There's a lot of smoke and fire in this thread, but not a whole lot of light. I'm no fan of the IRS but in this situation, the IRS is not at fault. It is the obligation of a 501(c)(3) organization to comply with IRS filing requirements. Period. The 990 form is a simple thing to file. Very simple. Buffum and Board may be a likeable bunch of people, but failure to file this form for three years is inexcusable. Hiding behind some lame excuse of "we didn't know" or downplaying the whole thing as a minor administrative oversight just underscores the immaturity of the organization.
Here's the take-away as I see it. Charleston Waterkeeper has created a very real problem for itself in terms of holding itself out as a responsible manager of its legal and financial responsibilities. They may very well obtain a reinstatement of its 501(c)(3) status, but its failure to file its forms for 3 years will always be public information. See http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits…. As a donor to environmental organizations, I can say that I would have serious reservations about contributing to an environmental cause that has had their 501(c)(3) status revoked. If Charleston Waterkeeper plans on relying on good-time events with contribution levels of $100 or less, then maybe they can sustain themselves because those paying that amount may not be all that interested in long-term financial governance (which is not intended to cast aspersion on people having a good time while helping an environmental cause). Nothing wrong with that. But if Charleston Waterkeeper wants to grow to reach the ranks of well-established, respected environmental organizations in SC such as Catawba Wateree Riverkeeper, Upstate Forever, or Coastal Conservation League, they will need financial contributions from foundations and other large sophisticated institutional donors. These donors will care about Charleston Waterkeeper's unfortunate lapse and it will take a lot more work and hand-holding to get any donations from them. I hate to see environmental organizations with energy and momentum shoot themselves in the foot like this. I wish you well Charleston Riverkeeper but as a potential donor, you won't be getting any of my money.
Saildude, the article says Charleston Waterkeeper got its 501(c)(3) status on Aug. 31, 2011. Obviously they got that piece of mail from the IRS. They were already in their new office by then so they can't say the IRS didn't have the right address when the IRS sent notice of the automatic revocation in 2012.
Here is the question that I haven't heard anybody answer. The IRS automatically revoked the Charleston Waterkeeper's 501(c)(3) status on May 15, 2012. They would have gotten notice of the automatic revocation from the IRS prior to this date. I don’t see how they would not have known about the revocation in May 2012. The IRS then will publicly post the revocation a year after the automatic revocation, which in this case, was posted on the IRS website on May 15, 2013. The Charleston Waterkeeper states on its website that "this March, upon notification that our 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status had been automatically revoked, Charleston Waterkeeper immediately began working with our legal counsel and CPA to correct the matter." He means March 2013. The P&C reports that they have been accepting contributions under the fiscal sponsorship of the Waterkeeper Alliance since March 2013. So what happened between May 2012 and March 2013? I hope the answer is something other than "nothing.”
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