Archive for the ‘Charity’ Category

Starting a Tax-Exempt Organization

June 5, 2013

Starting a tax-exempt organization is a multi-step process.  With more than 30 different types of tax-exempt organizations defined in the tax code, it is no wonder that it can be both daunting and confusing. In order to help you navigate the system, this article will walk you through each step.

The first step is to form the organization under state law as a corporation, a trust or an unincorporated association.  The organization must have articles of organization that specifically limit the organization to one or more exempt purposes and stop the organization from participating in activities that do not further one or more of the exempt purposes, unless those activities are insubstantial.  The organization should also generate by-laws which dictate what it can and cannot do.  While by-laws are not required under federal tax law, state laws may require nonprofit organizations to have them.

The next order of business is to obtain a federal identification number for the organization. You can apply for one on the IRS’s website or by filing Form SS-4.

You will then need to request tax-exempt status from the IRS.  You can apply under code section 501(c)(3) using Form 1023 or under code section 501(a) using Form 1024.  About half of all nonprofit organizations are formed under section 501(c)(3).  The applications are extensive and require information detailing the purposes and activities of the organization, budgets, board of directors, etc. The IRS has issued publications to assist charities in applying for tax-exempt status.  You can review IRS Publication 4220, “Applying for 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Status,” and Publication 557, “Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization,” for additional information.  Many organizations utilize an attorney or accountant to assist in completing the applications.

After you have sent in your application with the required fees, you will receive a determination letter from the IRS.  This letter will indicate whether the IRS will recognize or reject your organization’s exempt status. If you are denied a tax exemption, you can go to an IRS Appeals Office within 30 days of the determination to discuss the matter with an IRS appeals agent.

There are a few organizations which do not need to file Form 1023 or 1024.  They are churches and related organizations, organizations that are not private foundations and have gross receipts up to $5,000, and chapters of organizations controlled by national or central bodies that already have exempt status.

Tax-exempt organizations are required to file Form 990 each year.  There are also annual informational forms required by most states.  We will explore the annual filings in detail in an upcoming article.  Stay tuned!

If you have any questions about this article or any other matter, please contact our office at (714) 836-8300.


Charitable Deduction Substantiation Requirements

January 3, 2013

Recently, the United States Tax Court denied charitable contributions in full in two different cases.  The donations were denied for failure to obtain proper substantiation in a timely manner.  The IRS has provided a list of the substantiation and documentation required for various contributions.  These rules apply to individuals making qualified contributions to IRC §501(c)(3) organizations.  Additional rules apply when gifting a partial or restricted interest, gifts via trusts, and gifts with remainder interest.

We have included a schedule prepared by Spidell Publishing, Inc. for your easy reference:




Cash donations of less than $250

Bank record

Includes canceled check; bank, credit union or credit card statement showing name; and transaction posting date (credit card)

Written communication from charity

Name of charity, date and amount of contribution

Payroll deduction

Pledge card and pay stub, W-2 wage statement, or other document furnished by employer, including total amount withheld for charity

Cash donations of $250 or more

Written acknowledgment from the charity for each donation

Name of charity, date, amount paid, description, and estimate of value of goods or services provided by the charity

Noncash contributions of less than $250

Receipt from donee or reliable records

Property donations greater than $250 and not more than $500

Contemporaneous written acknowledgment

Name of charity, date, amount paid, and description (but not value) of goods or services provided by the charity

Property donations greater than $500 and not more than $5,000

Written acknowledgment

All of the above, plus: (1) how you got the property; (2) date you got the property; and (3) cost or other basis.

Must file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions

Donations of $5,000 or more excluding stock, certain works of art, and autos

Qualified appraisal

Attach appraisal to return and complete page 2 of Form 8283

Donations of art valued at $20,000 or more

Signed appraisal and photograph

Attach signed appraisal to return and provide photograph of sufficient quality and size to fully show object if requested by the IRS

Stock of publicly traded corporation

No appraisal required if as of date of the contribution market quotations are readily available on an established securities market

Attach Form 8283 to return

Nonpublicly traded stock

Contributions greater than $5,000 and less than or equal to $10,000

A partially completed appraisal summary; complete Form 8283, Part I

Contributions greater than $10,000

Attach qualified appraisal to return

Vehicle, boat and airplane with value of more than $500

Value is the lesser of the gross sales proceeds or the FMV of the vehicle if no “significant use or material improvement”

Taxpayer needs contemporaneous written acknowledgment  from donee organization; donee organization must use Form 1098-C to report value of vehicle donations, if vehicle is sold; this can be used to provide acknowledgment to the donor

If you have any questions or require further information, please contact our office at (714) 836-8300.

Stephen Tierney Featured in Cal CPA Magazine

December 13, 2012

Be sure to check out this month’s edition of the California CPA Magazine.  Nienow & Tierney, LLP partner Stephen Tierney is featured in an article describing his work with Up And Running Again.  Up And Running Again is a non-profit organization formed in 2010 to assist homeless individuals and at-risk youth improve their lives by training for, and completing, a half-marathon.

Here’s a highlight from the article:

“What’s been your most memorable accomplishment?
When we completed the first race. Several individuals in our firm, including my business partner, were helping with the training. It was amazing to see the joy on each runners face as they crossed the finish line. I believe I ran 18 miles that day for a 13.1 mile race. My business partner, Paul, and I kept helping our runners cross the finish line. We would go back out and find another runner and helped them across. I remember that being such a special day, and that was when I realized I wanted to continue growing this organization.”

Check out the December edition of California CPA Magazine or read the full article at  You can also find out more about Up And Running Again here:

Nienow & Tierney, LLP Volunteers With Samaritan’s Purse

December 5, 2012

Last week, the staff of Nienow & Tierney, LLP volunteered an afternoon with Samaritan’s Purse, assisting at the Orange County collection site for Operation Christmas Child.  Samaritan’s Purse is a faith-based organization “providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world”.  Their Operation Christmas Child program sends shoe boxes filled with toys, school supplies, hygiene items and notes to children in need all over the world during the Christmas season.  Our staff assisted along the assembly line, sorting, stuffing and taping boxes before seeing them packed up and sent to their final destination.  For more information about Operation Christmas Child or Samaritan’s Purse, please visit

Operation Christmas Child 2012

Steve & Eunice
Operation Christmas Child Processing Center

Successful Launch of the Olive Crest Planned Giving Advisory Counsel

December 1, 2012

We are pleased to announce our involvement in the successful launch of the Olive Crest Planned Giving Advisory Cphotoounsel (PGAC).  Paul Nienow is one of the co-founders of this group of professionals assembled to raise awareness of the good works of Olive Crest among the planned giving community.

In September the PGAC hosted an event for approximately 50 professionals, to provide continuing education on the upcoming tax law changes, and to encourage them to educate their potential donor clients about Olive Crest.

In November, we held another event for advisors to invite their donors to, to learn about the basics of planned giving, and to hear from a successful couple about their experience giving to Olive Crest.

The PGAC plans to hold these same events next year – please contact Paul Nienow to lean more about these events, and about Olive Crest. 

You can learn more about Olive Crest at their website here.

Choosing the Right Charities

November 14, 2012

In this slow economy, we all want our dollar to go further and mean more. This is certainly true when it comes to our charitable giving.  How can we be sure that we are selecting charities that are effectively administered, accountable and fiscally responsible?  Here are a few items to consider when choosing charities to contribute to:

  • Verify the organization’s tax-exempt status and ensure the organization is in good standing.  The IRS and the California Attorney General’s office allow you to review this information on their websites.
  • Review the most recent financial statements and tax returns for the nonprofit.  The annual reports and forms contain important financial information and also address the various programs and activities the exempt organization engaged in for the year. Also available on the annual returns is the overhead expense ratio measure to confirm how much of each donation is spent on programs as opposed to administrative and fundraising costs.  Keep in mind, however, that low overhead does not automatically mean an organization is effectively accomplishing its mission, nor does it necessarily confirm great organizational efficiency.
  • Consider the diversity of the funding sources.  Does the nonprofit receive donations from a variety of sources?  Examples of various funding sources are private donors, program-related loans, program-related investments, and government funding.
  • Review the organization’s investment and conflict-of-interest policies. The exempt organization’s annual reports and financial statements often specify who manages the organization’s funds and investments. You can check the investment-manager’s track record through several sources such as and  If the investment manager(s) sits on the board of directors or is an officer then a conflict-of-interest policy will be important and should be in place.
  • Review the nonprofit’s mission statement. Do the programs and services match up with the organization’s mission and your philanthropic agenda?
  • Visit the organization and meet the leadership and staff. How experienced are leadership and staff relative to the programs and services they provide? What work do they outsource? Do they have strategic plans for the future? How are they being implemented?  These indicate an organization that is going forward and conscientious of how best to utilize the donations they receive.

In summary, you should contribute to organizations that align with your philanthropic agenda and that are responsible both to the communities they benefit and the individuals who donate.  The suggestions noted above can assist you in selecting which nonprofits you choose to contribute to.

Content for this article was sourced from Journal of Accountancy, February 2012, “Help Clients Choose the Right Charities”.  Please visit or contact our office for more information.

Save taxes by donating appreciated assets

July 20, 2012


One of the most effective but sometimes unknown ways to make a charitable donation to a nonprofit organization is by giving appreciated assets such as stocks, real estate or investments. The donation of appreciated assets when properly planned can have a tax benefit to the taxpayer as well as provide a significant and lasting benefit to the charitable organization. This approach also allows a donor to make a meaningful contribution to a charity without necessarily impacting their monthly cash flow.

In order to take advantage of this tax saving strategy, the donor needs to keep in mind the following factors. First, the taxpayer needs to determine that the item being donated is a capital asset. Capital assets are usually personal property (not business property) that if held for over one year would be subject to long term capital gain rates when sold. Examples of capital assets would be stocks, rental properties, bonds, jewelry, coin collections and cars.

Next, the taxpayer needs to donate the investment directly to the charity without selling it first. If the donor sells the investment personally and then donates the money to charity, they will need to report the capital gain on their personal income tax returns and pay the appropriate long term capital gains taxes. This transaction reduces the amount of the charitable deduction available to the donor and also results in less cash contributed to the nonprofit organization.

If the donor adheres to these factors, they are allowed a tax deduction equal to the fair market value of the donated item and will not be subject to any taxation. This fair market value deduction is allowed regardless of the basis (usually the purchase price) in the investment by the taxpayer. The taxpayer’s deduction for a donation to charity can be up to 30% of their adjusted gross income in any given year. Any donation over the 30% limitation can be carried forward and used in the future up to five years.

As individuals start reviewing their year-end tax plans, this strategy can significantly reduce a taxpayer’s income tax liability. But before making a donation you should discuss your specific situation with your tax advisor.

IJM Benefit Dinner in Los Angeles

May 8, 2012

On Saturday, May 5, Paul Nienow attended a benefit dinner for International Justice Mission (IJM) at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.  IJM is a human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression around the world.  The benefit dinner highlighted the organization’s 15-year track record of working with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare, to prosecute perpetrators and to ensure that public justice systems – police, courts and laws – effectively protect the poor.

Nienow & Tierney, LLP’s Office Manager, Katy Allen, volunteered at the benefit, assisting with a silent auction that raised nearly $50,000 for the organization.  Katy completed an internship program with IJM in 2009 and continues to support their work through volunteer and outreach opportunities.

IRS Introduces Online Lookup Tool for Exempt Organizations

May 6, 2012

The IRS has launched a new online lookup tool called Exempt Organizations Select Check, that allows taxpayers to find out whether an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions or has had its tax exemption revoked.

You can access the new look up tool here.

How do I start a nonprofit organization–step 1

February 17, 2012

There are many steps involved in forming a nonprofit organization.  When you started your movement, idea, or ministry, you were excited about the goals you were accomplishing.  Your ministry starts developing and you realize that in order for your organization to grow and reach other individuals, you need to get a more formal entity in place.  You are now ready to take it to the next level.

The first step in forming a 501(c)(3)nonprofit charity organization is to form a nonprofit corporation or LLC.  This corporation will be formed at the state level.  You will need to enlist the assistance of an attorney and he/she will guide you in deciding what type of nonprofit corporation will best suite your organization.  In the State of California you will want to go to the Secretary of State office and search to ensure your business name has not already been used.  The website is

This website is a great resource in helping you start your entity and to stay in compliance with the state.

There are three categories of California nonprofit  corporations.  You will need to decide if your nonprofit corporation will be organized as a Mutual Benefit, Public Benefit or a Religious corporation.

  1. A Religious corporation is one organized to operate a church or structured primarily for religious purposes.
  2. A Public Benefit corporation is organized primarily for charitable purposes and plans to obtain state tax exempt status under California Revenue and Tax Code section 23701(d).  This category covers most of your 501(c)(3) organizations, civic leagues or social welfare organizations.
  3. A Mutual Benefit corporation is corporation organized other than religious charitable, civic league or social welfare purposes.  These organizations may not be planning tax exempt status at all.

Following you will find a link to download the instructions and sample forms needed to file your Articles of Incorporation.

After filing your articles, you will receive back a stamped copy from the state indicating the approval of your Articles of Incorporation and your new state identification number.

You are now ready to move onto the next step.

As always if we can be of service, please contact