Subject: PLEASE READ: Important 501 h info
Dear MSA Reps,
On Tuesday MSA Rep Mat Brener had informed all of the MSA reps that not only was it possible for MSA to use 20% of its funds for lobbying efforts with the 501h election, but that he had talked with one of MSA’s accountants at UM and found that we had been using this option for a number of years. In fact, Students for PIRGIM had found that this information is actually public knowledge, as MSA’s tax forms are available online through a website: www.guidestar.com. By setting up a free account, you may search for MSA’s form 990’s (the form that nonprofits file for their taxes each year) from past years. I have instructions at the bottom of this email to access this information online, as well as a pdf file of the 2003 taxes attached.
Groups can file for 501h election just once by filling out a form 5768. After form 5768 is filed, the group files as an electing public charity in form 990. The area of the form 990 for the 501 h election is on page 11 of the 2003 pdf file, part VI/A. You can see for yourself that MSA has quite clearly filed as a 501 h electing nonprofit.
In researching this last night, we stumbled upon something interesting on 2003 fiscal year’s taxes. As 2003-04’s acting Treasurer, Mr. Elliott Wells-Reid had filed MSA’s taxes using the 501 h election. While Mr. Wells-Reid’s printed name is partially blackened out (probably for privacy reasons), the letters “ID” of his last name are viewable, as is Mr. Wells-Reid’s signature, and the date and the title of Treasurer.
For the new reps who may not be familiar with this case, Mr. Wells-Reid originally brought this case to trial before CSJ, claiming that funding Students for PIRGIM would threaten MSA’s tax 501©3 tax status, assuming that MSA was a non-electing nonprofit. As seen on page 11 of the pdf file, MSA clearly has used the 501 h election, allowing MSA to use up to 20% of its expenditures for lobbying.
Further, above Mr. Wells-Reid’s signature is this statement:
“Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this return, including accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief it is true, correct, and complete.”
To be clear, I am not claiming that Mr. Wells-Reid was dishonest in his concern over MSA’s tax status, or that in signing the tax forms last year, he did so with a thorough knowledge of 501©3 tax law that some of us possess now due to the issues with this case. However, it again shows the baselessness of these charges, very serious charges, which, given his previous role as Treasurer and his initiative and responsibility in bringing the case forward, Mr. Wells-Reid should not have overlooked.
Because of this new information, an appeal should take place by the end of the year, or at the very least, CSJ’s previous ruling should not be enforced. Within CSJ’s code is the option to file for a Stay of Enforcement. If a party waiting on an appeal requests, CSJ can decide not to enforce their previous ruling until an appeal can take place. Only two of the ten CSJ justices are needed for this stay to go into effect. Students for PIRGIM will be filing for a stay soon, and we hope that MSA leadership will join us in doing so, as well.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR VIEWING MSA’S TAXES ONLINE
Go to www.guidestar.com and create a free account. Log in. Once you are logged in you are directed to a page that allows you to search for nonprofits. Type in Michigan Student Assembly, and a link for MSA should pop up. Click on it. On the left hand side there is a link to form 990. Click on it. You can then view pdf files of MSA’s tax forms from fiscal years 1997-2003.
Brittany Therese Fox
External Relations Chair, Michigan Student Assembly (MSA)
Campus Outreach Coordinator, Students for PIRGIM