Archive for Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Area nonprofits may face losing tax-exempt status

May 18, 2010


About 50 nonprofits in Lawrence could have their tax-exempt status called into question after missing an important tax-filing deadline Monday.

Since 2007, all tax-exempt organizations, except churches and church-related groups, have been required to file an informational form with the Internal Revenue Service. Organizations that fail to file that form three years in a row automatically lose their federal tax-exempt status. If the organization’s fiscal year ended Dec. 31, the deadline was Monday.

Monday was the end of the three-year grace period.

While the deadline isn’t much of a concern for larger nonprofits with payrolls and big-time donors, some worry that smaller groups that operate on next-to-nothing budgets had no idea they were supposed to file a tax return.

“Those organizations that have operated on a very small scale for limited purposes simply haven’t in the past had to deal with filing federal tax returns,” said Chip Blaser, Douglas County Community Foundation executive director. “Those are the very organizations that there is a concern about.”

The National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute compiled a list of nonprofits that had tax-exempt status and hadn’t filed a tax return. Those on the list in Lawrence included sport booster clubs, neighborhood associations, parent-teacher organizations and hobby-based groups.

United Way Executive Director Erika Dvorske said some on that list are now defunct or file under an umbrella organization. Dvorske said none of the 24 nonprofits funded under the United Way would be affected. In order to tap into United Way money, organizations already had to fill out tax forms.

But some nonprofits, such as Lawrence High Band Parents, had no warning they had to file a tax return.

“You would think the government would be able to send us a notice,” said Terry Jacobsen, the organization’s co-president.

The Lawrence High Band Parents doesn’t raise more than $5,000 each year, so the real benefit of tax-exempt status is to allow donors to deduct their contributions from their individual taxes.

“If we lose that status, that could affect people’s willingness to donate to us in the long run,” Jacobsen said.

And the parent group actually has until Nov. 15 to complete its paperwork, because its fiscal year doesn’t end until June 15.

An IRS spokesman encouraged any group that missed the deadline to complete the 990 form and send it to the IRS.

Those nonprofits that bring in less than $25,000 a year can fill out a post-card version electronically, IRS spokesman Mike Devine said. To determine whether an organization currently has tax-exempt status, Devine said, people can visit


Jake Esau 5 years, 4 months ago

For those who have never wallowed into the waters of filling out forms for the IRS... the Form 990 for non-profits is not an easy thing to do, and requires a relatively significant amount of prior financial knowledge (not to mention properly kept records) to fill out.

Even the 990EZ (which I believe is for organizations with gross revenue of under $100,000) is not much easier. I haven't seen what the postcard version looks like, but I hope they made it easy for small, low revenue non-profits that can't afford to hire an accountant to comply with the regulations.

UfoPilot 5 years, 4 months ago

The first amendment to the constitution. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;

Graczyk 5 years, 4 months ago

Your statement is a gross generalization.

jafs 5 years, 4 months ago

I'm not sure that says they can't be taxed.

50YearResident 5 years, 4 months ago

Isn't this a moot point because the nonprofits will just ask for more donations to cover the tax?

true_patriot 5 years, 4 months ago

UfoPilot, that doesn't apply here. This is about taxpayer subsidies for churches, or religious welfare, if you will. Society generally agrees that it's a good thing overall to support churches in general, but in recent times many churches (by no means all) have effectively become a grassroots fund-raising and campaigning network for the right wing, which should result in revocation of tax-exempt status for those churches.

Terry Jacobsen 5 years, 4 months ago

I actually went on the IRS site and looked up the Electronic Postcard filing. It was very simple. Larzia is correct the 990 and 990EZ are both quite involved and require alot of information, but the postcard version was very simple and could easily be completed in less than 5 minutes knowing only the tax id number and the address of a contact person for the organization.

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