It’s always a problem when a so-called non-profit charity rakes in money… and then doesn’t use it for charitable purposes. It’s not just an ethical breach. It’s flat-out illegal. The IRS must respond by revoking that group’s tax exemption since the group isn’t following the rules.
Now imagine the charitable “war chest” contains $100 billion.
That’s apparently what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has in its “just for charity” bank account — thanks to donations, tithes, and investments over more than two decades — and a whistleblower has now told the Washington Post that none of it is being used properly.
The confidential document, received by the IRS on Nov. 21, accuses church leaders of misleading members — and possibly breaching federal tax rules — by stockpiling their surplus donations instead of using them for charitable works. It also accuses church leaders of using the tax-exempt donations to prop up a pair of businesses.
The complaint was filed by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon who worked until September as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors that is based near the church’s headquarters.
In a declaration signed under penalty of perjury, Nielsen urges the IRS to strip the nonprofit of its tax-exempt status and alleges that Ensign could owe billions in taxes. He is seeking a reward from the IRS, which offers whistleblowers a cut of unpaid taxes that it recovers.
Not only did Nielsen and his brother Lars P. Nielsen allow the Post to use their real names, they provided supporting documentation to back up their claims.
The complaint here isn’t that the Mormon Church has waaaaaay too much money. It’s that the money was designated for charity — and exempt from taxes — but it’s being used for radically different reasons. That’s based on the fact, the brothers say, that all that money has come in, but they were never told to send it back out for “religious, educational or charitable activities.” Only twice was that money spent anywhere: once, to bail out a “church-run insurance company,” and another time, for a church-owned shopping mall.
So what is the Mormon Church doing with all that cash?
According to the complaint, Ensign’s president, Roger Clarke, has told others that the amassed funds would be used in the event of the second coming of Christ.
What, is Jesus coming back and demanding cash?
All this is happening, by the way, as the Church demands members pay their tithes, even if they can’t afford to give up that money.
David Nielsen and his family walked away from the Mormon Church earlier this year. His brother left about a month later. Before they left, they obviously took a lot of information with them. It’s a potentially explosive form of revenge.
The Mormon Church hasn’t issued any substantive comment on any of this. They just said the information was confidential. The ball is really in the IRS’ court. They need to audit the Church, confirm the story, and consider revoking the Church’s tax exemption. I’m not optimistic that will happen — Scientology is still tax-exempt, after all — but Mormons themselves need to consider why they’re still giving money to an organization that just wants to hoard it for no good reason.
If you want to help other people, there are plenty of good places where you can spend your money. Giving to the Mormon Church isn’t on that list. That was true before, but holy hell, does it appear to be true now.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to everyone for the link)