"IRS Building on Constitution Avenue in DC" by US Federal Govt employee / Public Domain

Major evangelical nonprofits are trying a new strategy with the IRS that allows them to hide their salaries

Jan 17, 2020

By Sarah Pulliam Bailey

Several major evangelical organizations have in recent years moved to a new strategy where they shift from a nonprofit status to a “church” status with the IRS, allowing them to keep private exactly how their money is being spent and the salaries of their most highly paid employees.

That strategic shift was highlighted recently by MinistryWatch, an independent, donor-based group that monitors evangelical institutions. The IRS status change allows these groups, including Focus on the Family and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, to avoid filing a form that makes details of their institution’s finances public.

Leaders of the groups say they are changing their status to avoid administrative costs; some also believe that this status with the IRS could allow them extra religious-freedom protections in potential lawsuits over LGBT rights. The potential cost of applying to be a church is that the organizations cannot campaign on behalf of politicians or devote a substantial part of their work to lobbying on legislation. Critics say the option deprives the public of important information about how the tax-exempt organizations are operating.

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