Rediscovering Vulgar Charity: A Historical Analysis of America's Tangled Nonprofit Law
86 Pages Posted: 29 Nov 2004
Date Written: November 29, 2004
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
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