For the past three years I served on the IRS Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities, known also as “the ACT”, and its related Exempt Organization (“EO”) subcommittee. Our subcommittee worked directly with the IRS leadership which oversees the nation’s nonprofit and tax-exempt organizations. Yes, this is the IRS division and leadership about which you’ve read so much in recent times.
During my tenure, I served as co-project leader for one report and co-author for portions of three reports. The reports are the result of a year’s work, analysis, and discussions with IRS officials and others. These reports are formally presented as recommendations directly to the IRS Commissioner and senior IRS and Treasury leadership in a public hearing in Washington, D.C. Often, they are adopted in some form and implemented by the IRS.
For example, in 2013 I gave the oral presentation for our report “Exempt Organizations: Leveraging Limited IRS Resources in the Tax Administration of Small Tax-Exempt Organizations.” During my comments I specifically asked that exempt organizations have prominent link on the IRS’ main webpage to make it easier to find IRS information on nonprofits. The Acting commissioner agreed and immediately ordered that a prominent tab for “Tax Exempt Organizations” be added to the main IRS main webpage.
The tab appeared on the website before 5 pm. You’ll find it in the middle of the page. Wow, that’s responsive government leadership which made a positive difference!
We made other recommendations which will require more information for Form 990 EZ filers, enhance customer education and outreach, and increase sharing information with state charity regulators. In time, hopefully, some of these other recommendations will be adopted.
In 2014 I authored the ACT’s first “Concurring, Dissenting, and a Sixth Recommendation” . My comments were a first for the IRS and the ACT because they were not included as part of the overall report. In preceding years ACT reports integrated differing and dissenting opinions. For example, see footnote 44 in the 2013 report. Indeed, I was told these differences often helped the IRS to better understand and shape its policies.
I drafted my comments in response to our EO committee’s report “Exempt Organizations: Analysis and Recommendation Regarding Unrelated Business Income Tax Compliance of Colleges and Universities.” The committee based its report and recommendations in part on the statistically flawed two IRS Interim and Final Colleges and University Study reports.
Nevertheless, I hand-delivered my “Concurring, Dissenting, and a Sixth Recommendation” to IRS Commissioner Koskinen before having a direct discussion with him about them during our June 2014 public hearing. It remains to be seen whether the IRS, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy, or others will undertake the study I recommended or, more interestingly, address the provocative and interesting “What if?” questions which I raised.
My service on the ACT was a wonderful and challenging opportunity as a volunteer, as a lawyer, and as a citizen to influence and help nonprofit organizations.
What are you doing to affect policy and law in your areas of interest? Your thoughts and voice are needed and often you will make a difference!