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Facing Late Filing Penalties – Don’t Despair (At Least Not Right Away)

August 22, 2010

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Many small and medium sized charities are run almost entirely by volunteers and have little or no paid staff. It is not unusual for such charities to inadvertently fail to timely file Form 990 or Form 990-EZ. The IRS imposes a penalty of $20 a day for failure to timely file Form 990 or Form 990-EZ. The IRS will send a penalty letter to late-filing charities imposing the penalty with interest. Where the charity can show reasonable cause, however, we have had success convincing the IRS to abate and refund the late-filing penalty. For example, if the charity has a history of compliance, is run by volunteers (or has little or no paid staff), and puts procedures in place to ensure future compliance, the IRS has been willing to abate and refund the penalty. Although there can be no guaranty, if your charity is faced with a late filing penalty, contact your

Board Duties Part III – Duty of Obedience

August 12, 2010

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The first and second installments of this series briefly discussed the duty of care and the duty of loyalty.  A third duty fiduciary duty imposed on charity board members is the duty of obedience (although some characterize the duty of obedience as a sub-set of the first two duties).  To satisfy the duty of obedience, a board member must act with fidelity, within the bounds of the law, to the charity’s mission as expressed in its Articles and Bylaws.  Therefore, it is important for every board member to carefully review the Articles and Bylaws, understand the charity’s mission, and consider this mission when making board decisions.

Board Duties Part II – The Duty of Loyalty

August 10, 2010

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In the first installment of this series on board duties, we briefly discussed the fiduciary duty of care.  This second installment briefly discusses the fiduciary duty of loyalty.  To satisfy the duty of loyalty, a board member must act in the interest of the charity, and not act in their own interest or that of another person or entity.

The duty of loyalty primarily relates to conflicts of interest, corporate opportunity, and confidentiality. A conflict of interest is present whenever a director has a personal interest, whether direct or indirect, in connection with any proposed contract, arrangement or transaction. The mere presence of a conflict of interest, however, does not necessarily render a transaction void or voidable, or expose a director to liability.  When faced with a potential conflict of interest transaction, the board should consult the Internal Revenue Code (IRC Section 4941 or IRC Section 4958) and applicable state

Board Duties Part I – The Duty of Care

The board of directors of most charities are made up of good-hearted volunteers who are passionate about the charity’s exempt mission and eager to donate their time and experience.  Before agreeing to serve, however, a potential board member must understand the fiduciary duties that they will owe to the charity as a member of the board, including the duty of care, duty of loyalty, and duty of obedience.   The following is a brief overview of the duty of care.  A brief discussion of the duty of loyalty and duty of obedience will follow in subsequent blog entries.   

To satisfy the duty of care, a board member must discharge his or her duties as a director in good faith, with the care of an ordinarily prudent person and in a manner the director reasonably believes to be in the best interests of the charity.  This means, among other things, the director should

Charitable Gaming Overview

Charitable Gaming Overview

August 2, 2010

Authored by: Keith Kehrer

As contributions and grants have decreased, many organizations must get creative to raise the necessary funds to further their exempt purposes.  One common method of raising additional funds includes gaming activities, such as raffles, sweepstakes, contests, and 50-50 drawings.  Before engaging in any gaming activities, however, it is critical for your organization to analyze applicable state and federal law.   For example, certain gaming activities are strictly prohibited under state law (e.g., such activities may constitute an illegal lottery).  Certain gaming activities may be permitted but are often limited to specific organizations, such as Section 501(c)(3) organizations.  In addition, most states impose registration, licensing, and reporting obligations before an organization may conduct gaming activities.  It is important to consult with a professional familiar with each applicable state’s laws before conducting gaming activities. 

With respect to federal tax law, the IRS warns that “[a]ll exempt organizations conducting or sponsoring gaming activities, whether for one night of the year or throughout the year … must

Should your nonprofit organization obtain D&O Insurance?

July 28, 2010

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We frequently get asked by new and existing nonprofit organizations about directors and officers liability insurance (“D&O Insurance”). Should you obtain coverage? Is it worth the cost?

Yes, you should explore obtaining D&O Insurance. If you want to recruit high-quality directors, you may find that they will not serve on your board without seeing a copy of your policy. They want to know that they will be protected. In addition, their employers may not allow them to serve on your board unless you have D&O Insurance.

On a related note, you might also want to review your organizational documents for provisions that indemnify your directors and officers against certain acts. The same potential directors who want to see a copy of your D&O Insurance policy may also want to see your indemnification provisions.

There are a number of organizations, some of them nonprofit themselves, that provide affordable D&O Insurance to

IRS Provides Relief for Small Organizations that Failed to File Form 990

July 26, 2010

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Tax-exempt organizations that fail to file Form 990 (including Form 990-EZ and Form 990-N) for three consecutive years will automatically lose their tax-exempt status.  The IRS announced today that it is providing one-time relief to small charities to file a delinquent Form 990-N or Form 990-EZ and retain their tax-exempt status even though they failed to file for three consecutive years.  This one-time relief is available for Form 990-N (e-Postcard) and Form 990-EZ filers only. 

Small organizations that are required to file Form 990-N (e-Postcard) and whose Form 990-Ns are due on or after May 17 and on or before October 15 can maintain their tax-exempt status by filing the delinquent Form 990-N by October 15, 2010.

Other small organizations who are eligible to file Form 990-EZ (but not the Form 990-N) can use a one-time voluntary compliance program (VCP) to come back into compliance. To be eligible

IRS Grants Foundation Additional 5 Years to Dispose of Excess Business Holdings

The excess business holdings rules (IRC Section 4943) limit the stock a private foundation may hold to 20 percent of a corporation’s voting stock less stock held by its disqualified persons (including trustees, directors, officers, and their family members).  A special rule gives a private foundation five years to dispose of any stock that constitutes an excess business holding if it was acquired by gift.  In light of the current economy, private foundations may find it difficult to dispose of excess business holdings within this five year period without selling for a substantial discount.  

Fortunately, an additional five years may be granted if (1) the foundation made diligent efforts to dispose of the stock, (2) disposition within the initial 5-year period has not been possible, except at a price substantially below fair market value, by reason of such size and complexity or diversity of such holdings, (3) prior to the expiration of the initial

501(c)(3) Hospitals – It is Time to Prepare for § 501(r)

IRC § 501(r) was enacted during 2010 to tighten the requirements that hospitals must satisfy to maintain IRC § 501(c)(3) status.  IRC § 501(r) also complements steps taken by the IRS in the last couple of years to increase hospital transparency and supplement the”community benefit” standard set out in IRS Rev. Rul. 69-545, including more detailed requirements for reporting charity care and community benefits in the redesigned annual federal information return form (Form 990, particularly Schedule H).  Under IRC § 501(r) a hospital organization that wants to retain its IRC § 501(c)(3) status must: (1) at least every three years conduct a community health needs analysis and develop a plan to meet these needs; (2) adopt, implement, and widely publicize written financial assistance and emergency care policies that must cover specified topics; (3) limit charges to persons qualifying for financial assistance to amounts charged to persons with

Company Foundation Scholarship Programs

July 17, 2010

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A corporate sponsored charitable organization may conduct a scholarship program for the benefit of its sponsoring corporation’s employees and/or children of such employees. Scholarships must be awarded on an objective and non-discriminatory basis. The scholarship program may not be used to induce employment or represent compensation for services, and availability must be limited by non-employment related factors. With respect to a corporate sponsored private foundation, the scholarship selection committee must also be independent from the private foundation and sponsoring corporation, and the scholarship program must be approved in advance by the IRS.  See IRS Rev. Proc. 76-47 for additional requirements. If the requirements are satisfied, donors who contribute to the charitable organization are entitled to an income tax deduction and the scholarship payment is not treated as taxable compensation to the employee.

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