Maybe if we knew what they were going to do with it there wouldn’t be such a surprise to members. And what needs to be done about tax-exempts accumulating vast pools of capital that is never put to charitable use? This is also true of others who have consulted with Paul Glader, as I'm sure you saw in his coincident breaking story in Religion Unplugged. As an integral part of the Mormon church, Ensign is required to operate exclusively for religious, educational, or other charitable purposes. The Mormon Church's investment division is a company named Ensign Peak Advisors. While accumulating this wealth, Ensign has not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years, the complaint said. You can figure out the correct tax without knowing that, but I do believe in answering all the questions. As a support company and auxiliary to the church, Ensign Peak is allowed to make tax-exempt money in its work for the church provided the money is for religious, educational or other charitable purposes. Last month, Nielsen filed a complaint with the IRS in Ogden. I probably oversimplified the Nielsens' argument, which Mr. Nielsen characterized on the phone as an inadvertent straw-man argument. Whistleblower Alleges $100 Billion Secret Stockpile By Mormon Church. Ensign Peak Advisors. Whistleblower: Mormon Church Stockpiled $100B, Falsely Claimed Non-Profit Status. I have brought this up a number of times in my coverage of Scientology. I have been a CPA for over 30 years focusing on taxation. Ensign Peak Advisors' articles of incorporation confirm Ensign Peak is an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All Rights Reserved, This is a BETA experience. Included is an organization that is exclusively financing, funding the activities of or managing the funds of a church. Given that Ensign Peak Advisors is a tax-exempt 501C3 charity, the fact that it hoards so much money without ever spending a single dime on charity seems to run afoul of IRS regulations. Sources confirm that David’s job at EPA became complicated as his wife and children left the LDS Church. It is worth checking out this Reddit site to see some of the reactions to the story. Or would they just turn the money over to the church and fade away? The 41-year-Mormon formerly worked at Ensign Peak Advisors, an LDS-sanctioned company located near the church’s headquarters. My reading of the situation is that not much thought went into trade or business question. That money isn’t being spent on charitable endeavors, as required by law. This allowed the investment branch to be largely exempt from paying taxes on its income. I wrote: “My thinking was that if it was an integrated auxiliary of the church it is really the church accumulating and there is really no rule about that. I have extensive experience with partnerships, real estate and high net worth individuals. When it comes to churches, LDS may be sui generis in that regard. Nielsen’s complaint also says the church may have additional holdings outside the management of Ensign Peak Advisors. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post which shared details from the complaint. Trump's … “Yes. Mr. Nielsen also focuses on the question about total book value of assets not being disclosed. A whistleblower alleges in the complaint, filed with the IRS, that billions of dollars collected in tithes mandatory donations by members were invested in an investment arm of the church Ensign Peak Advisors but in 22 years, has not been distributed to charitable causes in accordance with IRS rules, according to a report in the Washington Post. Furthermore the church pays out lots of money every year from its tithing. A inside whistle blower has alleged the Mormon Church misled members on how a $100 billion investment fund was used. Until September 2019, Nielsen had been a senior portfolio manager for the Mormon-church run investment non-profit, Ensign Peak Advisors. On the other hand, if I were involved in the preparation of that return and knew that the reason management did not give me the answer to the question was that management did not want the IRS to know what the total book value of its assets was, I would be pretty uncomfortable. a Monday report published by The Washington Post, The Spiritual Foundations of Church Financial Self-Reliance, a historian who has studied LDS Church finances. I have written about that here, here and here. It makes me sick. He worked until September as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors. Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment firm connected to the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints, started filing a quarterly 13F form on Feb. 14, 2010, with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates publicly traded companies and other financial firms. Not answering a question is not the same as getting your tax wrong. As he was writing that document, Lars Nielsen said, he reflected on his mission to Sonora, Mexico, where he encouraged members to pay their tithing. The Wall Street Journal on Saturday published a story on Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I guess my plea would be that it is really hard to boil this all down. Of that amount, the complaint alleges, $6 billion is spent on operating costs while the remaining $1 billion is transferred to Ensign Peak Advisors and added to the church’s investment portfolio. Last week his concerns spilled into the spotlight when he publicized a whistleblower complaint that his twin brother ... to a rapidly growing investment fund called Ensign Peak Advisors Inc. (EPA David released a statement stating “Any publi… So there’s that. “I remember sitting in dirt-poor people’s houses on my mission telling them that they needed to pay 10% or they wouldn’t get to see their family for eternity. And he won my heart by closing with a Tolkein reference. I wrote to Professor Hackney citing my article and soliciting his opinion. “To me, that’s low,” Quinn said of the complaint’s $7 billion income estimate, “very low for tithing.”. So he does have a point. The whistleblower is a Mormon who worked for the church until September. Nielsen said Ensign did not use the money for charitable purposes in the past 22 years, but had twice used the money to prop up businesses, once for an insurance company and the second time for the. It Was the Best-Kept Secret in the Investment World,” the Journal explored the remarkable growth of the investment fund. Reilly - Assuming IRS were to revoke Ensign's status, is there any chance at all that it would be retroactive? There is nothing in these allegations that indicates that LDS leadership is enriching itself. On the 17 th December, the Washington Post published an article about a former employee of Ensign Peak Advisors, (a not for profit corporation constituted under the direction of of the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). His other comment to me really gets to the heart of the matter. "I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer." A inside whistle blower has alleged the Mormon Church misled members on how a $100 billion investment fund was used. David Nielsen, himself a Mormon, worked at Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment division of the church, prior to filing the complaint. Nobody I work for has any responsibility for what goes into this blog and you should make no inference that they approve of it or even have read it. Brunson -Right. The 41-year-old is the former senior portfolio manager of the Church’s investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors. He is a former investment manager at Ensign Peak Advisors, the Post reported. Ensign Peak Advisors is an integrated auxiliary and supporting organization of the church and is tax exempt. If we view total expense in comparison to endowment if there were some payout requirement it would be met. There is this “commensurate in scope” test to be concerned about for a “supporting organization”. The whistleblower allegation that Ensign Peak Advisors, has in its over 20 years of existence accumulated over $100 billion dollars in excess … Nielsen was a senior portfolio manager and filed the complaint with his twin brother, Lars. The Post reported that the letter, according to a copy provided by Lars Nielsen, said, “his employment had become unworkable after his wife and children left the Mormon church and asked him to follow them.". (Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Visitors take in the sights at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on November 29, 2019. You may opt-out by. According to The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the complaint lodged with the IRS, the funds were held in accounts dedicated to charitable causes, and the church's investment division, Ensign Peak Advisors, was listed as a nonprofit organization. It is just not that big a one. So if the question is will the church lose its status, the answer is almost surely no. Latest. © 2020 Forbes Media LLC. Ensign is not a private foundation. The complaint was made to the IRS on Nov. 21 by David A. Nielsen, a former senior portfolio manager for Ensign Peak Advisors, the church’s … A former employee of the Church’s non-profit investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors, has complained to the IRS. The whistleblower. The complaint was filed by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon who worked until September as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors that is based near the church’s headquarters. I admire the Nielsens. I consulted with a couple of people who should know and that seems to be the common view.”. Hackney, who served in the IRS chief counsel’s office, has been retained by The Post to analyze the whistleblower documents.”. And there is really no provision that blows up the exemption of a church because it has saved up too much money. The article said Nielsen, until recently, worked at “Ensign Peak Advisors,” an investment company owned by the church and is responsible for church investments. Later reports indicated that Lars approached the Washington Post with the information, and that David was against releasing the information publicly. Nevertheless I do think that as a charitable tax law matter such an endowment that only ever invests money and never pays out raises real questions of the moral ought of the law. Why are churches treated differently when it comes to disclosure? ”. We were happy in the church. Is it really OK for the church to not be transparent about its finances? The argument is that a private foundation is supposed to distribute 5% of its assets. Ensign has a problem there. Here is our email exchange in interview format: Reilly - Suppose there was no separate tax exempt involved. I like the “Middle Road” approach to this story taken by Bishop Bill over on Wheat & Tares last Sunday. I have extensive experience with partnerships, real estate and high net worth individuals. The Wall Street Journal reports that word of the Mormon Church's stockpile came after a whistleblower complained to the Internal Revenue Service that the fund, named Ensign Peak Advisors… “In a declaration signed under penalty of perjury, Nielsen urges the IRS to strip the nonprofit of its tax-exempt status and alleges that Ensign could owe billions in taxes,” The Post reports. If it is an “integrated auxiliary” though, it is a different story. My ideology can be summarized at least metaphorically by this quote: Is there any question about how much wealth the church could accumulate? YW pres, primary pres, bishop, but it's not true. In June 2012, Nielsen founded his … While accumulating this wealth, Ensign has not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years, the complaint said. They are also raising important policy issues. Why doesn’t it just issue audited financial statements every year? Of all the experts I have communicated with Professor Brunson is the one with most serious concerns about Ensign. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. I heard from Lars Nielsen just as I was getting ready to wrap this piece up. The whistleblower in the case is David A. Nielsen, a former senior portfolio manager working with Ensign Peak Advisors. Lars’s ex-wife is also a cousin of Henry B. Eyring, one of the church’s most senior officials and, at its founding, a trustee of Ensign Peak Advisors. 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Ensign, as an integrated auxiliary of a church, would not be taxed on investment income such as interest, dividends and capital gains. It is an integrated auxiliary of a church. Most financial scandals involving churches involve the people running them looting them, not the church saving up too much money. The whistleblower complaint noted that David had concerns about some practices at EPA since 2013 and voiced some of those … I have been a CPA for over 30 years focusing on taxation. The confidential complaint was filed at the IRS on Nov. 21 by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon who worked as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors until September. And here is an hour long podcast interview with Professor Brunson by Gina Colvin. I saw your piece. The Washington Post report is based upon a whistleblower complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service by David Nielsen, 41, who until September worked for Ensign Peak Advisors, a company that manages the church’s investments. This story in the Salt Lake City Tribune by Jake Jenkins, LDS Church fund unlikely to face IRS backlash, experts say, features Professors Hackney and Brunson. The Washington Post has a story about a whistleblower’s disclosures to the IRS that Ensign Peak Advisors, Inc, founded in 1997, has accumulated over … He notes that there are two bases for Ensign’s exemption. That is not definitive, but it indicates that you don’t evaluate Ensign in isolation. Since it is registered as a "supporting organization and integrated auxiliary" of the church, it operates as a religious nonprofit largely exempt from U.S. taxes — provided that it operates exclusively for "religious, educational, or other charitable purposes." But what I was being asked was whether the brothers raised legitimate concerns. A whistleblower is accusing the Mormon church of allegedly violating federal tax laws and accumulating nearly $100 billion in charitable accounts. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Lars Nielsen, who provided the documents to reporters, said members deserve an apology from church leaders and the investment company. The Post says since Ensign is legally registered as a “supporting organization and integrated auxiliary of … Lars Nielsen, brother of whistleblower David Nielsen, explains how Ensign Peak Advisors allegedly operates. The Salt Lake Tribune, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) public charity and contributions are tax SALT LAKE CITY, UT - DECEMBER 17: A statue of Brigham Young, the second president of the Church of ... [+] Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, stands outside the historic Mormon Salt Lake Temple on December 17, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The whistleblower … You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. And how much should the church be salting away for a rainy day? To start viewing messages, select the forum that you … It’s not that paid labor is a welfare thing, but it is a useful way to make a living.”. If it wants to hoard money that's fine, but its investment income should be taxed just as every other individual or corporation's investment income is taxed. It’s been long enough that I can’t remember if it was framed as a cost-saving idea or as a way to ensure that members had a tighter connection/felt more ownership of the buildings. Over 22 … "If it is true that EPA must be an active supporting organization commensurate in scope to its assets, then, in the history of supporting organizations there may have never been one with such a small numerator (zero) and such a large denominator (>$100 B).”. The Washington Post report is based upon a whistleblower complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service by David Nielsen, 41, who until September worked for Ensign Peak Advisors, a company that manages the church’s investments. I also heard from Professor Samuel Brunson. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that a former investment manager with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has filed a whistleblower complaint with the … Religious groups are typically categorized as nonprofit organizations in the United States, meaning they are exempted from paying taxes on their income. According to an article published by The Washington Post, a whistleblower named David Nielsen sent a 74 page letter to the IRS accusing the church of stock piling and misusing $100 billion of tithing money. According to a report in the Washington Post, David Nielsen, a senior portfolio manager at the Mormon church’s investment division, known as “Ensign Peak,” left Ensign and became a whistleblower. Whistleblower - Ensign Peak Advisors; If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. Either way, the janitorial objection I find most compelling is that, by shifting it from paid to volunteer, we’re taking away one manner that we could provide jobs for people who aren’t able to find jobs. Nielsen said Ensign did not use the money for charitable purposes in the past 22 years, but had twice used the money to prop up businesses, once for an insurance company and the second time for … To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below. Ensign Peak Advisors' articles of incorporation confirm Ensign Peak is an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But if it is integrated maybe it is just a pocketbook for the church which puts it back to the previous question. Brunson - No, not really. But the law as it applies here seems ambiguous at best; to the extent Ensign Peak was on the wrong side of the line, I think it has a strong argument that it wasn’t deliberately there. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images). That’s because there is not much of a case. Under the headline “The Mormon Church Amassed $100 Billion. I refer to this as the “Al Capone” syndrome — the notion that the IRS is there to right wrongs rather than collect taxes. The complaint came from David Nielsen, a former employee of Ensign Peak who resigned earlier this year after his wife and children ended their church membership. That may be so and because of that the IRS would almost surely never challenge this situation. Professor Brunson was also interviewed by Paul Glader of Religion Unplugged. But if the question is whether the brothers raised real and legitimate questions that touch seriously on tax law in its largest sense, the answer is yes.”. According to an article published by The Washington Post, a whistleblower named David Nielsen sent a 74 page letter to the IRS accusing the church of stock piling and misusing $100 billion of tithing money. The whistleblower, David Nielsen, is a Mormon who worked for the church until September, his brother, Lars Nielsen, told CNN. (It is volunteer-driven, with only a couple levels of paid clergy, none of which are at the local congregation level.) Really, the IRS does not have the resources to regulate the not-for-profit sector and it is not very good at it when it tries. But the complaint alleges that Roger Clarke, the president of the church's investment division, Ensign Peak Advisors, said the funds would be used in the event of the second coming. One of the complaints that seems to come up a lot is that LDS does not have paid janitors. The identity of IRS whistleblowers is usually kept confidential, but Nielsen apparently wanted to expose his employer; his twin brother sent a copy of the whistleblower lawsuit to The Washington Post. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images), EY & Citi On The Importance Of Resilience And Innovation, Impact 50: Investors Seeking Profit — And Pushing For Change, Michigan Economic Development Corporation With Forbes Insights, It’s Not Just The Taxes And Tariffs: Why Biden Should Reconsider The Trans-Pacific Partnership. Giuliani Promotes Anti-Semitic 'One World' Government Theory On Fox News. “He is seeking a reward from the IRS, which offers whistleblowers a cut of unpaid taxes that it recovers.”. He wrote, “Wow, that is a lot of money. All rights reserved. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the subject of a new whistleblower complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service. He wrote a 74-page supplement to his complaint that criticized church leaders for continuing to seek tithing — 10% of a member’s income — despite having huge unspent reserves. The church also spends a significant amount on philanthropic ventures. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post which shared details from the complaint. This is likely the first time this particular question has come up, at least to this degree. I heard from Professor Phillip Hackney who was quoted in the Washington Post story: “`If you have a charity that simply amasses a war chest year after year and does not spend any money for charity purposes, that does not meet the requirements of tax law,’ Hackney said in an interview. “I am so utterly ashamed that her money, week after week, has gotten buried in a mountain, which is Ensign Peak Advisors.”. I suppose at some point, investment goals could swamp religious ones, but I’m not sure at what level that would be. I thought when I reviewed the WB complaint it would be a nothing. The 990-T that is in Mr. Nielsen’s document package was signed by the preparer the day before it was due. Nielsen Founded His Own Tech Startip in Silicon Valley in 2012. I could really nerd you out on how that question might be answered when the UBTI is being generated by partnerships, but the shortcut that Deloitte took of describing the trade or business as investing or investing in partnerships, rather than listing out the likely numerous businesses the partnerships were engaged in, was probably reasonable. The blank where it says book value of total assets does seem indicative of management holding out, but choosing not to answer a question that is not required to compute the tax is not something that puts you on the eve of destruction. If you don’t have the patience for the whole video check out the last five minutes or so. Really, it's way past time to look at taking away the tax-exempt status of churches. 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