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IRS's inaction on granting tax exemption status has non-profit news organizations worried

Non-profit journalism is stuck in a rut

The IRS is stuck in a rut of its own making, and it appears Congress will have to come to the rescue. Apparently the agency has forgotten how to recognize noncommercial news organizations as exempt from tax. They have certainly done it before, as any schoolboy knows. The tax exemptions enjoyed by NPR, National Geographic, PBS, Consumer Reports, C-SPAN, etc. were acknowledged years ago and with little argument about them at the time.

So, why is it that the IRS is now sitting on the tax exemption applications of newer non-profit news organizations such as San Francisco Public Press, The Lens (New Orleans) and Investigative News Network? The legal issue seems to be that the IRS is now inexplicably reluctant to regard journalism as an “educational” activity and thereby qualify these new groups for exemption as charities under Section 501(c)(3) of the Tax Code. The mystery is compounded because though NPR may have gotten an exemption decades ago based on its educational activities, ProPublica, MinnPost, The Austin Bulldog (Texas) and Project Veritas got theirs just in the past few years. Yet, those non-profit journos are nearly identical in type to those being held in tax status limbo today. What changed?


Bruce D. Collins

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