One of the main targets for the PSAs seem to be horse rescues. I find this quite puzzling since there are a few of them that run rescues AND support slaughter. I still can’t quite wrap my mind around that one. Many of the PSAs fancy themselves to be legal eagles and like to threaten litigation or otherwise raise hell with whatever they feel threatened by on any given day. Still waiting for one of them to threaten to sue whoever is responsible for inventing logic as that seems to threaten them on a daily basis. Now, I don’t pretend to be a team of people, but I am quite capable of doing some basic research when I’m not sure about something. Sometimes I find out I was wrong about things and other times I find out I was right. I’ve always had a basic idea what a 501(c)(3) is, but never really bothered to dig very deep with it until lately. I really had no preconceived notions about what it entailed, but some of the things I have found out are quite enlightening especially in light of yesterday’s meltdown and threats of calling the Attorney General on people. Since this stuff is really quite dry and boring, I’m going to give the Cole’s Notes version and give some links incase anybody feels like digging deeper.
Basically, a 501(c) organization is a non-profit organization that is mostly tax-exempt. There are 28 different types of 501(c) organizations and horse rescues fall under the third type, hence 501(c)(3). The list for these organizations under 501(c)(3) is; Religious, Educational, Charitable, Scientific, Literary, Testing for Public Safety, to Foster National or International Amateur Sports Competition, or Prevention of Cruelty to Children or Animals Organizations. What this means is that an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for one of the listed purposes and that it must NOT benefit a private shareholder or individual. In other words, if you are playing by the rules, you shouldn’t be getting rich running a rescue nor should any part of the funding you receive go towards or benefit your private interests.
Another interesting thing I found out about 501(c)(3) organizations is that they may, in no way, attempt to influence legislation as a major part of its activities and it cannot participate in any way, shape or form in campaign activity either for or against a political candidate. Uh Oh! I sense some glass houses in our midst! Legislative and political activities are viewed as two separate things with separate rules. Participating in campaign activity is an absolute bar with zero tolerance. Participation in campaign activities includes publishing or distributing statements as well as campaigning on behalf of or against ANY candidate for public office. I assume this will include editorials either online or in print. They also aren’t allowed to engage in carrying on propaganda in attempts to influence legislation. A 501(c)(3) can do `some’ lobbying to bring about legislation as long as it is `not a substantial part it its activities’. This means you can’t keep one old horse in your backyard, call yourself non-profit and then spend the majority of your time on political activities and lobbying. It is a very slippery slope. Violations of these rules are considered `electioneering’ and can lead to losing non-profit status among other things. Hmmmmm *cough*unitedhorsemen*cough*
To become a charitable organization, you must become a corporation, community chest, fund, or foundation. An individual or partnership cannot become a 501(c)(3). The organization must have stated a stated purpose or purposes and must limit the majority their activities to further these stated purposes. Isn’t legal speak fun? Basically that means that you can’t say you’re a horse rescue and then spend most of your time campaigning for and sending horses to slaughter. I’m not entirely sure how eating the animals you are funded to save would be viewed, however. Also, if an organization has excess business transactions with a person or individuals that have substantial influence over it, there may be an excise tax imposed on that person. I take it to mean if you were leasing space in your barn to a rescue that you were also the president of you may need to pay some additional taxes.
I think everybody is more than aware that the benefit of having a 501(c)(3) is certain tax exemptions and the ability to receive donations in exchange for charitable receipts. Yes, I’m aware I’m way oversimplifying this, but there are links below that provide more detail if you need something to help you sleep. The big question I have seen come up over and over again is what the non-profit organization must disclose. They do have to submit their financial statements, including salaries of directors and employees to the IRS. Both the IRS and the organization are required to disclose that information to the public in most cases. That means that those records need to be available for public inspection during regular business hours at their main address. However, whether they need to supply those records to the general public usually depends on individual state law. In California, for instance, they do not have to supply this unless they have an annual revenue of over $2million. It does not mean they have to mail them to you or discuss them over the phone. You can also attend the organization’s AGM which will be advertised prior to happening. They will normally distribute and discuss their year-end financials at these meetings.
So, what do you do if you suspect a 501(c)(3) organization is in violation of the rules? Well, you probably don’t harass the Attorney General to begin with even though you technically could call that office. Kinda the same way that it is beyond fucktardious to phone the FBI because somebody hurt your feelings on the internet. There ARE ways you can blow the whistle and report fraudulent practices though. If you think a horse rescue is not acting in the best interests of their animals, you can call the local animal control as they would be the ones that look into that sort of thing. Any complaint regarding that will have much more weight coming from a local authority. I highly doubt that the IRS is going to come out and look into that sort of thing nor do they likely have the expertise to do so anyhow. If you think they are not operating as a non-profit and breaking the rules set out for them, you can file a 13909 form with supporting documentation of your complaint. Realize that under federal law the IRS will not update you with their findings or sanctions should there be any. You will receive a letter of acknowledgement and then you’re basically out of the loop.
I admit that this was a very superficial look at some of the things I see being batted about regarding 501(c)(3) organizations. Mostly for my own interest I wanted to look a little deeper. There are links on the bottom that will provide some more in-depth information. As I have stated many, many times before, you always have the choice to NOT donate time or money to an organization you don’t agree with. However, if you know of a fraud being committed, there are appropriate channels to go through and picking up the phone and going directly to the top while screeching like a howler monkey is probably not going to motivate anybody to act on your information. Before you do anything, you need to look them up on Guidestar.org and make sure they even exist as a non-profit. Can we now go back to talking about horses or something fun?