In 2008, the Form 990 was re-designed to include, among other things, significant governance disclosures. The IRS justified the disclosures in part on the belief that organizations with good governance are more likely to comply with the law. Since 2008, the IRS has been studying the connection between governance and compliance. Among other things, the IRS developed a governance checklist that was used in exams to probe governance practices. In a recent speech, Lois Lerner, the IRS Director of Exempt Organizations, provided that the initial results of the IRS study confirm that good governance and compliance go hand and hand. Ms. Lerner stated that exempt organizations with a written mission statement, those that follow the procedures of the rebuttable presumption to establish compensation, and those whose Form 990s were reviewed by the entire board of directors, are more likely to be tax compliant than those that do not follow those practices. Ms. Lerner’s full comments may be viewed by clicking here.
Although these comments are certainly no surprise, I strongly recommend all charities use the IRS governance checklist to perform their own self-assessment. A copy of the checklist may be found by clicking here. A copy of the checklist guide sheet may be found by clicking here. The charity may also review its responses to Part VI of the Form 990 regarding governance. I also recommend a review of our article, Having Good Policies is Good Policy. Merely because a charity does not check “yes” to a particular question on the checklist or Part VI of the Form 990 does not mean the charity lacks good governance or that a change is necessary to ensure compliance. However, it likely raises an issue for review and consideration by the board to determine whether a change may make sense.