MANDATORY Compliance with the I.R.S.’ VOLUNTARY Best Practices

"Rise Above" by KaleCraneA charitable foundation’s worst fear is that its grant will be used for non-charitable purposes. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) stresses that this risk increases drastically when dealing with foreign grant making and expenditures.[1] The U.S. Department of the Treasury released its third and final version of its “Anti-Terrorist Financing Guidelines: Voluntary Best Practices for U.S. Based Charities” (VBP) in September of 2006 to help charities implement procedures that will reduce the risk of unintended diversions of funds to terrorist causes.

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Insight Not Accuracy: Why The New York Times is Important

"Magnifying Glass" by deejaynyeA recent New York Times’ article attacked American charities that help build communities in  Israel’s West Bank and IRS policy that enables donations to these organizations to be tax-deductable.  As with any piece about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, many people have been quick to attack or defend the veracity of the article.

To nonprofit organizations, the value of the article is not the accuracy of the authors’ claims, but rather the article’s insight into current concerns and trends influencing the nonprofit sector.  These can serve as warnings and guidelines to US charities that operate internationally. Continue reading

Homeland Security Scrutinizing New Nonprofits: What Can We Expect & How Can We Adjust

You Are Not Allowed To Take Photos Here!! by TroyHoldenAnd the hits just keep on coming…

Nonprofit organizations have yet another hurdle to cross when applying for tax-exempt status.

A while back, a colleague of mine, a director of a nonprofit organization, applied for tax-exempt status in the United States. The IRS had questions for him, which was to be expected. What was not expected, however, was that after answering the IRS’ questions, his file was then forwarded to the Department of Homeland Security [DHS].

That’s right, the U.S. Government Department that oversees (no pun intended) counter-terrorism, border security, disaster response, and immigration is also an integral part of the tax-exempt approval process. Continue reading

4 Reasons Why the I.R.S. Interim Report “Exempt Organizations – Universities Compliance Project” is an Important Read

Too many times the IRS has hinted at the direction to which it is heading, with people taking little notice.  Well, in quiet screams, the IRS is doing it again, with the release of their interim report last week: “IRS Exempt Organizations – Colleges and Universities Compliance Project.”

I preface that I have not yet read the report, but I will. And here’s why I think you should too: Continue reading

Are “American Friends of” Organizations a Thing of the Past?

International organizations have been highly successful in raising funds from the United States through U.S. based charities commonly referred to as “Friends of” organizations. These charities are registered in the States and have 501(c)3 tax-exempt status, allowing donations to these essentially foreign organizations to be tax-deductible.

As you can imagine, many charities registered outside of the United States consider an “American Friends of” organization as a vital part of their fundraising strategy.

Jewish causes, especially those based in Israel, are no exception to this rule. A recent report compiled by Dr. Nissan Limor estimated that foreign donations to Israeli charities from sources outside of Israel stood at 2.165 billion dollars in 2007, with much of that coming from the United States (although, he didn’t stipulate how much). There are about 1,000 new Israeli charities [amutot] created every year and it would hold that many of these organizations will seek to create an “American Friends of” supporting charity.

Hence, recent conversations I have had are causing me to worry. Continue reading

The New Jersey Scandal, Pt. 3: The IRS Expected Response

The arrests of 44 individuals–including, 3 mayors, 5 respected community rabbis, a score of government officials, and others–on Thursday of last week (July 23) should highlight the dangers of organizations donating to international causes; and I guarantee you, the I.R.S. is having similar thoughts.

I believe that two reactions can be expected.

1. Greater Scrutiny of Charities

The fear that a charitable donation might not be used for a charitable purpose is not new. The U.S. Department of Treasury has long known the important role that charities play in financing terror and released in 2006 its third version of “Financing Guidelines: Voluntary Best Practices for U.S. Based Charities.” Continue reading

The New Jersey Scandal, Pt. 1: The Facts

Last week (July 23) in New Jersey, an undercover police operation revealed a rainbow of criminal dealings. The implications of the scandal vis-à-vis charities are too vast and far-reaching to be dealt with in one post.  Over the next day or two I will address the pertinent issues.  Questions and comments are welcome.

The Facts

Among the myriad accusations is the charge of the laundering of charitable donations totaling approximately 3 million dollars. The Jerusalem Post quotes sources saying that “at least some of the millions came from Israel” while the New York Times notes “much of the cash they provided him [the informant] came from Israel.” The Post explains that one of the rabbis detained “used a source in Israel to supply money through ‘cash houses’ [money changer].” The Post also quotes former Jerusalem Police Chief Mickey Levy who said Israeli authorities weren’t involved yet but didn’t rule out their involvement a later stage of the investigation. Continue reading