IRS Launches Compliance Checks on Tax-Exempts
The IRS is asking more than 1,000 organizations that declare themselves tax-exempt to provide details of their financial and political activities. The goal: to assess how well self-declarers are complying with exemption requirements.
The Internal Revenue Service announced late last week that it has sent questionnaires to about 1,300 self-declared trade associations and social welfare organizations asking about revenues, expenses, compensation, unrelated business income, and political activity.
The questionnaire is not an audit but part of a compliance check the IRS is undertaking to increase voluntary compliance, particularly among organizations that have not applied to the IRS for tax-exempt status but are claiming tax exemption under Sections 501(c)(4), (5), or (6) of the tax code. The compliance check was first announced in the IRS Exempt Organizations’ Work Plan for fiscal year 2013.
Although the nine-page form is comprehensive, many of the 36 questions are centered on political activity. The compliance check comes on the heels of the 2012 election, when numerous watchdog organizations condemned the volume of political ads paid for by 501(c)(4) organizations.
The questionnaire asks organizations to document the amount of money spent on political campaign intervention, the amount of paid staff time spent on political activity, and all purchases of radio, TV, newspaper, or other advertisements to support or oppose candidates for public office.
The form also asks for the percentage of the organizations’ revenue, expenses, and staff time dedicated to activities such as lobbying, conducting tradeshows, advertising, publications, and facility maintenance, as well as the portion of income from those activities that the organization declared as unrelated business income. For those organizations that reported unrelated business income, the form asks whether they filed a Form 990-T for the most recent tax year.
According to the instructions, completing the questionnaire is optional but encouraged. Organizations have 60 days to respond.