Rediscovering Vulgar Charity: A Historical Analysis of America's Tangled Nonprofit Law
Thomas A. Kelley III
University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law
November 29, 2004
UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 04-05
Charitable organizations in the United States find themselves in a double bind these days. On one hand, our free-market American culture expects them to be entrepreneurial and bottom-line oriented, adopting many of the methods and practices of commercial enterprises. On the other hand, courts and governmental agencies, the IRS in particular, threaten and punish charities when they become too commercial. Charities live in fear of being ensnared by confusing and contradictory legal doctrines such as the operational test, the commerciality doctrine, the unrelated business income tax, and the commensurate in scope doctrine. This paper takes a historical approach to explaining why we find ourselves in this vexing bind, then proposes in broad outline a possible legislative fix.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 86
Keywords: charitable organizations, charity, history
Date posted: November 29, 2004
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