The IRS completely redesigned Form 990, the Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, to be filed for calendar year 2008 and subsequent periods. This form is filed by most tax-exempt organizations and is open to public inspection. One stated purpose of the makeover was to increase transparency and disclosure of exempt organization operations, thereby improving governance and highlighting conflicts of interest and insider dealings. One major change in the form is that it requires extensive reporting concerning the organization’s governance and management policies, the independence of its board, and board members’ and key employees’ family and business relationships with each other and with the reporting organization.
On Friday, January 22, 2010, President Obama signed into law a bill allowing taxpayers who made charitable contributions to the Haiti earthquake relief efforts to claim an itemizable deduction on their 2009 Tax Returns instead of waiting until next year to claim the deduction….The IRS also announced on Friday that it has issued guidance designating the Haiti earthquake as a natural disaster for federal tax purposes. The guidance allows recipients of qualified disaster relief payments to exclude those payments from income tax.
SEI reports that a recent poll shows a continued commitment to alternative investments by nonprofit organizations, including educational institutions, hospitals, private foundations, and community foundations. Conducted in December, 2009, the poll looked into the current investment management practices of nonprofit organizations, the challenges these organizations are facing, and how these organizations are prioritizing and addressing these concerns for 2010.
Section 9007 of the health reform bill passed by the Senate on December 24, 2009 contains specific requirements for Section 501(c)(3) hospitals wishing to retain their tax exemption. This development is of interest to all exempt organizations, not just hospitals, because it is another example of Congressional action imposing specific standards on particular types of exempt organizations.
Over the past few years, the IRS has become increasingly interested in monitoring the governance practices of tax-exempt organizations, particularly public charities. This interest has been shown through public statements of IRS officials, the addition of questions about board makeup and policies to the Form 990, an explanation of why the IRS considers governance important, and the development of training materials on governance for IRS personnel. Not all members of the exempt organizations community agree that the IRS should focus on governance. However, the IRS rationale is that a well-governed organization is a tax-compliant organization.
The IRS has now developed and released a governance issues checklist (the Governance Check Sheet) to be completed in each audit of an exempt organization. The checklist provides a very specific roadmap for exempt organizations to compare their practices and policies with what the IRS wants to see and to make adjustments where necessary.