IRS slow to grant tax-exempt status

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

* The IRS is taking longer to process applications for tax-exempt status, the agency says, due to a rise in the number of applications in recent years, and a decline in IRS staffing and closer scrutiny of applications, The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 8. Processing times depend on the nature of the organization and the application’s complexity, with about half being resolved within 60 days and the other half, which are required to go to a tax-exempt specialist, waiting seven months to be assigned to a specialist and a further 75 days for closure, officials say.

* In an effort to help finance their nonprofit organizations, the lobbies of seven major regional theaters across the U.S. now have video monitors carrying information and advertising, The New York Times reported Nov. 8. The project, StageVision, is the work of the National Corporate Theater Fund and is sponsored by Sharp Electronics, Time Inc. and Palace Production Center.

* Tom Vander Ark, executive director for education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will resign next month after helping shape educational giving at the foundation for the past seven years, The New York Times reported Nov. 4. The foundation, which has pledged $12.7 billion since 1999, has given $1.6 billion to education and an additional $1.8 billion for scholarships, officials say.

* The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation released a report debunking the accepted strategy of saving America’s orchestras by luring people to the concert hall in hopes they will then pay to return, The Wall Street Journal reported Nov. 4. Six in 10 adults say they have some interest in classical music, but only 5 percent patronize their local symphonies, and the majority of adults get their classical music through other channels, the report says.

* The fashion industry, which recently has become involved in campaigns such as (Product) Red and “I Am African” to increase awareness and funds to fight the AIDS epidemic in Africa, has been criticized for its motivations, with cynics calling the efforts publicity stunts, The Washington Post reported Nov. 3.

* German-born billionaire Klaus Jacobs is donating over $250 million to the International University of Bremen, a private five-year-old German university formerly on the verge of bankruptcy, that has been renamed Jacobs University Bremen to honor its benefactor, The New York Times reported Nov. 8. Jacobs hopes the gift, the largest private donation ever made to a German university, will encourage large-scale philanthropy in Germany, where it is still quite rare.

* The director general of the Chinese Disaster and Relief Department of the Civil Affairs Ministry says China hopes charities receive $6.25 billion in charitable donations annually for the next five years, the People’s Daily reported Nov. 7. Donations, which come largely from the general public, totaled approximately $1.25 billion last year.

— Compiled by Laura Newman

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