The IRS announced June 8, 2011 that approximately 275,000 organizations lost their tax-exempt status because they did not file annual returns for three consecutive years. The IRS has published on its website separate lists of affected organizations for each state.
In PLR 20113041, the IRS revoked the tax exemption of a public charity based on excess benefit and private inurement issues revealed during the course of its examination. This ruling highlights practices that charities should avoid in order to maintain their tax-exempt status. This ruling also confirms that the IRS is paying close attention to what charities are doing in their “back” offices.
The Tax Court recently delivered some sound advice – do not play “cat and mouse” with the IRS. In Ohio Disability Association v. Commissioner, a Tax Court Memo filed November 12, 2009, the Tax Court rejected the petitioner’s request for a declaratory judgment that it qualified as a public charity. The court’s rejection was based on its inability to conclude that the organization would operate exclusively for exempt purposes.
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.
In Announcement 2009-88, set to be published in Internal Revenue Bulletin 2009-52, dated December 28, 2009, the IRS lists organizations that have failed to establish or have been unable to maintain their status as public charities or as private operating foundations.
Continue reading for the full text of the Annoucement.