to learn about the business operations of new clients many, many times. The facts are so important in these knowledge acquisition processes (which generally take time to complete). The more experienced one is as a business lawyer, the more adept one is at getting the right facts--and analyzing the legal risks, rights, and responsibilities they represent or signal.
As a law professor, I have had many opportunities to experience joy from the work of my students. They do such amazing things! As the careers of my former students lengthen and deepen, my pride in them often exponentially increases.
With all that in mind, I bring you today a podcast featuring one of my beloved former students. She doesn't work for a law firm or a major multinational corporation. She is not a general counsel. Instead, she works for a relatively small nonprofit organization in a broad-based planning and development role.
Jump on over to the Business Law Prof Blog for the rest of the article and the link to the Podcast for a great reminder of why it is we do nonprofit work.
Wednesday, October 26, 2016
Rather than talk about news or scholarship, I want to pose a question about experiential approaches to teaching nonprofit law. What are some of the innovative teaching techniques that you have used or heard of in nonprofit law?
One program that I run is a policy advocacy course that puts a mix of law, MPA (public administration) and MNAL (nonprofit management) students to work as lobbyists seeking changes to state and local policies. The catch: students are not allowed to threaten litigation--they have to navigate political structures as a lobbyist (without any cash) would. Our named partner this semester is United Way of Greater Cleveland, but students work with a range of community based organizations on issues ranging from animal cruelty to policy responses to the Heroin crisis, to local nuisance laws that lead to the eviction of victims of domestic violence. The class has proven successful in accomplishing pedagogical goals, enhancing student career opportunities, and making a positive difference in the community.
More common courses/practices in experiential nonprofit law include:
- Board Fellows – several schools (including Cleveland State) run a program where students are placed as trustees on community boards in a non-voting capacity for an academic year
- Start-up Workshop – the number of requests for assistance for creating a new nonprofit can be overwhelming, and law schools might offer advice on filing creation documents and seeking federal tax-exempt status. (Although, for a lot of these requests, the best and most honest advice is that the requester might want to rethink creating a new nonprofit.)
- A Tax or Transactional Clinic -- assist nonprofits with a particular issue or transaction, e.g., Georgetown Law Clinic
- UVa's Nonprofit Clinic - provides a "legal health checkup" to nonprofit boards
Personally, I would like to see more interdisciplinary projects--students from law, business, social work, policy, etc.--to provide a deeper, richer analysis of an issue facing a nonprofit, while also giving students a more complete understanding of nonprofit practice (but disciplinary silos can be hard to break down.)
Other ideas? How else can we get students engaged in meaningful work in nonprofit law?
Friday, June 10, 2016
So this is off topic, I'll admit, but it gave me a laugh this morning so I thought I'd share. There's some law in there, somewhere. From fellow Law Prof Blog blogger Anne Tucker at the Business Law Prof Blog, her blog post entitled Your Daily Funny Courtesy of the FEC:
Keep reading only if you have 3 minutes that you don't care about being productive or relating to business law, at least not directly.
The Federal Election Committee issued a proposed draft of an advisory opinion on a question brought by Huckabee for President, Inc.--the committee responsible for the 2016 presidential campaign of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The Committee wanted to know if it can use part of a legal defense fund to pay a settlement. The FEC says yes. This isn't an election law blog, so I won't go into the details. The litigation arose over the campaign's use of the song "Eye of the Tiger". The FEC, feeling quite cheeky writes the following:
The complaint, seeking injunctive relief and monetary damages, alleged that 21 the Committee had violated federal copyright law by playing the song “Eye of the Tiger” at a campaign event on September 8, 2015. The Committee,rising up to the challenge of its rival, incurred attorneys’ fees and other expenses in defending itself in that litigation. After briefly relishing the thrill of the fight, the parties settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.
Has the political circus of the 2016 election warped the sense of decorum at the FEC or should we all want to be friends with the lawyers there? I can't decide. But I do know that you should (a) click on the link to the song, and (b) jam away in your office for the next 4 minutes.
You are welcome.
Wednesday, March 9, 2016
When does an alleged zoning violation justify automatic removal of a property's tax-exempt status? New York State Supreme Court --Appellate Division, Second Department, recently had the opportunity to review the issue.
In Community Assn., Inc. v. Town of Ramapo, 2016 NY Slip Op 01458, 2nd Dept 3-2-16, the Second Department, reversing the trial court, determined that an alleged violation, for which the property owner had never been cited, did not justify the automatic removal of the property's tax-exempt status. The property had been tax-exempt for years as low-income property. The court found that the alleged zoning violation -- that the property owner had more than two residential apartments -- was not incompatible with the tax-exempt use. Therefore, the court held, the alleged zoning violation could not justify automatic removal of the tax-exempt status. Said the court:
[E]ven assuming that a zoning violation had been sufficiently established, the defendants have failed to articulate why such a violation, under the particular circumstances presented, should result in loss of the plaintiff's tax exemption. Not all violations of law automatically result in the loss of a tax exemption ... . 'The concern of the taxing authority is not with the observance or non-observance by plaintiff of regulatory provisions relating to a specific building, but to the use to which the real property as an entity is or is intended to be devoted' ... . This is not a case in which the applicable zoning regulation is incompatible with the occupant's tax-exempt use ... . In such cases, the rationale for denying the tax exemption is simple and clear, as compliance with both the tax-exempt use and the zoning regulation is impossible. Here, by contrast, the tax-exempt use of providing residential housing to low-income tenants is consonant with the property's permitted use as a two-family dwelling. Under these circumstances, the defendants have failed to establish, prima facie, that the nature of the alleged violation (i.e., that the plaintiff had more than two residential apartments) can serve as a valid legal basis for denying the property tax exemption ...".
So to answer the question with which we started, When does a zoning violation justify automatic removal of a property's tax-exempt status? New York's Second Department is clear: When the applicable zoning regulation is incompatible with the property occupant's tax-exempt use.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
New York City seems to be in the news a lot this week. In a press release issued yesterday, the Carnegie Corporation of New York announced grants totaling $3.6 million in support of education and enrichment programs in the greater New York City region.
The awards form part of the foundation's 2015 Presidential Discretionary Grants program. Pursuant to that program, eighteen museums, libraries, and performing arts and science centers received grants of $200,000 each for existing programs aimed at K-12 students. Grant recipients include the American Museum of Natural History; the Asia Society; the Brooklyn Academy of Music; Carnegie Hall; Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum; Liberty Science Center; Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Morgan Library & Museum; the Museum of Modern Art; the National September 11 Memorial & Museum; New Jersey Performing Arts Center; the New York Botanical Garden; the New York-Historical Society; the New York, Brooklyn, and Queens public libraries; and Studio in a School.
Commenting on the awards, Carnegie president, Vartan Gregorian, said:
New York City, one of the cultural capitals on the United States, has the largest public school system in the nation. Carnegie Corporation is proud to support the City's cultural institutions in order to enhance the curriculum of our public as well as private and parochial schools with the riches these museums, libraries, and centers possess. It speaks well of these organizations' leaders that they have developed education programs to help students overcome deficiencies in the arts and sciences that our schools can't provide due to financial factors.
Friday, May 1, 2015
Today, the academy lost a leading scholar of the history of the nonprofit sector – as judged not just by the quality of his output but also by the role he played in influencing the work of others, inside and outside his discipline, in both the academic and policy arenas. Today I lost a dear mentor, colleague, and friend, Peter Dobkin Hall.
I started my academic career as a tax lawyer, but as any nonprofit researcher quickly learns, nonprofit studies is a broad and multi-disciplinary business. I became aware of Peter’s work from his chapter in PONPO’s recently published compendium of the state-of-the-art nonprofit scholarship in political science, economics, law, history, sociology, management, and policy studies – The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook (Walter F. Powell, editor) (Program on Non-Profit Organizations, Yale University Press 1987). But I became hooked on Peter’s work when I read his collection of essays in Inventing the Nonprofit Sector (Johns Hopkins 1992). To some degree, the field of nonprofit studies suffers from “cheerleading” by some of its practitioners. As a lawyer, I was skeptical of claims of exceptionalism on the part of “unowned” organizations controlling vast sums of wealth, no matter how good their intentions. As a tax lawyer, I was baffled by the structure of the federal tax-exemption scheme and the variety of organizations it embraces. I found persuasive and eye-opening Peter’s account of a relatively recent “invention” of a “nonprofit sector” – in part initiated by those who sought to draw under a single umbrella a group of firms that had not previously identified with each other, in order to defend against congressional attack. Indeed, I found Peter’s overall analysis so compelling that I introduced my second nonprofit article with the following quote from Peter’s 1992 book:
[Nonprofit organizations’] crucially important function in the American polity [derives from] their concrete historical association with a particular institutional culture, a configuration of values, resources, organizational technologies, legal infrastructure, and styles of leadership. This institutional culture originated at the end of the eighteenth century, became dominant . . . in the twentieth, and entered a period of crisis – quite possibly a crisis of success rather than of failure – in our own time.
So of course I was thrilled when Peter, then serving as PONPO director, invited me join a project studying the changing dimensions of trusteeship. Pushed beyond my tax-law comfort zone, I found myself exploring issues of corporate and trust fiduciary law, ultimately leading to my writing the chapter on the legal framework for nonprofit organizations for the second edition of The Nonprofit Sector: A Research Handbook (edited by Richard Steinberg and Walter W. Powell) (Yale University Press 2006). In addition, at Peter’s invitation, I supplied a legal scholar’s perspective to the multi-disciplinary Symposium Book Review of Henry Hansmann’s The Ownership of Enterprise, published in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly (1999). Peter provided a historical perspective for both these projects. As a Research Scholar with the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy, I was delighted to reverse roles: I recruited Peter to contribute a chapter – on the history of nonprofit property-tax exemptions in his beloved New Haven – to the book I was editing, Property Tax Exemption for Charities: Mapping the Battlefield (Urban institute Press 2002).
It was not always easy for Peter to meet every deadline he’d agreed to; his prolific research agenda was to a large extent driven by demands made by others. And readers outside his field, like me, appreciate the simplicity, drama, and beauty of his writing style and presentation. As a separate matter, Peter was one of the rare scholars in the nonprofit field to have taken seriously (and produced nuanced and serious) research on religious organizations.
Finally, I would like to praise the energy and intelligence that Peter brought to the formation and activities of the multi-disciplinary Association of Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Association (ARNOVA). From 1996, when I joined the association, for many years I thought Peter always was and always would be the book review editor, producing a plethora of thoughtful book reviews. As chair of the Annual Book Award Committee, Peter sought to identify the definitive meritorious publication by assembling a comprehensive list of the several dozen volumes published in the most recent five years on philanthropy, voluntary organizations, nonprofits, civil society, and related topics.
I always looked forward to spotting Peter’s dapper broad-brimmed hat and handle-bar mustache at ARNOVA meetings and other academic conferences. He loved nonprofits both as an intellectual subject and as a vehicle for social change. His enthusiasm, perceptiveness, and eagerness to right injustices served him not only as a leading nonprofit academic, but also as an inspiring community leader.
I also received the following message via the ARNOVA list-serv: "Peter's family suggests that anyone wishing to make contribution in his memory consider his favorite nonprofit: The Northwest Chicago Film Society, 1635 East 55th St. Chicago, IL 60615, www.northwestchicagofilmsociety.org.
I know we all join with Evelyn in mourning the loss of Peter as a scholar, colleague, and friend.
Thursday, March 12, 2015
The Chronicle of Philanthropy is reporting that ten individuals using technology to improve the world will be honored tonight at the Dewey Winburne Community Service Awards at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Conference. The awards honor the late Dewey Wineburne, a co-founder of SXSW Interactive, who had deep interests in education and technology.
According to the Chronicle:
This year’s honorees, selected by a panel of previous winners who live in Austin, represent five countries and a range of interests, including literacy, economic opportunity, and journalism. Each will receive $1,000 for the charity of their choice.
Among the honorees are:
- Rebecca McDonald of Australia who, after seeing footage of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, quit her job in Australia and moved with her husband to the Caribbean country where she founded Library for All, an online digital library accessible using tablets distributed to schools across Haiti. Books are carefully selected to be culturally relevant and language-appropriate, with most written in French or Creole. The organization pays local publishers for texts and asks larger companies, which do not usually sell books to Haiti, to donate books.
- Jukay Hsu, a native of Queens, New York, who founded Coalition for Queens, a nonprofit designed, according to Mr. Hsu, to foster "a more inclusive tech ecosystem" and "pioneer a pathway from poverty to the middle class." The organization's keystone program, Access Code, trains people — many of them immigrants — to create mobile applications and prepare for entry-level developer jobs. So far, the average income of participants going into the program has been $26,000, while their average income after completion is $73,000.
- Libby Powell, of London, England, who has used her training as a journalist to found Radar, a communications-rights organization that trains citizen reporters and promotes the stories they tell through social media and other ways online. Based in the United Kingdom, the staff offers editorial guidance to local correspondents who report from the field. The group has generated coverage about elections and Ebola in Sierra Leone and slavery in India and is working on new projects that give voice to people living with dementia and those who are homeless. Created with money raised through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, Radar works to raise awareness among the public, policy makers, and service providers about issues affecting marginalized groups. The organization has helped place articles in The Guardian and the BBC.
- Tembinkosi Qondela, of Cape Town, South Africa, who founded Whizz ICT Centre, an organization that seeks to facilitate the use of information communication technology (ICT) tools for development efforts of the community in Khayelitsha, one of the largest and poorest areas of Cape Town, South Africa. Mr. Qondela observed that marginalization of poor people in the use of ICT and the lack of access to information perpetuates the inequalities and poverty that face most young South Africans. Whizz ICT runs a center which gives young people access to computer training, other ICT related services and training in a range of income generating skills. To date Whizz ICT has provided training to over 1000 youth.
The names and brief profiles of the other six honorees are available on SXSW's website. We congratulate them all.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
One of the best resources out there for keeping track of state adoption of hybrid entities is socentlaw.com and specifically, the fantastic multi-colored map that keeps track of who has what where.
EWW (dating herself....)
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
In You Hired Who? Top 10 Nonprofit Employment Mistakes, a brief article appearing a few weeks ago in The NonProfit Times, Siobhan Kelley discusses several mistakes to avoid in the process of hiring and managing personnel. Because nonprofits must practice good governance, the article is worth a look. The article identifies and discusses the following mistakes:
- Rushing To Fill An Empty Seat With A Warm Body: Mistakes In Hiring
- Failing to Maintain Performance/Disciplinary Records
- Not Requiring Managers To Document Performance Problems
- Misclassifying Employees as Independent Contractors
- Making All Employees “Salaried”
- Letting Employees Work “Off The Clock” Or Volunteer
- Drafting “Overly Optimistic” Personnel Policies
- Not Appropriately Addressing Disability Issues
- Treating Employees As Clients
- Forgetting About The Employee On A Leave Of Absence
Monday, November 3, 2014
The Chronicle of Philanthropy is reporting that a recent "Living with Intent" survey conducted by the nonprofit watchdog group BoardSource found that nonprofit leaders gave their boards an average grade of B minus, and judged trustees to be better at technical tasks like financial oversight than at setting strategy or reaching out to the community.
As in years past, the CEOs cited fundraising as a significant concern: 60 percent of them said it was the area their boards most needed to improve.
BoardSource works to improve nonprofit governance.
According to the Chronicle:
In 1994, chief executives said that 60 percent of their board members gave money to the organization, a figure that grew to 85 percent in this year’s survey. But giving by 100 percent of all board members—the gold standard espoused by BoardSource and other nonprofit experts—was reported by only 60 percent of the respondents in this year’s survey.
Many nonprofit organizations set minimum donations expected by trustees and encourage them to contribute at least that amount and ask others to follow their example. But trustees remain challenged when it comes to asking family members, friends, and colleagues for donations; 43 percent of board members in this year’s survey, about the same as in previous years, said they are uncomfortable asking for money.
The survey also found some signs of improvement in boards’ racial and ethnic diversity, which was rated as more important for boards than including equal numbers of male and female trustees or making sure that organizations recruit trustees of different ages. Respondents reported that 20 percent of their board members, on average, are people of color, up from 16 percent in 2010, but a quarter of the respondents said their boards are all white and nearly 70 percent of respondents indicated they are dissatisfied with the racial and ethnic composition of their boards.
Gender representation among the executive ranks of nonprofit organizations in the survey has improved over the years, but women remain underrepresented as chief executives in large organizations. Women accounted for 65 percent of chief executives in groups with budgets under $1-million; 75 percent among nonprofits with budgets of $1-million to $9.9-million. But among groups with budgets of $10-million or more, only 37 percent of chief executives were women.
Nonprofits appear to be recruiting more board members under 40 years old, with 17 percent of respondents in this year’s survey reporting trustees in that age group, up from 14 percent in 2010.
Nonprofits also are recruiting smaller boards, the survey found. In 1994, the first year of the survey, respondents reported 19 trustees, on average. In this year’s survey, that number dropped to 15.
According to the Chronicle, 850 chief executives and 246 board chairs responded to questions posed by the survey. A free coipy of the findings are available online. BoardSource says it will publish a more complete report on its website in December.
Vaughn E. James
Friday, September 26, 2014
The Philanthropy News Digest is reporting that the American Association of School Librarians, a division of the American Library Association, is accepting applications from school librarians for its AASL Innovative Reading Grant program.
One grant in the amount of $2,500 will be awarded in support of the planning and implementation of a unique and innovative program for children that motivates and encourages reading, especially among struggling readers.
Projects should promote the importance of reading and facilitate literacy development by supporting current reading research, practice, and policy. In addition, projects must be specifically designed for children (grades K-9) in the school library setting, encourage innovative ways to motivate and involve children in reading, and should demonstrate potential to improve student learning.
To be eligible, applicants must be a member of AASL. Grant recipients may be invited to write an article that delineates their reading incentive project and demonstrates their successes, trials, and recommendations so others may replicate the project.
Monday, September 22, 2014
Puzzler: Respecting and Valuing an Interest in a Disregarded SMLLC for Charitable Deduction Purposes?
I thank Professor Cassady Brewer of Georgia State University College of Law for bringing this interesting case to our attention. Please read on...
In RERI Holdings I, LLC v. Comm’r, 143 T.C. No. 3 (2014), the Tax Court determined that a disregarded, single-member LLC interest should not be ignored for purposes of determining whether a taxpayer is entitled to a charitable contribution deduction. This decision has not received much attention, but it potentially has significant implications for charities and donors.
The taxpayer in RERI Holdings I, LLC contributed an interest in a disregarded SMLLC holding real property to the University of Michigan. The taxpayer claimed a charitable deduction of approximately $33 million in connection with the donation of the SMLLC interest. As required for tax purposes, the taxpayer obtained an appraisal substantiating the amount of its claimed deduction; however, the taxpayer’s appraisal was of the underlying real property held by the disregarded SMLLC, not the membership interest in the SMLLC itself. Because the interest in the SMLLC, not the underlying real property, was donated to the University of Michigan, the IRS argued in a motion for summary judgment that the taxpayer’s charitable deduction should be disallowed. In particular, the IRS argued that the deduction must be disallowed because the appraisal was of the wrong property and therefore failed the “qualified appraisal” requirements for charitable contributions of property.
Without much fanfare, Judge Halpern accepted the argument of the IRS that a charitable contribution of an interest in a disregarded SMLLC should be viewed differently than a charitable contribution of the underlying asset. Judge Halpern so held notwithstanding the fact that the SMLLC is otherwise ignored for federal income tax purposes. Judge Halpern’s opinion relies heavily on the Tax Court’s earlier decision in Pierre v. Comm’r, 133 T.C. 24 (2009), supplemented by 99 T.C.M. (CCH) 1436 (2010), that, for gift tax valuation purposes, a taxpayer’s gifts of membership interests in the taxpayer’s SMLLC are distinct from gifts of partial interests in the underlying property. Pierre arguably is distinguishable, though, from RERI Holdings I, LLC, because (i) Pierre is a gift (not income) tax case and (ii) the gifts in Pierre transformed the SMLLC into a multi-member LLC held by four trusts. This latter point of distinction, though, may not be significant as it appears the trusts were grantor trusts such that the taxpayer in Pierre remained the income tax owner of the SMLLC.
Despite the fact, however, that Judge Halpern agreed with the IRS’s view that an interest in a disregarded SMLLC should be respected for charitable contribution deduction purposes, all was not lost for the taxpayer in RERI Holdings I, LLC. Rather, perhaps to avoid so-easily granting summary judgment against the taxpayer and in favor of the IRS, Judge Halpern reasoned that there was an unresolved issue of material fact whether a valuation of the property held by the SMLLC rather than a valuation of the SMLLC interest itself nevertheless could “stand proxy” for the otherwise required qualified appraisal. The ultimate outcome of the case, therefore, remains to be seen.
The lesson for charities and donors: RERI Holdings I, LLC creates uncertainty with regard to the proper treatment of disregarded SMLLC interests for both charitable deduction and substantiation requirements. Given that uncertainty, donors to charitable organizations should transfer the underlying property itself to charity rather than transferring an interest in an SMLLC holding the property. If the property must be wrapped inside a disregarded LLC for liability protection or other reasons, then the donee charity should form the disregarded SMLLC to receive the contribution rather than receiving an interest in the property-holding SMLLC formed by the donor. Otherwise, due to the quirky way in which SMLLC membership interests apparently are valued for federal tax purposes, the donor inadvertently may be reducing the amount of his or her expected charitable contribution deduction. On the other hand, for estate and gift tax purposes, a donor presumably would rather transfer a membership interest in a disregarded SMLLC to a non-charitable donee in order to minimize the value of the transfer and thereby reducing potential estate and gift taxes.
My thanks again to Professor Brewer.
Thursday, July 31, 2014
With my background in nonprofit law, I get to know our public interest students pretty well - I'm sure many of you have the same experience. Here in West Virginia, we also have a very strong need for attorneys who are willing to work in rural communities and to solve access to justice issues for low- and moderate- income clients. Projects like the Justice Entrepreneurs Project, sponsored by the Chicago Bar Foundation, can help bridge that gap.
The Chicago Bar Foundation's Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP) is accepting applications for its next class of lawyers who will begin the program in November 2014. The JEP is looking for entrepreneurial and public interest-minded recent law graduates who are interested in creating their own law practices serving low and moderate income clients. Participants in the 18-month program will receive training, mentoring and other support on business and legal issues as well as space and other infrastructure as they get started with their practices. The application deadline is September 2 and information sessions to learn more about the program will be held at the JEP offices at 208 S. Jefferson, Suite 204, on August 15 at 12:15 p.m. and August 21 at 5:30 p.m.. More information about the JEP is available ... at www.chicagobarfoundation.org/jep.
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Writing in yesterday's Chronicle of Philanthropy, Pablo Eisenberg, a senior fellow at the Center for Public and Nonprofit Leadership at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, calls on nonprofits to start a campaign to ask Congress and the IRS to curtail excessive trustee fees paid by nonprofit foundations.
According to Eisenberg, "[t]he tens of millions of dollars that foundations pay to trustees every year is a total waste of money that could be used to finance needy nonprofit organizations. He contends that:
Fresh concerns about those fees were raised when the news become public that the Otto Bremer Foundation, which last year gave $38-million in grants, had paid its three board trustees more than $1.2-million in 2013. So egregious was the payment that Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy, requested an immediate investigation by the Minnesota attorney general.
The Bremer trustees had fired the foundation’s executive director, leaving them totally in charge without any accountability mechanisms in place.
Data about the total amount trustees are paid are hard to come by, but a Chronicle of Philanthropy survey in 2011 found that 38 of the nation’s 50 largest foundations paid a fee to their trustees amounting to a total of $11-million.
He also reports that
[a] 2006 Urban Institute report about the compensation practices of 10,000 of the largest foundations based on 2001 tax returns found that 3,400 of the foundations had paid a total of almost $200-million in trustee fees.
Finally, he reveals that an earlier study of 238 foundations he conducted with two of his graduate students at Georgetown University in 2003 revealed that the foundations "had paid more than $44-million in trustee fees. About two-thirds of the 176 largest foundations compensated their board members, while 79 percent of the 62 smaller foundations surveyed paid their board members."
On the basis of this sample, Eisenberg and his students estimated that foundations throughout the country had paid more than $300-million in trustee fees.
That is a lot of money. Moreover, says Eisenberg, it is infuriating:
What has infuriated foundation critics and many nonprofits is that foundation trustees are among the wealthiest and highest-paid individuals in the country. As Aaron Dorfman has noted, most foundation trustees would take on their duties even if they weren’t paid. Most other nonprofits don’t pay their trustees, after all.
But habits die hard. Many foundations maintain that it is important to offer fees as an incentive to busy corporate and wealthy individuals who might otherwise not give their time. And, they add, it is difficult enough to recruit topnotch board members; fees just make the process easier. The corporate culture that believes "time is money" is a tradition that lingers on.
Eisenberg admits, though, that annoyance at the practice of trustee fees has not yet morphed into sufficient energy and public pressure that could produce some changes. Neither philanthropic trade associations, philanthropy roundtables, nor regulators and legislators appear ready to do something about the excessive fees. Hence, Eisenberg has a solution: nonprofits should stasrt a campaign to have Congress and the IRS curtail these excessive trustee fees. Eisenberg concludes:
Nonprofits should start a campaign to ask Congress and the IRS to curtail excessive fees. Almost all nonprofit groups hungry for new dollars should be willing to support the idea, and how could politicians be opposed to the idea that more money goes to communities than affluent trustees? Now we just need some leadership to get the movement going.
Will the nonprofits respond? Time will tell.
The Nonprofit Times is reporting that the search for someone to fill the shoes of retiring founding dean Eugene R. Tempel at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy has been narrowed down to two candidates.
The Times reports that while the university will only confirm that the search is ongoing and the intention is to have a new dean by January 1, 2015, the Times has information that only two candidates -- neither of whom is from Indiana University -- remain.
The Times continues:
Multiple sources have told The NonProfit Times that the process has not been as smooth as was expected. In fact, there has been some consideration as to under what terms Tempel might stay on for up to one more year if the new dean is not selected soon, according to multiple sources within the university and search process.
The search committee presented candidates to Charles R. Bantz, Ph.D., chancellor of the Indianapolis campus, known as IPUI since it is shared with Purdue University. There were three finalists but one of them, from a university in California, has withdrawn his application, according to sources.
Andrew R. Klein, J.D., chair of the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy selection committee and dean of the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law, disputed the idea that the search has not gone as smoothly as hoped. He said the plan was to present a pool of candidates to the administration by mid-summer and that has happened. He said eight candidates were reduced to “those who came back to campus.”
He declined to confirm the number of candidates who made campus visits and the number of candidates still in the running for the coveted position in nonprofit academia. He cited a confidentiality pledge to the candidates who are still employed. “Chancellor Bantz is in consultation with President (Michael A.) McRobbie about the search,” he said. “The appointment of any dean is ultimately made by the Board of Trustees of Indiana University,” Klein said. “I am not involved in the conversations at this point, but I am certain that Chancellor Bantz is consulting with President McRobbie to make sure the administration presents a candidate to the board in which they both have confidence.”
The Lilly Family School evolved from the internationally known Center on Philanthropy of the IU-Purdue University campus in Indianapolis, Indiana. The school encompasses and expands all of the previous academic degree, research and training programs at Indiana University, including The Fund Raising School, the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, the Women’s Philanthropy Institute and International Programs.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Today's Philanthropy News Digest is reporting that three Foundations have over the last three days issued new Requests for Proposals (RFPs):
The National Art Education Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the National Art Education Association (NAEA), is seeking applications for its 2014 Art Educator grants. Through the grant program, the Foundation will award grants of up to $10,000 to NAEA members for programs that support classroom-based art education. Only NAEA members are eligible to receive the awards. The deadline for submitting an application is October 1, 2014.
Meanwhile, the Chicago-based Harpo Foundation is inviting applications for its 2014 Emerging Artist Fellowship. Under this program, one emerging artist will receive a one-month residency at the Santa Fe Art Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The application deadline is July 5, 2014.
Finally, the Vilcek Foundation is inviting applications for the 2015 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Fashion. This program will actually award three prizes of $50,000 each to young, foreign born fashion professionals living and working in the United States who demonstrate outstanding early achievement. The foundation encourages designers, stylists, make-up/hair artists, image makers (including fashion photography, film, animation, and illustration), curators, and writers to apply. The application deadline is June 10, 2014.