Just how long does it take for a non-profit to get approved for non-profit status with the IRS? If you’re talking about the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, otherwise known as CATER, the answer is more than a year (the photo is last year’s letter; this year’s update was via a phone call made on August 1).
Last August, this piece appeared on TheLiberalOC and in January, this update was posted. In early August, I called the friendly people at the IRS who walked me through the process on what non-profits have been approved for 501(c)(4) public benefit non-profit status and if a form 990 has been filed. The spreadsheet showed no listing for CATER whatsoever.
Since this organization was founded on a premise of transparency and accountability in government, the fact that there is no publicly available form 990 since September 2013 should be cause for concern when they argue on behalf of Anaheim taxpayers, though few seem to know who they are and what they represent (just ask anyone at the Anaheim Farmer’s Market on a given day).
What’s a form 990?
Most tax-exempt organizations that have gross receipts of at least $200,000 or assets worth at least $500,000 must file Form 990 on an annual basis. Some organizations, such as political organizations, churches and other religious organizations, are exempt from filing an annual Form 990.
Form 990 initially requires the organization to describe its mission or other significant activities. The organization must then disclose financial details on its revenues, expenses, assets and liabilities.
The IRS also wants to ensure that the organization is worthy of maintaining its tax-exempt status and requires more details on the types of activities it engages in during the year. A significant portion of the form requires information on how the organization is governed, and specifically requests the names of its officers, directors, highly compensated employees and other employees who are involved with managing the organization. An organization that over-compensates its management may jeopardize its tax-exempt status with the IRS.
Part IV of Form 990 provides a detailed checklist of supporting documents that may be required depending on the answers given to a list of questions. For example, many tax-exempt organizations must file a Schedule B, Schedule of Contributors, listing all contributions it receives during the year.
In CATER’s case, form 990s for 2013-2015 could provide insight into just how much real support the group has in Anaheim.
I asked “what is taking so long for this to happen?” and the IRS would not speculate. So unless something happened between August 1 when I made the call through today, if you’re looking for a form 990 from the IRS about CATER, you are out of luck.
Spoiler alert; I’m checking again in January 2017.