Commission suggests ways to keep closer eye on lavish ministries
A special commission created by the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability has called for clearer IRS guidance and greater involvement among donors to address “outliers” among congregations and other nonprofits that are not being financially accountable. Its 91-page report was a response to a request for recommendations from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, after he concluded a three-year investigation into alleged lavish spending by six prominent broadcast ministries in 2011. Among the dozens of suggestions of the interfaith commission:
- Compensation for leaders of nonprofits should be “reasonable,” and nonprofits should make such information available to donors who request it.
- The Internal Revenue Service should clarify forms related to the income tax exclusion for clergy housing — which is being challenged in court by atheists who consider it unconstitutional.
- The IRS should not create a specific advisory committee for religious organizations, but should allow the religious community to give input as it creates more guidance on tax law.
- The tax agency should give more advice about “love offerings” — monetary gifts sometimes given to clergy outside of regular congregational offerings — to avoid the “mistaken impression that there is 100 percent correlation between deductibility by the giver and taxability to the receiver.”
- The IRS should modify forms to permit organizations, such as operators of shelters from domestic violence, to redact sensitive information from public disclosure if it would put people at risk.