An Internal Revenue Service snafu reported by the Herald in July continues to negatively affect nonprofits in the Tri-Cities.
The Richland Rod & Gun Club discovered it lost its tax-exempt status when members found an unopened IRS letter in the briefcase of their dedicated treasurer, who had passed away.
The Richland Seniors Association found out its status when the IRS website kept rejecting the group's annual report.
And the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition recently was left out of a fundraiser because of the uncertainty around its tax-exempt status.
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The situation puts at risk the missions of some local charities, who depend on their tax-exempt status to give donors the chance to write off donations on their federal tax returns.
The root of the problem is a law passed by Congress in 2006 requiring the IRS to kill the tax-exempt status of organizations that fail to file an annual return for three years in a row.
Since the IRS began to enforce the law in 2011, more than 290 nonprofits in the Tri-Cities and 12,500 in Washington have had their tax-exempt status revoked, according to data analyzed by the Herald in July.
Some local nonprofits say they didn't receive confirmation notices when they filed their annual reports, giving them little chance to prove to the IRS that they did file.
Some nonprofits the Herald contacted really had forgotten to file the annual reports, while others no longer existed.
No one has been able to say how widespread the filing mistake may be. But the IRS no longer has employees dedicated to revocation issues, and there is no formal appeal process.
Some charities are giving up the fight and starting over, reapplying for their tax-exempt status by paying another $850 filing fee. That's money many charities say they don't have to spare.
The Richland Rod & Gun Club hopes to avoid refiling, said Jeff Gardner, the group's president.
The 300-member group helps teach Salmon in the Classroom, provides hunter education and works on conservation projects.
While they believe that they have met all requirements, they have not found any evidence they can use to try to prove that to the IRS.
Also missing is the notice the IRS claimed that it had sent prior to revoking the club's nonprofit status. That's something other nonprofit leaders say they never received.
Gardner said they are hoping for some option that doesn't include refiling. But he and Kirby Hammond, the club's vice president, say they are frustrated by a lack of help from the IRS.
Stan Spohr, treasurer of the Richland Senior Association, shares their frustration.
He ended up refiling for the association's tax-exempt status, and paying the $850 filing fee out of his own pocket, even though he knows he sent in all three annual reports.
The impact so far hasn't been huge to the association, which doesn't tend to see large donations, most being about $5 or $25, he said.
Still, they've been able to create a building fund to support the Richland Community Center in Howard Amon Park. So far the association has spent more than $50,000 for improvements since the center opened in 2001, he said.
The association also holds functions for seniors, such as dances, trips and dinners.
Spohr reapplied for the agency's tax exempt status in November. He still is waiting for a response from the IRS.
While he hopes the new status will be retroactive, he has his doubts.
Skip Novakovich, president of the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition, said it's bitterly ironic that the group's tax-exempt status was revoked before they'd even had it for three years.
The coalition, which which helps veterans find services and housing, is in the process of trying to prove to the IRS that it did meet all filing requirements.
But if that doesn't work, leaders say they will refile for a new tax-exempt status.
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