Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Court Affirms IRS Has Misdelegated Church Summons Authority

In United States v. Living Word Christian Center, (D MN, Jan. 30, 2009), a Minnesota federal district judge adopted earlier recommendations made by a federal magistrate judge refusing to enforce an IRS summons for various church records. (See prior posting.) The court agreed that "an 'appropriate high-level Treasury official' has not made the necessary 'reasonable belief' determination required by Congress [in IRC Sec. 7611] before a church tax inquiry and examination of a church's records can occur." The IRS had delegated the determination to the Director of Exempt Organization Examinations. The government unsuccessfully argued that the court should defer to the IRS interpretation of the statutory requirement. At issue was an IRS summons seeking information about loans, lease of an aircraft and compensation paid by a Brooklyn Park (MN) megachurch to its pastor, Mac Hammond. Yesterday's Chronicle of Philanthropy reported on the decision.