Religious groups are starting to catch wind of a new tax quietly imposed by Republicans on churches and synagogues—and they are pissed. Yes, you read that correctly: a new tax imposed on churches. Politico reports: [Republicans’] recent tax-code rewrite requires churches, hospitals, colleges, orchestras and other historically tax-exempt organizations to begin paying a 21 percent […]
I would expect more and more items like these in the news in the months and years ahead but that’s just my humble opinion.
Apparently commissioners in Lawrence Park Township, Pennsylvania are sick of messing around and would like an Erie County judge to appoint a custodian to handle the volunteer Lawrence Park Fire Department. On Friday, the township filed a petition, after a July 12th vote of 3-2 to go to court.
The three commissioners are claiming the Fire Department is violating a township ordinance by not providing an accounting of how the department is spending township money. The commissioners are arguing a custodian should be in place long enough to bring the department in compliance with the law.
The commissioners and the Fire Department have been feuding over the department’s finances since 2009. The firefighters have said the department is fiscally sound.
The funny part of all this is that the fire department claimed part of the reason why their finances were so jacked up was the Form 990 they “never knew existed” according to department president Maureen Crotty. Apparently the township commissioners felt the lack of a 990 (which reveals any non-profit organization’s expenses and revenues and is required for all non-profits above $250,000) was one of many good reasons not to give the department more money.
So back in April, almost a year after the IRS said all required 990s better be in or else, the fire department was still waiting to get a completed 990 back from its newly hired accountant, who didn’t have time to fill out the simple form while also auditing the department’s financial records by request of the stingy township commissioners.
Back then, Crotty stated she hoped the finished 990 and audit would help repair the strained relationship between the fire department and the five-member board of commissioners. Guess that didn’t happen.
Welcome back, Joe.
Remember the IRS’ failed outreach to small nonprofits back in the spring? Yeah, the May 17th deadline threw a lot small NFPs for a loop and they up and missed the filing deadline completely.
IRS Commish Doug Shulman figured that, despite the unprecedented outreach, the whole snafu was his bad and that nonprofits shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about missing the deadline, the Service will still take your 990, tardiness notwithstanding.
But that can’t go on forever now, can it? Accordingly, the IRS set a new deadline today to file the 990s and it’s set for a much more memorable October 15th.
WASHINGTON — Small nonprofit organizations at risk of losing their tax-exempt status because they failed to file required returns for 2007, 2008 and 2009 can preserve their status by filing returns by Oct. 15, 2010, under a one-time relief program, the Internal Revenue Service announced today.
The IRS today posted on a special page of IRS.gov the names and last-known addresses of these at-risk organizations, along with guidance about how to come back into compliance. The organizations on the list have return due dates between May 17 and Oct. 15, 2010, but the IRS has no record that they filed the required returns for any of the past three years.
“We are doing everything we can to help organizations comply with the law and keep their valuable tax exemption,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “So if you do not have your filings up to date, now’s the time to take action and get back on track.”
It’s simple people. If your gross receipts are under $25,000, get yourself a 990-N (e-Postcard), fill it out and you’re done. If you have receipts up to $500k, you’ll have to fill out either Form 990 or 990-EZ which will probably take you all of 15 minutes.
Get it? No more blowing this off. OCTOBER 15TH is the drop dead date. After that, Shulman & Co. will be busting down the doors to inform you that you’re no longer tax exempt. And trust us, you don’t want to deal with that.
Representative Betty McCollum is upset that small businesses have the Small Business Administration but nonprofits don’t get a Nonprofit Administration to evaluate, build and monitor the capacity of America’s vital nonprofits. She believes nonprofits are an invisible but vital part to the economy and overlooked by Washington, DC except when it comes to tax issues.
This legislation represents a significant step toward creating a more effective partnership between the federal government and the nonprofit sector. H.R. 5533 establishes a new United States Council on the Nonprofit Sector. The Council will be a forum for leaders of nonprofits, foundations, businesses and government to discuss strategies for strengthening the nonprofit sector. The bill also creates an Inter-agency Working Group on the Nonprofit Sector. This group will ensure that high-level representatives from cabinet agencies and other key agencies coordinate and improve federal policies pertaining to nonprofit organizations. Finally, the legislation directs Federal agencies to collect and publish better data on nonprofits AND to support research that will lead to smarter Federal policy.
The goals of the Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act are to build a stronger nonprofit sector, craft smarter federal policy, and create more vibrant communities in every state across the country.
Listen, we love working groups as much as the next cube-dweller but haven’t yet seen a copy of the Bill so can’t say either way at this point. What we do know is that the nonprofit sector is large enough to be in need of some help beyond whatever pestering they get from our friends at the IRS.
According to a 2009 Congressional Research Service report, nonprofits (mostly charities) make up over 5% of U.S. GDP. Charitable organizations are estimated to employ more than 7% of the U.S. workforce, while the broader nonprofit sector is estimated to employ 10% of the U.S. workforce. In 2009, nonprofits filing form 990s with the IRS reported approximately $1.4 billion in revenue and nearly $2.6 billion in assets.
Those numbers do not include the estimated 215,000 charities who have neglected (or completely blown off) their 990 responsibilities.
It’s difficult to find numbers that don’t contradict each other, some reports say nonprofits are doing better than expected in this uncertain economic environment while others insist it’s still rough out there, especially for organizations that rely on donations to get by. For nonprofits, it doesn’t matter how the year is going, it may soon cost more to send out those pleading donation mailers.
The Postal Regulatory Commission is looking at a 2 cent increase for first class mail, an 8% increase for periodicals (just what the doctor ordered for struggling print publications) and a 23% increase on parcels. While they have not specifically mentioned an increase in nonprofit mailer pricing, the PRC has already identified certain “underwater” mail classes, non-profit mail being one such case.
As is, authorized nonprofits get a price break of about 40% over commercial mail prices so you could see why a struggling USPS might go straight for non-profits when looking for additional revenue sources to close its $7 billion budget gap.
Overall, postal prices are expected to rise 4 – 5%, a huge jump from the legally allowed .6% the Postal Service can use to adjust for inflation. Seeing as how we supposedly haven’t experienced any inflation this year, the jump is that much more disheartening to mass mailers.
Not surprisingly, there’s a nonprofit set up to focus on postal issues around nonprofit mail and they’re all over it. Said Tony Cooper of the Washington-based Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, the USPS delivery system “is a system that’s built to handle about 300 billion pieces of mail, and they’ve got about 170 billion, and it’s set to decrease. It’s basically twice as big as it needs to be. It’s that excess capacity and costs that are creating the need in their minds to do this.” Hear that, USPS? Cut the fat before you start going after the little guys.
The bill is inspired by a Supreme Court decision that overturned a cap on corporate contributions to political campaigns. So to compromise and soften the hard-ass bill a little bit, they threw in an exemption for certain non-profits that meet specific requirements.
They must have more than 1 million members, be at least 10 years old and receive no more than 15% of their contributions from corporations to receive this exemption. OK, how many non-profits could that be?
Reform at its finest, I guess.
Just a note, Charity Navigator doesn’t do the NRA for the following reason:
We don’t evaluate National Rifle Association.
Why not? We don’t evaluate 501(c)(4) organizations because they are allowed to spend a substantial portion of their revenue on lobbying our government and not every donation to them is tax-deductible. You may be interested in our evaluation for The NRA Foundation.
If you’re curious, “DISCLOSE” stands for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections and I don’t think light is what we need in this situation. Companies, unions and other groups that spend more than $10,000 would be required to disclose donors who have given $1000 or more.
Why does this matter? Should lobbying groups really receive any tax deductions at all?
Administrative expenses are a part of any non-profit’s overall operating expenses and though donors generally give to charity with the hope that their contributions will help fulfill the organization’s mission as opposed to cover SG&A, Charity Navigator has a top ten of the worst offenders when it comes to admin expenses. Let’s take a look, shall we?
10: Center for Individual Rights 46.1%
9: Changed Lives 47.4%
8: Vision New England 48.7%
7: Charleston Area Medical Center Foundation 48.8%
6: National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame 55.1%
5: Cherokee National Historical Society 58.2%
4: Union Rescue Mission Little Rock 62.1%
3: National Council of Negro Women 64%
2: Boys Choir of Harlem 66.3%
1: American Tract Society 68%
For its last available income statement through Charity Navigator, the American Tract Society brought in $2,194,730 and spent $1,615,847 on administrative expenses, compared to $711,854 in program expenses and $47,210 in fundraising expenses. This is twice what the charity spent the year previous on admin expenses.
The American Tract Society’s mission is to distribute religious literature to spread its message. Well actually its mission is officially “to make Jesus Christ known in His redeeming grace and to promote the interests of vital godliness and sound morality, by the circulation of Religious Tracts, calculated to receive the approbation of all Evangelical Christians. The mission of ATS is to provide relevant tools for presenting the gospel.”
Perhaps someone needs to say a prayer to St Matthew asking for a little accounting help.
By comparison, similar charity Bibles for the World, based in Colorado, spent only 6.4% of its $4,215,202 in revenue on administrative expenses in the same period.
The second worst offenders on the list, the Boys Choir of Harlem, spent $140,787 out of $299,729 in total revenue on administrative expenses in 2007. At that point, the charity was nearly $4 million in the red and has since ended. The group spent 30 years bringing the joy of music to at-risk inner-city youth and the choir had performed for sitting presidents since Lyndon Johnson.
Would-be donors are welcome to peruse Charity Navigator for detailed information on just about every charity in the country before making donations, lest that $100 feel good gift end up paying mostly for secretaries and prime office space.
The Minneapolis Foundation, the Minnesota Medical Foundation, the Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children and the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Reinsurance Association have won $29.9 million from Wells Fargo in a Minnesota case that alleged investment fraud and breach of fiduciary duty based on investments the non-profits made that were deemed safe by Wells Fargo.
While similar cases against banks have mostly been settled out of court, this is the first time one such case has gone to trial.
Though the non-profits lost $14.1 million to these shoddy investments, Wells Fargo attorney Robert Weinstine blamed it on the financial crisis and insisted it was not Wells’ fault that funds were lost. The 10-member jury felt otherwise based on internal memos, e-mails and handwritten notes admitted as evidence in the trial.
The jury determined last Thursday that the bank would not be subject to additional payments for punitive damages. Attorney for the four non-profits Mike Ciresi had requested $100 million. Mathlete and Wells Fargo attorney Larry Hofmann told jurors that “zero is the correct number here” in terms of punies.
The Internal Revenue Service recently released some information to help companies take advantage of a tax credit provided by the health reform law.
The IRS estimates that about 4 million businesses qualify, and is sending out notices to as many as possible advising them of the tax break. If you haven’t received anything but believe your company may qualify, here’s what you should know:
The credit is available to companies with fewer than 25 employees with average wages of $50,000 or less. The full credit goes to companies with 10 or fewer employees and average annual wages of $25,000 or less. It is not available to self-employed individuals.
The credit covers 35 percent of an employer’s contribution to employee health premiums, so long as that doesn’t exceed 35 percent of the average cost of a health plan in the small group market. For a tax-exempt organization, the credit is 25 percent. Once the health exchanges are set up, the credit increases to 50 percent for businesses and 35 percent for nonprofits. At that time, the credit will only be available to companies purchasing insurance through the exchange.
A company can use the credit to reduce income tax owed and can carry the credit forward 20 years or back one year after 2010. Nonprofits can use the credit against withholding and Medicare taxes owed on behalf of their employees.
A key caveat is that employers must pay for half of the premium. For most workers, especially low-wage employees, a company that does not pay for at least half the premium is offering insurance that is essentially unaffordable. Even 50 percent is most likely not enough to do low-wage workers much good, especially at small companies where health care premiums are more expensive.
The amount of the credit is based on the premiums an employer pays for, so the more generous the coverage, the greater the credit. While premiums paid for owners and their families cannot be counted, those paid for seasonal workers can be. And the IRS has defined “premiums” broadly: not only does it cover premiums for standard medical insurance but it also applies to dental, long-term care and vision insurance-though again, an employer must pay 50 percent of each premium to count it toward the credit.
Calculating the credit probably requires any small employer to consult an accountant to see if the benefits are worth the cost of providing insurance. The tax credit is in effect, allowing employers who are already thinking about health insurance for their employees to factor in the savings as they plan ahead.
As an observer, I think the key issue is whether the credit is enough to offset the rising cost of health insurance. Those costs have hit small employers the hardest. We’ll see if the tax credit makes a difference in reversing the trend among small employers of dropping health insurance for their employees altogether.
The Head Start Program, under the Department of Health and Human Services, provides child development services to mostly low-income families and their children. Up to 10% of Head Start-enrolled families can be over-income, with an income 130% above the poverty line.
Of course, things don’t always work out as they are supposed to and the GAO has discovered problems with about half of the centers it examined through the investigation, just a small sample of the 1,600 nonprofit centers running 3,000 Head Start programs.
GAO received allegations of fraud and abuse involving two Head Start nonprofit grantees in the Midwest and Texas. Allegations include manipulating recorded income to make over-income applicants appear under-income, encouraging families to report that they were homeless when they were not, enrolling more than 10 percent of over-income children, and counting children as enrolled in more than one center at a time. GAO confirmed that one grantee operated several centers with more than 10 percent over-income students, and the other grantee manipulated enrollment data to over-report the number of children enrolled. GAO is still investigating the other allegations reported. Realizing that these fraud schemes could be perpetrated at other Head Start programs, GAO attempted to register fictitious children as part of 15 undercover test scenarios at centers in six states and the District of Columbia. In 8 instances staff at these centers fraudulently misrepresented information, including disregarding part of the families’ income to register over-income children into under-income slots. The undercover tests revealed that 7 Head Start employees lied about applicants’ employment status or misrepresented their earnings.
GAO managing director for special investigations Gregory Kutz told a House education committee last month that “the system is vulnerable to fraud.” No kidding.
While unable to determine the motivation of Head Start employees to commit fraud by adjusting income levels on applications, Kutz theorized that management of nonprofit agencies receiving Head Start funds pressured staff to fudge, fiddle with, or straight up fake figures on applications in order to keep federal funds coming in.
Head Start has served over 25 million children since 1965 and there are currently over 1 million children enrolled in Head Start programs.
In a show of understanding for nonprofits who may have been completely unaware of the Form 990 requirement in place for the last three years, IRS commissioner Doug Shulman sent out a really sweet letter encouraging smaller NFPs to go ahead and file anyway even though the deadline has come and gone.
Now that the May 17 filing deadline has passed, it appears that many small tax-exempt organizations have not filed the required information return in time. These organizations are vital to communities across the United States, and I understand their concerns about possibly losing their tax-exempt status.
The IRS has conducted an unprecedented outreach effort in the tax-exempt sector on the 2006 law’s new filing requirements, but many of these smaller organizations are just now learning of the May 17 deadline. I want to reassure these small organizations that the IRS will do what it can to help them avoid losing their tax-exempt status.
The IRS will be providing additional guidance in the near future on how it will help these organizations maintain their important tax-exempt status — even if they missed the May 17 deadline. The guidance will offer relief to these small organizations and provide them with the opportunity to keep their critical tax-exempt status intact.
So I urge these organizations to go ahead and file — even though the May 17 deadline has passed.
The Service assures us that the 990 e-Postcard is simple and easy to fill out, no need to drag your CPA into this mess.
Though the IRS sent friendly reminders to 600,000 charities over the 3 years this new rule has been effect, up to 215,000 charities may have missed the May 17th deadline. Seriously, it isn’t too late. Someone get on that.
There were complaints that the IRS was swamped with last-minute 990 filers (go figure) rushing to meet last week’s deadline so we’re going to guess that when Shulman says it’s okay to send those forms in anyway, he kind of means it. And perhaps that will teach everyone to file on time next year.
In a test run to see if expenses can get covered at the end of the day, Panera Bread has opened a unique new location in Clayton, MO that combines the benefits of nonprofit status with the fundamental principle of the free market system: let the market determine what an item is worth. But it adds a unique qualifier to the traditional concept of the need determining price: human nature.
The menu is exactly the same as other Panera locations (sick foodies can check that out here if they aren’t familiar with Panera’s offerings) but instead of charging a fixed price for each item, this special little spot will ask only what customers can afford. “Take what you need, leave your fair share,” says the sign at their entrance, just in case one is confused by such a foreign transaction model. No prices? Do we even know how to value items independently any more?
Panera is hopeful that the “Cares Cafe” model will thrive and grow to a series of donation-based stores that rely more on empathy than capitalism. “Hopefully we’ll be able to open them across the country, but our original St. Louis location must succeed first!” tweeted the fine folks behind Panera’s official Twitter account.
Can someone confirm Missouri rules on sales taxes related to the sale of food? And is it a sale if the exchange is really a donation? I’m really confused.
Anyway, not everyone is thrilled about this concept. Though it is obviously well-intentioned, the donation model may not necessarily transfer outside of St Louis. Trends consultant Marian Salzman reality-checked USAToday saying “while young people are very much attuned to helping out and making a difference, if they find themselves sitting next to other customers with whom they don’t feel comfortable, they’re not coming back.” You know, as in the possibility of homeless and otherwise destitute individuals (of which our country has plenty nowadays) lounging around with the nerve to eat a cheap meal.
Hedging against operating losses, this particular location has one slight difference from other Panera stores: its bread (except for sandwich bread) is really day old product from other locations around the St Louis metro. Hey, nothing wrong with getting the most out of inventory with a horrible turnover rate.
In the end, it’s hard to say whether this nonprofit experiment will float but if it does, Panera wants to open two more within six months. Good luck with that.
Nonprofits don’t need the reminder but we’re going to remind them anyway: May 17th is the new deadline to file your Form 990s (it would have been the 15th but that happens to fall on a weekend, consider yourselves fortunate, procrastinators).
The Boys and Girls Clubs and Goodwills of America have probably already filed their 990s but what about the tiny, grassroots organizations that didn’t get the memo when Service rules changed to require even small non profits under $25,000 to file 990s?
The guess is that up to 1/4 of all non profits could inadvertently lose their tax exempt status by missing the May 17th deadline without even realizing they were supposed to file anything at all. It costs $750 to refile after losing said status, so blowing it could be a costly alternative to hiring a professional to get the 990 in order for a small, simple nonprofit.
This isn’t merely busywork presented to nonprofits for shits and giggles, as we all know the Service would never EVER waste anyone’s time with bureaucracy and paperwork just for kicks. The IRS is seeking to clean up tax exempt status claims to exclude agencies that exist in name only or simply for the tax break. In its view, leaving NFP organizations that take in less than $25,000 a year largely unchecked left the fraud door swinging wide open. And as we all know, the Service has a duty to the taxpayer to collect everyone’s fair share.
The Pension Protection Act of 2006 mandates that all nonprofits must file a 990 for three consecutive years, making 2009 (and thus May 17th) the 3rd year. Orgs that have not filed 990s will automatically lose federal tax exempt status.
The good news is that if you are trying to claim a tax deduction for a donation to one of these little bitty nonprofits that will be losing their exemption, you can still do so up until the date the Service notifies the charity that it can no longer claim tax exempt status.
All is not lost, of course, as those familiar with IRS tactics presume that “offenders” will be offered a chance to redeem themselves (after steep penalties and late fees, of course).
More on the 990 Filing Deadline:
When a Tax Time Bomb Goes Off: Repurcussions Await Some Small Nonprofits
In the largest nonprofit fraud case we’ve ever seen, State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr is getting it from NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo for perpetrating a $14 million scam using his non-profit as an ATM. Ouch.
Soundview Comprehensive Community Development Corp., a Bronx-based health care non-profit, appears to be little more than a vehicle for Espada’s extravagant lifestyle and Cuomo doesn’t find any of it to be entertainment.
“Siphoning money from a charity would be egregious under any circumstances, but the fact that this was orchestrated by the State Senate Majority Leader makes it especially reprehensible,” Cuomo said in a statement.
Espada’s charity allegedly paid $100,000 for campaign literature, $80,000 on meals for Espada (including $20,000 for sushi – one of JDA’s weaknesses but hey, at least I pay for my own), vacations for the family and $2,500 a month for a co-op rental in the Bronx in which Espada supposedly lives. Double ouch.
If you’re into that sort of thing, you can check out the summons from the AG’s office here.
To date, Cuomo’s complaint is merely a civil one but he has left the door wide open for criminal charges against Espada and 19 others, including family members installed on the charity’s board. Taking a page from the Crazy Eddie fraud handbook, I see.
Espada also allegedly used the nonprofit’s corporate credit card to cover up to $450,000 in expenses that he’s now admitted may have been personal. Snicker snicker, everyone knows the corporate card should only be used for personal expenses if one is trying to fund an affair and hoping the wife doesn’t find out. Duh.
Because being a nonprofit looting Senate majority leader is hard work, Espada took the first 14 weeks of the year off and charged the paid leave to – you guessed it – Soundview. Since its board is packed with friends and family, they approved a $75,000 payout for personal expenses associated with this respite in a lump-sum payment at the beginning of the year.
Espada has responded by claiming Cuomo’s accusations amount to little more than a “witch hunt” meant to advance the AG’s political career. Whatevs.
Meanwhile, Espada’s Senate homies are praying for him. For $14 million bucks, he needs all the Hail Marys he can get, especially since the FBI and IRS raided the clinic this morning. Good luck with that.
Presented by Serenic Software. Download our free whitepaper – “5 Key Reasons Why Great Financial Management is So Important for Your Nonprofit Now”
Just because you’re a church doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a remedial understanding of payroll, GAAP, taxable income, and right/wrong.
Anthony and Harriet Jinwright, husband and wife pastors from Charlotte-based Greater Salem City of Good church, were warned repeatedly that their lazy accounting could get them in trouble, including by a former consultant in 2001.
Some issues brought up by the consultant include (but a ited to and are, of course, alleged violations at this point):
• Church donations going directly to Pastor Jinwright but not subsequently appearing on his tax forms
• Blatant violation of the sanctity of GAAP.
• Expense reimbursements to Pastor Jinwright without benefit of receipts nor an expense plan at the church.
• Mismatched deposit envelopes that did not contain the actual amounts reflected on the outside when deposited.
For the love of sweet baby Jesus, what sort of operation were they running over there?!
It appears to be one part run-of-the-mill scam, one part complicated church theft, although Jinwright refused to acknowledge that any of this could be considered suspicious or, worse, fraudulent. The couple deposited $7 million into their bank account from 2002 to 2007 while only reporting $3.3 million for the tax returns for those years.
The US District Court thinks otherwise and “can I get a witness?” has just taken on a whole new meaning as Jinwright’s former assistant and business administrator – as well as the former consultant – have appeared on the witness stand to discuss Greater Salem’s, uh, holier-than-thou accounting tricks:
Anthony Jinwright was not only pastor of Greater Salem Church but also chairman of the church’s board or directors, with sway over the “business and financial dealings of the church.”
Although the church paid the bishop a regular salary, which it reported on his regular W-2 form, Greater Salem also cut checks directly to the bishop and his wife for: vehicle and housing allowances, retirement income, “tax liabilities,” personal vacation and travel, their daughter’s college tuition and at least two types of bonuses – a bonus at Christmas and a “pastoral anniversary” every February.
Both the Jinwrights also collected separate fees for speaking at other churches around the country.
Now listen, I’m sure Jesus wanted little baby Jinwright to go to college but the problem is that the meeting minutes that supposedly contain an authorization from church board members to pay for said college education have, um, disappeared. Funny, didn’t that happen at Arthur Andersen when Enron blew up?
What’s the lesson here? Churches are no less responsible for their financial affairs than publicly-traded companies and in many ways should operate with greater transparency as they are not only partially-funded by members of the congregation but supposedly on some sort of divine mission.
Do you really want to have to explain to the Almighty why you faked his financials at the pearly gates? Didn’t think so.
Jinwrights: Did they hide millions? Or miss details? [Carolina Weekly]
Other Holy Men:
Former Pastor Figures Eighth Commandment Is Overrated, Steals from Nonprofit
Presented by Serenic Software. Download our free whitepaper – “5 Key Reasons Why Great Financial Management is So Important for Your Nonprofit Now”
If you’re a non-profit leader and free on April 12th, why not head to Washington and listen to Mike Oxley (yes, that Oxley, without whom SOX would still be the property of a certain Chicago baseball team and not the bane of accounting’s existence) speak about transparency and accountability for non-profits?
The ironic part, of course, is that non-profits don’t really have to suffer with the legislation named after Oxley but he’d like to see a little more, well, Oxley in NFP, even if it isn’t necessarily required by law.
[Oxley] will speak about the importance for nonprofit organizations to be transparent and ensure greater accountability with their financial standards to build on and preserve donor trust, strengthen the reputations of nonprofit organizations and associations, and enhance the overall nonprofit sector.
Attendees will include thought leaders from foremost nonprofits, trade associations and key congressional staff members. Both the House and Senate Ethics committee’s staff have deemed this a “widely attended event.”
My feelings on Sarbanes-Oxley have been expressed more than once here on Going Concern but I can sum them up thusly: more useful things could be done to “protect” the investor interest besides arcane SOX compliance and the PCAOB including but not limited to random auditor cavity searches, TSA-style interrogation of management, and waterboarding the internal audit team. Is Oxley trying to imply that non-profits should follow suit but only voluntarily and out of obligation to donors instead of investors?
Surely his plan is not that sinister.
Only because non-profits already have their own version of SOX in the Form 990 (which I have complained about before as well) that has all of their bases covered. The only SOX carry-overs are strengthened whistleblower protection and retention of documents in lawsuits, perhaps because non-profits may have been where Mike Oxley got his ideas.
SOX compliance costs averaged $2.9 million during fiscal year 2006, actually down 23% from the fiscal year previous according to FEI. Do you know many nonprofits who have that sort of cash lying around?
I think it might be better to get some advice from the guy who wrote the bill and start tightening up the ship just in case.
Recommended reading by April 11th if you’re checking out Oxley’s “I just want to be helpful” presentation: The Sarbanes-Oxley Act and Implications for Nonprofit Organizations (last updated January 2006). Bring a notepad.
Former Congressman Mike Oxley to Speak at Nonprofit Summit [Council for Non-Profit Accountability]
Presented by Serenic Software. Download our free whitepaper – “5 Key Reasons Why Great Financial Management is So Important for Your Nonprofit Now”
What is in the water up in America’s Dairyland? We’ve been going on and on about the internal control failures at Koss in Milwaukee but now there’s more of it at a non-profit organization just up the road. Let’s hope everyone at UW Madison is taking notes.
The latest tale of non-profit fraud stars 56 year-old Leonard V. Lauth of Beaver Dam.
Wings Over Wisconsin bills itself as a conservation organization dedicated to natural resource preservation and education through youth and community involvement. Spelling errors and obvious lack of updates since 2006 on its website aside, WOW manages nearly 1,300 acres of land and provides mostly young hunter education to the future gun-toting blue-stater babes in Wisconsin.
While it prides preservation of Wisconsin’s precious wetlands, internal controls do not appear to be high on WOW’s priority list. Hopefully this changes that.
It’s a textbook fraud case, starting with the mounting medical bills and the poor internal controls that allowed its Treasurer to lift $16,875 since 2005. Lauth’s advanced methods of fraud include writing checks to himself labeled “office supplies” in the books and taking home banquet funds after the event insisting he’d deposit them at the bank in the morning.
While typically WOW practice to require two signatures, Lauth had been with the organization for 24 years, leaving the “trust” issue totally taken care of. Opportunity, motive, what else do we need?
Rationalization, of course! Lauth told Beaver Dam Police Lt. Joel Kiesow he thought he’d taken $788 from the organization in the four year period in which he executed his fraud. When informed it was more like $17,000, Lauth was shocked. I guess he didn’t realize how expensive “office supplies” can be these days.
“Maybe I was robbing Peter to pay Paul on different things,” said Lauth in regards to using WOW funds to pay off family medical bills. Actually, he was robbing the little Dustins and Bobbys with their baby shotguns and wildlife of Wisconsin who counted on the funds to which he so sloppily helped himself. Shame shame.
Let this be a lesson to all you non-profits: cash management and financial literacy (including fraud prevention measures) are not only best practices for public companies and private industry. If anything, non-profits need sharper internal controls – without shareholders to answer to, money can easily slip into the fraud vacuum undetected for years, as in the case of Mr Lauth and WOW.
Calls to WOW left after business hours were not returned.
Man accused of taking funds from non profit [Beaver Dam Daily Citizen]
Not to be the harbinger of doom but the Non-profit Finance Fund released a survey Monday that reflects the less-than-optimistic hopes of non-profit leaders for the year ahead. Though it’s far more depressing than Financial Armageddon, it shows that non-profits are far more prepared for the worst (and more deft at handling adversity) than their for-profit counterparts. For-profit CFOs still seem preoccupied with the credit crunch while non-profits are merely trying to meet increased demand with less to provide.
America’s nonprofits expect that 2010 will be financially more difficult or as difficult as 2009, according to a survey released today by Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF). The survey of more than 1,300 nonprofit leaders in markets nationwide also found strong evidence of the dramatic and creative steps that organizations are taking in order to maintain and even expand service delivery to meet increased demand during this time of continued economic uncertainty.
• Nearly 90% expect 2010 to be as difficult or more difficult than 2009; only 12% expect 2010 to be financially easier for their organizations.
• 80% of nonprofits anticipate an increase in demand for services in 2010; 49% expect to be able to fully meet this demand level.
• Only 18% of organizations expect to end 2010 above break-even; 35% of organizations ended 2009 with an operating surplus.
• The majority — 61% — have less than three months of cash available; 12% have none.
“We expect 2010 to be another treacherous year for many nonprofits that routinely take heroic measures to meet demand for services,” said Clara Miller, President and CEO of NFF. “The economic ‘recovery’ has not yet reached people in need, or the organizations that serve them. We must do more to repair the tattered social safety net.”
Interestingly, only 46% of non-profits surveyed said they believed they would not be able to replace government stimulus money from other sources when the money is gone. Also curious, non-profits appear to be having an easier time of getting loans. Only 30% of survey respondents said they’d applied for a loan in the last 12 months but incredibly 74% of those secured the loan. Oh and 26% said they only applied for a loan because they were waiting for late government payments.
There were quite a few memorable responses from survey participants but I think this one sums up the theme of NFF’s results pretty well: “WE DIDN’T GIVE UP.”
A group of Republican senators (including Chuck Grassley) want Boys & Girls Clubs of America executives to answer for such egregious non-profit sins as high executive salaries, fat retirement plans, and lobbying expenses. You see, Chuck Grassley is a sharp guy (wild statements about executive suicide notwithstanding) and as ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, he’s the one keeping an eye on the sort of action non-profits get from Congress. So when an $85 million a year initiative to provide blanket funding to the non-profit group slipped by the committee, the red flags went up.
Iowa’s Grassley is joined by Tom Coburn, R-OK; Jon Kyl , R.-AZ.; and John Cornyn, R-TX in questioning a multitude of sins including CEO Roxanne Spillett’s $1 million a year compensation package, half a million dollars a year in lobbying and $4.3 million in “travel expenses.” Not really a problem if the funds are unrestricted and coming from donors who know their donations may go to, say, trips and renting a Senator here and there. Nah. After reviewing the org’s 2008 tax return, the senators concluded that 40% of Boys and Girls Club funding comes from the federal government.
The new Senate bill, S.2924, changes the original intent of a 1998 bill that granted $20 million a year to provide “seed money” for 1,000 new Boys & Girls Clubs from 1997 – 2001. Grassley argues that this new legislation essentially turns money that should go to keeping low income at-risk youth off the streets, into a vague piggy bank for the organization. Naturally, Chuck & Co. have a problem with that.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of America posted a $13 million loss in 2008. In 2009, it cut 10% of its full-time workers, instituted 26 furlough days a year, and closed chapters in DC, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and others.
Though the organization hasn’t had time to personally respond to Grassley’s nice letter last Thursday, they told the Journal they’d be complying with the investigation and not at all afraid of what the committee may find, insisting they are no more poorly-managed than any other non-profit nor do they spend more on lobbying than anyone else either.
Sounds like an excellent defense; I don’t see how it could go wrong.
Prostitution in the industry is nothing new, you have to take what you can get even if that means devouring struggling non-profits or whoring yourself out for otherwise wholly un-big-business-like busywork (I’m staring directly at you, Big 4).
Daniel Golden of Bloomberg reported yesterday that “ITT Educational Services Inc. paid $20.8 million for debt-ridden Daniel Webster College in June. In return, the company obtained an academic credential that may generate a taxpayer-funded bonanza worth as much as $1 billion.”
With education little more than a vague directive to “teach” at this point (except for the chosen few professors who put their hearts into it, of course), schools are being encouraged to “convert a school to a charter school or a similar education management organization, a for-profit or nonprofit organization that provides ‘whole school operation’ services” (via firedoglake) in California districts where schools have fallen way short of federal education “guidelines”. Hint: that’s when you know it is bad. Firedoglake implies that recent protests and riots by California state university students facing severe class cuts and hikes in tuition are directly related to the push to privatize education.
In the case of small but favored not-for-profit educational institutions, they don’t have much of a choice but to end up recycled into the ITTs and the DeVrys if they can’t make it. For-profit education is the way to go, ask DeVry. They didn’t make $369 million last year for nothing.
Said Karen Pletz in the Kansas City Star, “the not-for-profit mission, whether it be in education, health care, or other human services, is really about values and is intrinsically focused in bettering lives and community.” Not to carelessly go name-calling but what can a for-profit, publicly-traded institution possibly know about that mandate or education for that matter? Its first loyalty is to the shareholders, not the students.
Perhaps not coincidentally, in December of 2009 WSJ pointed to a Department of Education report revealing a 21% default rate in the first three years for those coming from for-profit institutions like ITT over there gobbling up broke Daniel Webster College. For-profit education institutions are accused of aggressive loan procedures to get students through their programs; meanwhile non-profit private education remains picky about who they’ll take and for good reason. It’s a sweeping generalization to say default rates somehow correlate with the quality of instruction but one can assume loans are easier to pay off when the debtor is not just gainfully employed but paid well.
Company’s purchase of N.H. college could earn it $1 billion [Bloomberg via Boston Globe]
In the latest predatory tactic from our friends at the Big 87654, we see that the recession may not be treating them so badly. Sure, non-profit busywork isn’t exactly a good time to be had by all but it pays the bills and for the Big 4, there is no such thing as bottom of the barrel.
Take what you can get, right?
The financial crisis blew up many big-name clients, leaving audit firms with excess capacity. Bear Stearns Cos., Merrill Lynch & Co., Washington Mutual Inc. and Fannie Mae disappeared from Deloitte LLP. Ernst & Young saw Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. implode, while KPMG lost Countrywide Financial Corp. and PricewaterhouseCoopers lost Freddie Mac.
Gary Boomer, a Kansas-based accounting industry consultant, says Big Four firms sometimes are bidding less than $100 an hour for non-profit and public-sector work, down from $175 to $250 for junior auditors. “What they’re doing is buying some work to keep the staff busy,” he says.
That’s hilarious, shouldn’t we stop and think about why they allowed “the financial crisis” (you mean the unstable positions of those financial firms lost in the bloody battle?) to blow up so many of their big-name clients before we let them scavenge the scrapings for a tasty morsel of audit work?
I guess it works, it’s not like you’ve got guys in the cathedral on December 31st counting saint candles.
It could be worse. Here are some really nasty audits that the Big 4 could be doing in lieu of cheap non-profit and public sector work:
Joe Stack – Think about it, KPMG, you have some awfully tall buildings, be grateful.
Blackwater expenses – They really deserve their own audit team. It’ll keep those juniors busy, ifyaknowwhatImean.
C Street – Bonus side work helping Mark Sanford convert his dollars into Argentine pesos.
Whore yourselves out however you have to, guys, even if it means a door-to-door campaign for whatever audit work you can find.
It takes a certain kind of person to defraud a non-profit organization. In a word: scumbag. Now consider the idea of a pastor of a church defrauding a non-profit organization. A non-profit organization that is tasked with providing cash and food for those in dire need. This person would be David Croyle, the former pastor of Stahl Mennonite Church in Johnstown, PA.
Croyle embezzled around $18,000 from St. Francis Sharing and Caring Inc. from 2005 to 2008. We figure he Either came to the conclusion that doing the Good Lord’s work was incredibly overrated or that he just plain needed the money. Seriously though, $18k? Did he really want a slightly used Honda Civic or something?
Regardless of the motive, Croyle has been charged with “56 counts each of theft by deception, failure to make required disposition of funds, theft and receiving stolen property,” according to the Daily American.
Part of Croyle’s duties at St. Francis was to determine eligible individuals, so he created C&A Management Services. Magically this company was “eligible” and then he requested checks payable to the company. Eventually someone found this a little fishy and hired Wessel & Co. a local accounting firm who discovered the embezzlement.
Somewhere God is shaking his head and somewhere else entirely, Sue Sachdeva is thinking, “Was this guy even trying?”
Police: pastor swindled nonprofit [Daily American]
In case you’re not familiar, C Street is the destination spot for washed up, morally-tainted Republican All-Stars like South Carolina governor Mark Sanford post-Appalachain Trail (it’s called “decompression” and I suppose I’d do it too if I was hooked on an exotic South American beauty that wasn’t my wife) and Mississippi’s Chip Pickering who used the C Street facilities to entertain his mistress.
At least Sanford is classy enough to claim he was there for spiritual advice after his wife found out and started planning her book tour.
I guess we know what the C stands for (hint: it ends in “U Next Tuesday”) and there’s plenty of it running around the joint. Must be all that awesome Bible study.
The owners of a $1.8 million townhouse on Capitol Hill that has been home and refuge to conservative members of Congress are wrongly claiming a federal tax exemption reserved for religious establishments, 13 Ohio clergy members contend in a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service.
The clergy suspect that the C Street Center, which rents living space to lawmakers, is “an exclusive club for powerful officials . . . masquerading as a church,” according to a request for an investigation addressed to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.
The questionable spirituality of C Street is nothing new but this is the first time real live priests have taken to snitching to front off the “organization”. Jim DeMint (another South Carolina Republican) defended the place (though mentioned nothing about whether or not he’d do Sanford’s mistress) saying, “We kind of make that commitment to each other to get together once a week. Sometimes it’s a Bible study; we always have a spiritual or scriptural thought. But sometimes we just talk about each others’ lives, try to get to know each other, remind each other that we are not important, that it’s just a title.”
How about lying, cheating, fake non-profit-status-having family values hypocrites? Is that just a title?
What’s up with C Street? Religious group for morally bankrupt politicians at the end of their rope seeking comfort and companionship or fundamentalist flophouse? I guess that’s for the Service to decide.
So far it doesn’t look good for our merry bunch of can’t-keep-it-in-their-pants GOPers, as DC already revoked 66% of C Street’s property tax exemption last year due to the fact that 66% of the facility was used as a residence and not a church.
Does getting on your knees count for that other 34%? Hallelujah and yay conservative family values!
Kansas has a bit of problem with its tax code, or perhaps the issue at hand is not necessarily Kansas’ broken tax system but the suspicious absence of those all-important tax revenues. Seeking to fill a $416 million budget gap for the FY beginning July 1, it has begun looking at simplifying complicated exemptions but the change could hit already struggling non-profits in the state hard.
Lori McMillan, an associate professor of tax law at Washburn University, said the proposal to not grant exemptions to specifically named organizations but rather categories, such as nonprofit and charitable organizations, was a better policy for the state.
”Sometimes it seems that the criterion for an exemption is one’s ability to find a parking place and the committee room,” said Mark Desetti, a lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Association.
Emily Compton, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Kansas, said removing the exemption would increase her operating expenses by $40,000. She said the organization also must come up with $125,000 in unemployment tax contributions this spring and the combined increase in expenditures could result in fewer services and employees.
The change would mostly mean Goodwill sacrificing its sales tax exemption but that’s not all that’s on the chopping block.
John Scott, president of the Interfaith Housing Services Inc. which administers the program in Hutchinson, said the IDA program is budgeted to receive $500,000 worth of 50 percent tax credits each year. For example, if someone invests $100,000 in the program, they receive a $50,000 tax credit.
He said that if the program has to be changed, reducing the amount to $250,000 would be acceptable and still allow it to receive matching grants from other sources.
“We feel this is a win-win compromise. It helps you cut the budget without losing outside revenue, and it does not force us to close the program and possibly cause loss of jobs,” Scott said.
As is, the state exempts $4.2 billion in sales taxes and proposals currently under review by the House Taxation Committee could bring in an additional $196 million – still leaving a $220 million budget gap.
Is Kansas penalizing non-profits is the way to make up the gap? Goodwill Industries claims 83 cents of every dollar generated in its retail stores goes to serving its mission of providing work to individuals in need. Can the government of Kansas claim that level of efficiency when it comes to tax revenues?
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers was founded in 1911 and serves people in need in 27 countries.
They need a Director of Finance that has a CPA/MBA with a minimum of eight years experience.
Get more details after the jump.
Company: Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers
Title: Director of Finance
Location: New York, NY
Experience: 8 – 10 years
Responsibilities: Under the direction of the Chief Operating Officer, directs and oversees the operations of Maryknoll’s Controller and Treasury Departments and is accountable for budgetary oversight, managing accounting/financial practices, policies, systems and processes, tax and regulatory requirements and Maryknoll’s internal control environment. On a strategic basis, under the direction of the Chief Financial Officer, managing and implementing the strategic plans for Maryknoll and its affiliated charitable trusts.
Qualifications: Requirements include a CPA and/or Master’s degree in Business Administration, Accounting, or Finance; 8-10 years of experience in senior level financial management of a non-profit organization, preferably faith based, with increasing responsibilities for direction and planning; strong knowledge of general laws and administrative policies governing non-profit organizations and G.A.A.P.; familiar with tax codes, trust management and investments strategies; familiar with health care systems a plus.
I had no idea how much a minister can make but now I do. Wait a minute, this just tells me how to bypass Service rules by writing checks in the church’s name. I might totally be in the wrong line of work.
Free Church Accounting (I’m not kidding) brings us a question from “Sharon” of Corsicana, Texas:
How much money does a minister have to make in order for money to be reported?
I started my church back up after 12 years vacancy. I do not have very many members. Right now we are 3 active members and other people stop in from time to time. I do not actually receive money. Since the church is striving I use the money to pay the light bill, get the grass moved.
According to the IRS website, “Earnings of $400 or more are subject to self-employment taxes.” (that includes qualifying ministers)
If you are a church employee, income of $108.28 or more is subject to SE tax.
It would be better for you, if you opened a checking account in the church’s name and paid expenses out of it. If that’s not possible, just make sure and keep all of the receipts that show where the church funds are going.
Fascinating! I took the preliminary “Are You a Tax-Exempt Church” quiz on their website and failed miserably so I guess I’d make an awful 501(c)(3) but that’s probably for the best.
There are ways to fail at this of course, like the Spokane, WA priest who couldn’t keep his arms and legs (and other parts) inside of the vehicle at all times, financial mismanagement in the University of North Carolina system, and JDA favorite the University of Colorado’s wild credit card user with horrible hair.
I would never imply that more regulation is the answer; I’m merely pointing out that there’s a bit of work to be done in identifying non-profit fraud. Seriously, how can one detect fraud when the core basis of fund accounting is an imbalance between “expenses” and expenditures?
The Church of Jr Deputy Accountant Scientist? I’m down.
WSJ has a Monday piece “Once-Robust Charity Sector Hit With Mergers, Closings” (the Recession Forces Nonprofits to Consolidate) that may be found here. It tells the story of a “homeless” woman with terminal lung cancer and a charity no longer able to afford to help her out. Sad.
When one charity’s COO says “we’ve had funding cut after funding cut, and we never know when the next shoe is going to drop,” that is a bad sign.
Hit by a drop in donations and government funding in the wake of a deep recession, nonprofits—from arts councils to food banks—are undergoing a painful restructuring, including mergers, acquisitions, collaborations, cutbacks and closings.
“Like in the animal kingdom, at some point, the weaker organizations will not be able to survive,” says Diana Aviv, chief executive of Independent Sector, a coalition of 600 nonprofits.
I saw that on the Discovery Channel and it wasn’t pretty.
Note: the Service says the value of your blood is not deductible as a charitable donation but cars are. As of 2005, cars are only deductible at FMV, not Blue Book. Damn you, fair value, foiled by the free market again!
Blame the Service for tightening its charitable donation rules at the worst possible time? Not sure on that one. While you’re reluctant to donate your $200 Toyota (ha) to charity because you could have claimed $2,000 under old rules, find some comfort in the fact that (alleged) terrorist “non profits” can not file for 2 years and somehow get away with it. You wonder why I advocate fixing the system from the ground up?
You can text $10 to Haiti but what about the “Economic Homeless” here in America? asks Young Money.
If this were a survey and you asked me “What do you think the IRS could do to encourage charitable donations?” I would answer “Tax breaks. It isn’t the Treasury’s job to distribute bailouts.” Yet they continue to behave as though it is their duty.
See the problem yet?
You’ve already seen me rail on SOX and I’m not the only one.
I am not classically trained in recognizing Service threats but this certainly feels like one.
The Internal Revenue Service today reminded tax-exempt organizations to make sure they file their annual information form on time. In 2010 the tax-exempt status of any non-profit that has not filed the required form in the last three years will be revoked.
The Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires that non-profit organizations that do not file a required information form for three consecutive years automatically lose their Federal tax-exempt status. This requirement has been in effect since the beginning of 2007.
The costs of compliance begin to add up and suddenly it starts to reek of 404(b); compliance for the sake of compliance does not equal nor even assist transparency.
I spoke to Chris Leach, a former not-for-profit auditor who has served on several NFP boards, who gave some insight into the problem with the 990. Let me tick off just a few “concerns”:
• Some of the smaller non-profits don’t have anyone on their board qualified to do the 990. It’s not a 1040 and problems are numerous.
• NFP board members are exposed to liability, being forced to “sign off” on 990s. That should sound familiar to any auditor who has been at the job for longer than ten years or so.
• Increased regulatory pressure has been proven to distort true financial condition, not necessarily make it any more transparent.
Any of this sound eerily familiar?
Many boards do not have members equipped to adequately review and sign Form 990, so they are still exposing themselves to liability as a result of improperly filed forms. “Bad publicity is the largest implication in my view, especially for organizations facing financial stress, and even more so in this economic environment,” Chris told me. “Beyond that, from a board member’s perspective, the biggest problem would be misstatements on the Form 990, which could potentially lead to personal liability for the board.”
Chris is slightly more reasonable than yours truly, saying “Just the simple day-to-day administration of tax issues puts pressure on smaller not-for-profit organizations. [However], when a not-for-profit organization isn’t a worthy steward of its donors’ trust, donors feel betrayed, so they want more transparency.”
Fair enough. Bring on the transparency (and the headaches?)!