John Stancil

Much has been made in the press of late regarding the tax returns of the major Presidential candidates. This article is not focused on promoting either candidate, but an attempt to shed some light on these recent tax revelations.

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John Stancil

When it comes to the IRS and religious organizations, these organizations fall into two categories – churches and other religious organizations. Due to the First Amendment, the IRS is extremely reluctant to tread in the area of church organizations. This is not to say that churches have carte blanche to ignore the tax laws, but that the IRS grants them a great deal of leeway in regulating them. All religious organizations are subject to the law in regard to taxation. However, many operate as if the laws do not apply to them. Some of the most common mistakes made by religious organizations are the subject of this article.

At the outset, it should be noted that churches do not have to apply for 501(c)(3) status. They may choose to do so, and there are some very good reasons that they might wish to make such an application. All other religious organizations must apply for this status by completing and filing Form 1023 or Form 1023EZ. A church is automatically treated as though it has 501(c)(3) status.

Filing a return. Churches do not have to file a Form 990. However, some churches file these returns. This is unnecessary and may cause the IRS to take a closer look at the organization. If you don’t have to file, don’t file. Read More

Frequently, a charitable organization will be offered a contribution with restrictions on the use of that contribution.  The gift can be cash or any other asset. The organization is under no obligation to accept the gift with restrictions, but if it does, the donor restrictions must be honored. A distinction should be made between a conditional donation and a restricted one. A conditional donation is predicated on the occurrence or non-occurrence of a specific event. For example, the donor may specify that a contribution will be made to the organization’s building fund if a certain amount of additional funds are raised within a specified period of time. A doctor-restricted contribution may only be used for the purpose specified by the donor. As an example, the donor may make a contribution to a university scholarship fund, specifying that the funds will be awarded only to junior accounting majors with a GPA of 3.0 Read More

Churches are exempt from having to file Form 990 with the IRS. This exemption has been in place since the early 1940’s when Form 990 was adopted, and non-profit organizations were required to file the form with the IRS. This was brought about by a concern that tax-exempt organizations were using their status to engage in unfair competition with for-profit businesses. Churches have held to be exempt, as to do so would violate the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has filed suit in a federal district court in Wisconsin, alleging that it was required to file a “detailed application” (Form 1023) and pay a fee before obtaining tax exempt status, and has also been required to file “detailed, intrusive and expensive annual reports” (Form 990) in order to maintain that status. Read More

The Tax Reform Act of 2014 is currently in the House of Representatives. This law is a major reform effort and is almost 1,000 pages long. Congress is expected to take action on this proposal after the November elections. While it is often risky to speculate what changes Congress will enact, this proposal has several significant changes that will affect non-profit organizations. In a previous article (Potential Tax Changes Affecting Charitable Contributions) the proposed changes in regard to charitable contributions was discussed. This article deals with other changes that would affect non-profit organizations.

Excise Taxes

The proposed legislation would levy a one per cent excise tax on net investment income of Read More

Martin Luther King Jr said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?” Daily routine is an all-consuming machine, we do forget to ask ourselves this question.

Speaking of doing something for others, brings to mind Charitable Organizations. May 15th is creeping up on us real fast. And for those of us who have non-profit organizations as clients, we know that it is the deadline to file Form 990. This form is due on the 15th day of the fifth month after an organization’s tax year ends. Since most use the calender year, the deadline for them is May 15th.

A non-profit or a tax-exempt organization is one which seeks exemption from federal income Read More