Bipartisan Philanthropy Bill Unveiled

During the 2016 election-campaign season, a key GOP talking point was a promise of  “tax reform.” Now in control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Congressional Republicans and the White House are eager to move forward. The philanthropy community is alert to any signs or signals about proposals that may affect the nation’s charities, beyond the matter of the Johnson Amendment. In particular, there is concern Read More

Newest Twists on the Johnson Amendment

The “Johnson Amendment” has been confusing and controversial since it was tossed into 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code in 1954. That year, Congress decided it was time to completely overhaul the existing federal tax code. At the 11th hour, without discussion or debate, then-Senate Majority Leader added the last few words to an already succinct 132-word definition of which organizations can qualify for the most Read More

Dodgy Scholarship Scheme Doesn’t Get Tax Exemption

Responding in 2014 to a nightmarish backlog of tax-exemption applications, the Internal Revenue Service came up with a solution: Offer a short and simple alternative form - the Form 1023-EZ - for many small- to mid-size 501(c)(3) start-ups. The streamlined procedure would have the necessary effect of speeding up the response time from an average 2-year wait down to a few weeks. The trade-off was the miniscule number Read More

501(c)(3) Politics Executive Order: What Effect?

For over a year, there’s been serious chatter in certain quarters about easing the 100% ban - the Johnson Amendment - on political campaign activities by 501(c)(3) organizations including churches and religious groups. It was part of the GOP campaign rhetoric and has continued on in the new Administration. There’s disagreement, though, on the details. Should the ban be eliminated completely? Should the Johnson Read More

Can a Form 990 Be Amended?

Until some major tax legislative changes in 2006, the Form 990 - the information return for exempt organizations - applied to far fewer organizations than now. Generally, mandatory filing was required only for groups that “brought in a lot of donations or held significant assets.” Under post-2006 rules, though, most exempt organizations must file one of the forms in the 990 series - that is, 990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, or Read More

Fewer Regulations: Maybe Not So Good for Nonprofits

With the new Administration, there are lots of big issues being tossed around for discussion and action; health care, immigration, taxes - just to name a few. While these topics make the headlines almost every day, there are other items flying so low under the radar that they may soon crash into the ground. Nevertheless, the latter may result in almost as much chaos and confusion as the big news stories. In this Read More

What’s Up These Days with the Form 1023-EZ?

The Internal Revenue Service used to have a huge problem: it generally took 18 months to two years to process even a fairly straightforward 501(c)(3) tax-exemption application. That’s when a big change was proposed: the introduction of the Form 1023-EZ for the many new, smaller, organizations. We posted about that rollout in July 2014, and about the early reaction and results here, here, and here.  Tim Delaney, the Read More

Charity Shenanigans of the Billionaire-Philanthropist Doctor

In “Patient-Advocacy Nonprofits’ Dark Ties to Industry,” we examined some practices in the nonprofit sector that need a huge dose of sunlight on them to expose apparent conflicts of interest. Specifically, we referred to the often too-cozy relationships between patient-advocacy organizations and drug companies or other healthcare businesses that fund them. This post tells the tale of  Patrick Soon-Shiang, M.D., a Read More

Executive Orders, Protest Rallies: What’s a 501(c)(3) To Do?

Recently, the big news about the politics ban on 501(c)(3) organizations is that it may disappear. Update: On May 4, 2017, the President issued an executive order that referred, in part, to the politics ban in section 501(c)(3), the so-called "Johnson Amendment." Whether that document will have any significant effect on the existing politics ban is being evaluated by, and discussed among, legal and philanthropy Read More

Opponents of Politics-Ban Repeal Speak Out

In September 2016, after several months of rhetoric by candidate Trump that he planned to “totally destroy” the Johnson Amendment, followed by adoption of a GOP Platform Plank supporting repeal, Americans United for Separation of Church and State pushed back. They prepared and published an article called “Trumpeting Church Politicking,” responding specifically to an apparent hard-line stance in favor of total repeal, Read More