Rediscovering Vulgar Charity: A Historical Analysis of America's Tangled Nonprofit Law

86 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2004  

Thomas A. Kelley III

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law

Date Written: November 29, 2004

Abstract

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.

Keywords: charitable organizations, charity, history

Suggested Citation

Kelley, Thomas A., Rediscovering Vulgar Charity: A Historical Analysis of America's Tangled Nonprofit Law (November 29, 2004). UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 04-05. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=626862 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.626862

Thomas A. Kelley III (Contact Author)

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States
919-843-9909 (Phone)

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