Monday, September 24, 2018
Business

Federal report says IRS could do more to regulate charities

The IRS doesn't have the manpower to go after charities that flout the law, and it could do more to help state regulators target crooked operators, according to a federal watchdog report made public today.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office also flagged the revenue service for failing to track how well its charity regulators are doing their jobs.

"Clearly the IRS is failing to ensure charitable groups fully comply with the law, or even meet the minimum standards for receiving such preferential tax status," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., wrote last year in a letter requesting the review.

Coburn made the request in response to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting that showed lax regulation has allowed the same charities to spend virtually nothing on the needy for years.

The 66-page report focused on the tax-exempt organizations division of the IRS, where staffing has shrunk in the face of repeated budget cuts — and where regulators are bracing for still more cuts written into a federal budget bill that passed Congress last week.

"I think that the IRS in the tax-exempt area has some talented people, but they're clearly spread way too thin," said Jack Siegel, a Chicago attorney who runs a charity consulting firm. "You can't keep cutting an organizations's funding and expect it to do a job that you want it to do."

The GAO report found that the number of charities audited by the IRS is falling alongside staffing levels. The report notes that only 0.7 percent of the charities who file tax returns are reviewed, compared to 1 percent of individual taxpayers and 1.4 percent of corporations.

The report also says the IRS could be more clear with state regulators, who can be hampered by federal privacy laws, about what data they can glean from IRS files to help build cases against bad actors.

The report also recommended that Congress act to require more charities to file electronic tax returns — which would cut down on labor and make the IRS' job easier.

The Times and CIR spent a year investigating nonprofits across the country and identified the worst charities based on the money paid to for-profit fundraising companies over a decade.

Reporters also collected data from regulators in more than 40 states to piece together the first national list of regulatory actions against charities. Previously, regulators in one state had no systematic way to check if a charity had been in trouble somewhere else.

Reporters found that government regulation was so lax that charities and fundraisers banned in one state could simply move and re-open in another.

Comments
Port Tampa Bay marks 1 million cruise passengers in a year for the first time ever

Port Tampa Bay marks 1 million cruise passengers in a year for the first time ever

TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay last week welcomed its 1-millionth cruise ship passenger for the first time ever in a single year.The port hit the milestone on Sept. 17, when the count hit 1,000,524 for this fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. It rose furthe...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Dear Penny: I spent everything ending a bad relationship. Can I treat myself?

Dear Penny: I spent everything ending a bad relationship. Can I treat myself?

Dear Penny, I just made one of the hardest decisions of my life and ended the relationship I had been in since my early 20s. After a decade in a bad relationship, I’m super excited to be single again. The problem is my wardrobe. Over the past few yea...
Published: 09/24/18
Nearly half of cellphone calls will be scams by 2019, report says

Nearly half of cellphone calls will be scams by 2019, report says

Nearly half of all cellphone calls next year will come from scammers, according to First Orion, a company that provides phone carriers and their customers caller ID and call blocking technology.The Arkansas-based firm projects an explosion of incomin...
Published: 09/23/18
Walmart is teaming with a Seminole Heights chef to promote locally grown mushrooms

Walmart is teaming with a Seminole Heights chef to promote locally grown mushrooms

TAMPA — It might seem like an unlikely match from the outside: A distinguished chef with a restaurant known for inventive plates using produce shoppers can find at… Walmart?Walmart, the country’s largest grocer, is known for having a core consumer wh...
Published: 09/21/18
Updated: 09/23/18
Joe and Son's Olive Oils, a legacy Ybor business, finds new roots in Carrollwood

Joe and Son's Olive Oils, a legacy Ybor business, finds new roots in Carrollwood

Andrea Gebbia grew up in Carrollwood, and now she is bringing the family business to the neighborhood of her youth.In late fall, Joe and Son’s Olive Oils is slated to open a second location."I feel so blessed having the ability to grow my...
Published: 09/21/18
Updated: 09/22/18
Tampa General nurses record the last heartbeats of dying patients, making a family memory

Tampa General nurses record the last heartbeats of dying patients, making a family memory

TAMPA — As John Reisinger waited with family at Tampa General Hospital, grief settled in like a fog. So some of the details are hazy.But he remembers the moment when three women in white lab coats approached him.The day before, his niece, Jessica Rau...
Published: 09/21/18
Retro Fitness sets first of several area locations in Citrus Park

Retro Fitness sets first of several area locations in Citrus Park

In early fall, Retro Fitness will open a 17,000 square foot fitness facility in Citrus Park, and it plans for more Tampa Bay area locations.Founded in 2005, Retro Fitness has 153 clubs throughout the United States and is the official fitness center o...
Published: 09/21/18
The guys who brought you Tampa’s Armature Works plan high-end offices next door, and they’ve already signed a lease with med-tech company AxoGen

The guys who brought you Tampa’s Armature Works plan high-end offices next door, and they’ve already signed a lease with med-tech company AxoGen

TAMPA — Coming soon from the developers who brought you the Armature Works: Heights Union, two high-end office buildings next door to the trendy food hall, event space and co-working complex overlooking the Hillsborough River.Developers said Friday t...
Published: 09/21/18
Chi Chop + Kung Fu Tea looks to succeed where others failed

Chi Chop + Kung Fu Tea looks to succeed where others failed

RIVEVIEW – Amy Lin knows that her newest Chi Chop + Kung Fu Tea store is in a location where previous businesses have not lasted.The short-lived Tap’s Brewhouse & Deli and even shorter-lived Top Shelf Sports Bar and Grill tried to r...
Published: 09/21/18
Federal loans open to Pinellas businesses struggling against Red Tide

Federal loans open to Pinellas businesses struggling against Red Tide

The U.S. Small Business Administration has extended its disaster loan program to include Pinellas and Pasco county businesses affected by Red Tide.Already, the Pinellas County Economic Development Office was taking applications for bridge loans to he...
Published: 09/21/18