Friday, January 07, 2011

Sen. Grassley Releases Staff Memo On Tax Issues Involving Tele-Evangelists

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Finance Committee, yesterday released a staff review of the activities of media-based ministries, focusing on the financial accountability of tax-exempt religious organizations. The 61-page Staff Memo sets out a number of recommendations and issues for further study. These include a recommendation that the IRS sponsor an Advisory Committee made up of representatives of churches and other organizations. The staff also suggested examination of possible changes in the tax code provisions on parsonage allowances, a filing requirement for new entities planning to claim church status, and possible changes in the church tax inquiry provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. The staff also identified other areas of concern that apply more broadly to qualification of non-profits for special tax treatment. These include issues of governance and self dealing; tax treatment of excess benefit transactions; tax treatment of so-called "love offerings"; and repeal or reform of the electioneering prohibition. The press release also contains links to correspondence and several other staff overviews of six tele-evangelists who have been the focus of investigation by Grassley. (See prior posting.)

In a related announcement yesterday, the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability reports that, at Senator Grassley's request, it has formed an independent national commission to study accountability and policy issues affecting churches and religious organizations. [Thanks to Suzanne Sataline for the leads.]