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Tag Archive | "charities"

Donor alert: Giving to tsunami and Japanese earthquake victims


Be sure disaster relief charities are legitimate and equipped to help

March 14, 2011 – Grand Rapids, Michigan – As we learn more about the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that hit near the northeast coast of Japan on Friday, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance warns that—as occurred following the tsunami in 2004, Katrina in 2005 and the earthquake in Haiti just last year—fraudulent charities will likely emerge to try and scam donations from well-meaning Americans. BBB WGA urges givers to make sure their donations will go to legitimate and reputable charities and relief efforts that have the capability to help those in need.

“Whenever there is a major natural disaster, be it home or abroad, there are two things you can count on. The first is the generosity of Americans to donate time and money to help victims, and the second is the appearance of poorly run and in some cases fraudulent charities,” said Ken Vander Meeden, BBB President.  “Not only do Americans need to be concerned about avoiding fraud, they also need to make sure their money goes to competent relief organizations that are equipped and experienced to handle the unique challenges of providing assistance.”

BBB of Western Michigan offers the following seven tips to help Americans decide where to direct donations:

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity.

Be cautious when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other Web sites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The public can go to www.bbb.org/charity to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be cautious when giving online.

Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. In response to the tsunami disaster in 2004, there were concerns raised about many websites and new organizations that were created overnight allegedly to help victims.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the disaster impact areas.

Unless the charity already has staff in the affected areas, it may be difficult to get new aid workers to quickly provide assistance.  See if the charity’s website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups.

Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations.  If so, you may want to consider “avoiding the middleman” and giving directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims.

Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims that 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting earthquake victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses.  They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in-kind donations.

In-kind drives for food and clothing—while well intentioned— may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

Look for details when texting a donation.

Beginning with the earthquake in Haiti, it’s become common to send a text to make a donation. Make sure you understand the amount to be donated, and whether there will be any service fees charged to your account. Be sure the offer clearly identifies which charity will receive the donation, then check out the charity.

Posted in BusinessComments Off

Small charities should check reporting requirements


WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced that small tax-exempt organizations may be able to shift to the simpler Form 990-N (e-Postcard) for their 2010 annual information reporting.
The IRS today issued guidance (Revenue Procedure 2011-15) that will allow more tax-exempt organizations to file the e-Postcard rather than the Form 990-EZ or the standard Form 990.
For tax years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2010, most tax-exempt organizations whose gross annual receipts are normally $50,000 or less can file the e-Postcard. The threshold was previously set at $25,000 or less. (However, supporting organizations of any size must file the standard Form 990 or, if eligible, Form 990-EZ).
A tax-exempt organization’s annual gross receipts or total assets are used to determine which of the three versions of Form 990 it is required to file. IRS.gov contains information about which form to file.
The Pension Protection Act of 2006 made important changes to rules regarding tax-exempt organizations’ annual filing requirements, which took effect as of the beginning of 2007.
First, it mandated that small tax-exempt organizations, other than churches and church-related organizations, file an annual notice with the IRS if they were too small to file Form 990 or Form 990-EZ. (The Form 990-N was created for small tax-exempt organizations that had not previously had a filing requirement.) Second, it required all supporting organizations, regardless of their size, to file the standard Form 990 or Form 990-EZ. Finally, the law specifies that any tax-exempt organization that fails to file for three consecutive years automatically loses its federal tax-exempt status.
Any tax-exempt organization that has not yet complied with these new requirements should do so immediately. If an organization loses its exemption, it will have to reapply with the IRS to regain its tax-exempt status. Any income received between the revocation date and renewed exemption may be taxable.

Posted in Tax TimeComments Off


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