NEW FOR 2010: IRS Good Governance Check SheetPosted on February 24th, 2010.
The IRS wants to know if your organization is practicing “good governance,” so it recently released its new Governance Check Sheet that its agents will use to gather information about the governance practices of nonprofit organizations, including churches and ministries. The release of the Governance Check Sheet is helpful to public charities because it gives nonprofit organizations a better idea of what the IRS is thinking and what the IRS considers “good governance.” This, in turn, will help your organization make important governance decisions and implement important policies and procedures. Specifically, in the Governance Check Sheet the IRS examines the following issues:
1) Governing Body and Management:
- Does the organization have a written mission statement that articulates its exempt purpose?
- Do the bylaws of the organization include information about who has the right to vote, qualifications, etc?
- Does an authorized independent body establish compensation procedures, in advance, for all high level employees?
- Is comparability data used to determine compensation?
3) Organizational Control:
- Are related family members serving on the Board of Directors?
- Do any directors have business relationships with other directors, officers, or key employees?
4) Conflicts of Interest:
- Does the organization have a written conflict-of-interest policy?
- Is the policy followed?
5) Financial Oversight:
- What type of policies and procedures are in place to ensure assets are properly used for exempt purposes?
- How often are financial reports provided to the organization’s Board of Directors?
- Is the Form 990 (if applicable) reviewed by the entire Board of Directors prior to submission?
6) Document Retention:
- Does the organization have (and follow) a policy for document retention and destruction?
- Does the Board of Directors contemporaneously document its meetings (i.e. minutes) and retain such documentation?
Some have wondered why the IRS is becoming involved in corporate governance issues when its role is really to ensure tax compliance. However, it appears as though the IRS is reviewing the governance practices of charities to determine the connection between a charity’s tax compliance and corporate governance practices. The thought is that the better governance procedures that an organization has in place, the more likely that the organization is also going to comply with all applicable tax rules and standards for exempt organizations.
Here at the Church Law Group, we strongly recommend making sure that your organization’s governance documents–including articles of incorporation, bylaws, and other basic policies and procedures–are compliant with state and federal laws, as well as with the current standards for tax-exempt organizations. Determining the effectiveness of your organization’s governance practices will help ensure the long term success and viability of your organization. Remember, as Benjamin Franklin stated so long ago, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Contact us today at 972-444-8777 to learn more about how the Church Law Group can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your organization’s governance procedures.