Repeal of estate tax defeated

Here are the week’s top nonprofit news stories reported elsewhere:

* The U.S. Senate voted 57 to 41 against repealing the estate tax on inherited wealth, falling three votes short of the number needed to permanently end debate of the proposal, The New York Times reported June 9.  Under current law, the tax is scheduled to be phased out by 2010, but will be reinstated in 2011.

* Senate Finance Chairman Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is trying to gain support for a package of charitable-regulation bills, is pressing the IRS to increase oversight of nonprofits because he says some charities exploit vague laws governing tax-exempt groups, Morningstar reported June 1.  The IRS recently issued a ruling addressing such concerns, calling charitable-gift funds that give low-income homebuyers cash for down payments “scams,” the Washington Post reported June 2.

* The numbers of chronically homeless people has been dramatically reduced in a many of the 219 American cities using 10-year plans to end homelessness, with a 60 percent reduction in Philadelphia after five years, a 28 percent drop in San Francisco after two years, a 26 percent decline in Dallas and a 15 percent drop in the Raleigh-Durham are of North Carolina, The New York Times reported June 7.

* The Red Cross is working to get better prepared for this year’s hurricane season, with 10 major storms in the forecast, USA Today reported June 1. Jack McGuire, Red Cross interim president and CEO said the organization will have more resources, a streamlined process to get aid to victims and a better communications network, the newspaper reported.

* A federal judge ruled unconstitutional a privately-run religious program at an Iowa prison because it was state-funded, “pervasively sectarian” and aimed at religious conversion, with no alternative secular or non-Christian program available, the Washington Post reported June 3.

* The IRS issued an information release advising charities to steer clear of political campaign activities during election season, noting that restrictions will be vigorously enforced, Tax Analysts reported June 1.

* The Washington, D.C., government is discussing legislation that could give the district the power to investigate financial practices of its nonprofits, a matter out of its jurisdiction, though some area nonprofits feel the IRS provides adequate oversight, the Examiner reported June 1.

* A U.S. Tax Court ruled against a Virginia developer who tried to claim a $3.1 million tax deduction for not developing land, thus preserving it for public benefit, a practice the IRS has been leery of in recent years due to widespread abuse, the Washington Post reported June 4.

* A coalition of charities in the United Kingdom is asking the British government to streamline the transfer of hundreds of millions of pounds in assets bequeathed to them, a process currently hampered by executors who fail to claim the legacies, which cannot be handed over to the charities until they have lain dormant for 15 years, UK Fundraising reported June 8.

* A survey based on data collected in 2004 found that 85 percent of Canadians give money to charity, though one in 10 contributes the vast majority, reported June 6.  Religious organizations receive almost $4 billion, accounting for nearly 45 percent of total donations.

* Some U.S. charities organizing aid for survivors of the recent earthquake in Indonesia report donor response has been slow compared to the outpouring of funds that followed last year’s earthquake in Pakistan that claimed ten times as many lives, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported June 1.

Compiled by Leslie Williams

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