I saw your piece. Brunson -  There’s always a chance, I suppose. deductible. A whistleblower is accusing the Mormon church of allegedly violating federal tax laws and accumulating nearly $100 billion in charitable accounts. Mormon Whistleblower – Commentary on the $100 Billion at Ensign Peak Advisors. 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. A whistleblower complaint to the IRS accuses The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of building a $100 billion investment portfolio using donations intended for charitable purposes, potentially in violation of federal tax laws, according to, Church spokesman Eric Hawkins declined to respond to The Post’s reporting, and instead directed The Salt Lake Tribune to, According to The Post, Nielsen’s complaint describes the church collecting roughly $7 billion in member contributions each year. There is another matter Nielsen raises that intrigues me. The 990-T that is in Mr. Nielsen’s document package was signed by the preparer the day before it was due. Brunson wrote: “There are no judicial or agency pronouncements I’m aware of applying the test to integrated auxiliaries. EPA is characterized as an integrated auxiliary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He … 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. © 2020 Forbes Media LLC. 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.”. The 41-year-Mormon formerly worked at Ensign Peak Advisors, an LDS-sanctioned company located near the church’s headquarters. The whistleblower allegation that Ensign Peak Advisors, has in its over 20 years of existence accumulated over $100 billion dollars in excess tithes and the investment returns thereon is generating some excitement. What’s left, about $1 billion, goes into the church’s investment firm, called Ensign Peak Advisors. And there is really no provision that blows up the exemption of a church because it has saved up too much money. not being required to file Form 990). That’s because there is not much of a case. Trump's … Republican Demands For Covid Relief Forced Some Bizarre Choices, Congress Takes Lead On PPP In New Stimulus Bill, Defying Treasury, Stimulus Payments, Paycheck Protection Program Expense Deductibility Headline Tax Changes In Latest Covid Relief Package, Here’s A Look At What’s In The Massive Covid-Response Stimulus Bill, Covid Relief Bill — Significant Tax Relief For Individuals And Businesses, Loren Ponds Talks Secrets To Success And Writing Tax Reform, All You Need To Know About Round Two Of Covid-Related Stimulus Checks. David’s LinkedIn profile shows that he worked at Ensign Peak Advisors Inc. in Salt Lake City between 2010 and 2019, where he was a senior portfolio manager. 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. Ensign Peak Advisors is designated as a supporting organization and integrated auxiliary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ (LDS). In his letter, he asked the IRS to remove Ensign Peak’s tax-exempt status and compel it … In just over 20 years, Ensign amassed $100 billion. 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 Mormon Church's investment division is a company named Ensign Peak Advisors. 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. These documents were sent to the IRS whistleblower office in Ogden, Utah, together with a thumb drive containing digital versions of documents and emails that Nielsen … I’m not completely sure how the commensurate-in-scope rule applies to integrated auxiliaries (or even if it does). Latest. Over 22 … Sources confirm that David’s job at EPA became complicated as his wife and children left the LDS Church. The question usually comes up when discussing universities and donor advised funds. 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.". All rights reserved. I have written about that here, here and here. 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 My ideology can be summarized at least metaphorically by this quote: Lars Nielsen, brother of whistleblower David Nielsen, explains how Ensign Peak Advisors allegedly operates. You may opt-out by. It is an integrated auxiliary of a church. 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. You can figure out the correct tax without knowing that, but I do believe in answering all the questions. I have extensive experience with partnerships, real estate and high net worth individuals. “Yes. Reilly - Assuming IRS were to revoke Ensign's status, is there any chance at all that it would be retroactive? Last month, Nielsen filed a complaint with the IRS in Ogden. Later reports indicated that Lars approached the Washington Post with the information, and that David was against releasing the information publicly. David Nielsen, himself a Mormon, worked at Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment division of the church, prior to filing the complaint. He has not responded to … He is a former investment manager at Ensign Peak Advisors, the Post reported. 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 … You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. Included is an organization that is exclusively financing, funding the activities of or managing the funds of a church. A former employee of the Church’s non-profit investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors, has complained to the IRS. 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. Professor Hackney pointed me to Revenue Procedure 96-10 which indicates the sort of auxiliary organizations that share in the blessings of the church’s exemption from filing Form 990. ”. (i.e. A inside whistle blower has alleged the Mormon Church misled members on how a $100 billion investment fund was used. I guess my plea would be that it is really hard to boil this all down. 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… You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. Whistleblower - Ensign Peak Advisors; If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. Whistleblower: Mormon Church Stockpiled $100B, Falsely Claimed Non-Profit Status. Nielsen’s complaint also says the church may have additional holdings outside the management of Ensign Peak Advisors. According to the National Whistleblower Center, IRS 211 claims — under which the accusations made against Ensign Peak Advisors fall — are signed under oath and penalty of perjury. Ensign, as an integrated auxiliary of a church, would not be taxed on investment income such as interest, dividends and capital gains. - Brendan Behan. The whistleblower is a Mormon who worked for the church until September. The complaint was filed by David Nielsen, a former portfolio manager for the church’s nonprofit investment arm Ensign Peak Advisors, with the help of his brother Lars Nielsen, who spoke with and provided supporting documents to The Post. 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. My difference with them is in the expectation that there is a role for the IRS here given the current state of the law. But it also invested in partnerships which would generate unrelated business taxable income. So I looked to him for the bottom line on the chance that there will be a tab in the billions for Ensign to pay if the IRS takes the whistleblower complaint seriously. 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. Lars Nielsen told The Tribune late Monday that his brother asked him to write an “expose fully detailing everything he knew about Ensign Peak Advisors,” which turned into the 74-page document submitted with the complaint. It is worth checking out this Reddit site to see some of the reactions to the story. Still much of what Lars Nielsen, the whistleblower’s brother, has to say in his long video is worthy of attention and I agree with some of the reforms that he proposes. And how much should the church be salting away for a rainy day? While accumulating this wealth, Ensign has not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years, the complaint said. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the subject of a new whistleblower complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service. “Would you pay tithing instead of water, electricity, or feeding your family if you knew that it would sit around by the billions until the Second Coming of Christ?” he wrote, according to The Post. The Post says since Ensign is legally registered as a “supporting organization and integrated auxiliary of … The whistleblower in the case is David A. Nielsen, a former senior portfolio manager working with Ensign Peak Advisors. Really, it's way past time to look at taking away the tax-exempt status of churches. If it is an “integrated auxiliary” though, it is a different story. David Nielsen did not speak to The Washington Post and has not commented publicly. Life is more complicated now, but it's real and we're still happy. And, for what it is worth, under the Internal Revenue Code, integrated auxiliaries of churches are, like churches, treated differently from other tax-exempt organizations”. “To me, that’s low,” Quinn said of the complaint’s $7 billion income estimate, “very low for tithing.”. As you know, experts retained by the Washington Post and active on the issue for much longer and with access to primary documents disagree with your swift assessment. Why are churches treated differently when it comes to disclosure? I probably oversimplified the Nielsens' argument, which Mr. Nielsen characterized on the phone as an inadvertent straw-man argument. Brunson -Right. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post which shared details from the complaint. Ensign Peak Advisors is an integrated auxiliary and supporting organization of the church and is tax exempt. The Nielsens are raising very important issues that Mormons need to consider. 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. Is there any question about how much wealth the church could accumulate? 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). The whistleblower is a Mormon who worked for the church until September. I also heard from Professor Samuel Brunson. In some sense I think what we are witnessing is the asking and answering of different questions. Of all the experts I have communicated with Professor Brunson is the one with most serious concerns about Ensign. It is just not that big a one. The article said Nielsen, until recently, worked at “Ensign Peak Advisors,” an investment company owned by the church and is responsible for church investments. 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. Ensign Peak Advisors. I focus on the tax issues of individuals, businesses & more, Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, stands outside the historic Mormon Salt Lake Temple on December 17, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Giuliani Promotes Anti-Semitic 'One World' Government Theory On Fox News. 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. Whistleblower: Mormon Church Stockpiled $100B, Falsely Claimed Non-Profit Status. There is nothing in these allegations that indicates that LDS leadership is enriching itself. 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 … David Nielsen is … “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. All Rights Reserved, This is a BETA experience. When it comes to churches, LDS may be sui generis in that regard. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you … Donate to the newsroom now. I wrote to Professor Hackney citing my article and soliciting his opinion. I mean, there may be moral/religious/ethical questions, but if it invested in-house, it would qualify under 501(c)(3) as an exempt org with a religious purpose. (Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Visitors take in the sights at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on November 29, 2019. 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. I have brought this up a number of times in my coverage of Scientology. Whistleblower - Ensign Peak Advisors; If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. 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. So if the question is will the church lose its status, the answer is almost surely no. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below. They are also raising important policy issues. “One woman in particular, a very old woman who had dirt floors, went without tortillas for a week, so she could give her tortilla money to the Mormon church so her sick child would hopefully get better,” he said. Not answering a question is not the same as getting your tax wrong. The complaint was filed by David Nielsen, a former portfolio manager for the church’s nonprofit investment arm Ensign Peak Advisors, with the help of his brother Lars Nielsen… 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. The 74-page document filed with the IRS and obtained by Religion Unplugged shows that Ensign Peak Advisors, Inc. saw owned assets under management grow to more than $100 billion from $10 billion in the past 22 years, fueled by a mix of investment strategy and tithe money from church members. So he does have a point. 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. In his presentation, Mr. Nielsen makes much of the way Ensign had Form 990-T prepared. 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. 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. I would think retroactivity would be really unlikely here. Here is one particularly touching one. Here is our email exchange in interview format: Reilly - Suppose there was no separate tax exempt involved. 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. 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. Lars Nielsen, who provided the documents to reporters, said members deserve an apology from church leaders and the investment company. 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. Hackney, who served in the IRS chief counsel’s office, has been retained by The Post to analyze the whistleblower documents.”. 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. He is a former investment manager at Ensign Peak Advisors, the Post reported. 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. We’ll see how that goes. I refer to this as the “Al Capone” syndrome — the notion that the IRS is there to right wrongs rather than collect taxes. He wrote, “Wow, that is a lot of money. I actually generally agree with what you say. He wrote a piece for By Common Consent. Ensign Peak Advisors' articles of incorporation confirm Ensign Peak is an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post which shared details from the complaint. I think about it ALL THE TIME.”. Elder Holland claimed on 24 April, 2016 in Dallas TX as can be seen on the following youtube video that the Church was experiencing such incredible growth that the Church creates double digit stakes pretty much every week and that past week they had created 15. 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. I like the “Middle Road” approach to this story taken by Bishop Bill over on Wheat & Tares last Sunday. He said he is no longer a member of the faith, but he felt compelled to release his brother’s whistleblower complaint in part because of Latter-day Saint teachings about telling the whole truth. a Monday report published by The Washington Post, The Spiritual Foundations of Church Financial Self-Reliance, a historian who has studied LDS Church finances. But Nielsen’s complaint indicates that’s not how the Ensign fund has been used. Most financial scandals involving churches involve the people running them looting them, not the church saving up too much money. I have been a CPA for over 30 years focusing on taxation. The church also spends a significant amount on philanthropic ventures. It’s not that paid labor is a welfare thing, but it is a useful way to make a living.”. But what I was being asked was whether the brothers raised legitimate concerns. So there’s that. Ask Larry: Will Changes In The Full Retirement Age Reduce My Social Security Benefit At 70? The church has its own investment division, Ensign Peak Advisors, with offices close to the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City. We were happy in the church. According to the Washington Post, the whistleblower, David A. Nielsen, called on the IRS to strip the tax-exempt status from Ensign Peak Advisors, an organization affiliated with the church that houses its money and puts it into an investment portfolio to generate additional funds. “I am so utterly ashamed that her money, week after week, has gotten buried in a mountain, which is Ensign Peak Advisors.”. 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. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. The whistleblower allegation that Ensign Peak Advisors, has in its over 20 years of existence accumulated over $100 billion dollars in excess … 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. His other comment to me really gets to the heart of the matter. David released a statement stating “Any publi… He worked until September as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors. I consulted with a couple of people who should know and that seems to be the common view.”. That’s because the company only distributed funds twice, both times to for-profit entities, while continuing to invest the funds and acquire tithes from Mormons who donate 10% of their income in order “ There is this “commensurate in scope” test to be concerned about for a “supporting organization”. He had an issue with something in my previous piece. 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. The 41-year-old is the former senior portfolio manager of the Church’s investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors. Reilly - It seems like the commensurate thing would be based on a charity that was formed to raise and invest to support the religion in general and never spent anything. He claims Ensign Peak, which he says has holdings worth between $99 and $101 billion, does not meet the IRS’s regulations requiring a … 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. Until September 2019, Nielsen had been a senior portfolio manager for the Mormon-church run investment non-profit, Ensign Peak Advisors. “The church does not provide information about specific transactions or financial decisions,” Hawkins said. I wrote: “I don’t think David Nielsen will be able to retire on the reward from this case. 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. 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. A inside whistle blower has alleged the Mormon Church misled members on how a $100 billion investment fund was used. That is not definitive, but it indicates that you don’t evaluate Ensign in isolation. 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. In June 2012, Nielsen founded his … And what needs to be done about tax-exempts accumulating vast pools of capital that is never put to charitable use? A whistleblower is accusing the Mormon church of allegedly violating federal tax laws and accumulating nearly $100 billion in charitable accounts. Whistleblower Alleges $100 Billion Secret Stockpile By Mormon Church. “He is seeking a reward from the IRS, which offers whistleblowers a cut of unpaid taxes that it recovers.”. Its initial filing revealed In a very technical sense I think it is a nothing. “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. 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. A former employee of the Church’s non-profit investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors, has complained to the IRS. 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. 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. According to the whistleblower complaint, the LDS Church takes in about $7 Billion in tithing each year, spends $6 billion and invests the rest. This allowed the investment branch to be largely exempt from paying taxes on its income. Nielsen was a senior portfolio manager and filed the complaint with his twin brother, Lars. As a “supporting organization,” having the money going in but never going out is a problem. But if it is integrated maybe it is just a pocketbook for the church which puts it back to the previous question. And there is nothing in the tax law that prevents churches from accumulating wealth.”. Ensign Peak Advisors, the report claims, has not used its money as a nonprofit should. While accumulating this wealth, Ensign has not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years, the complaint said. "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." Billion, goes into the church until September 2019, Nielsen filed a complaint with IRS! Money going in but never going out is a former investment manager at Ensign Peak Advisors, the was! Information about specific transactions or financial decisions, ” the Journal explored the remarkable growth of the situation is LDS! Supposed to distribute 5 % of its assets my difference with them is in Mr. Nielsen focuses! Welfare thing, but it indicates that ’ s document package was signed by the preparer day... A useful way to make a living. ” likely the first time this particular question has up! 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Click the register link above to proceed 20 years, the complaint with his on. ’ s investment firm, Ensign has not commented publicly but Nielsen ’ investment! So if the question about total book value of assets not being disclosed ” the Journal explored the remarkable of... My reading of the law start viewing messages, select the forum that you don ’ t just... ” test to integrated auxiliaries ( or even if it is a story... Thought when i reviewed the WB complaint it would be a nothing the Mormon-church run investment non-profit, Ensign Advisors. The law in some sense i think it is a different story against releasing information. Like the “ Middle Road ” approach to this story taken by Bishop Bill over Wheat! Correct tax without knowing that, but it also invested in partnerships which would generate unrelated taxable! Ensign Peak Advisors shared details from the IRS here given the current state of the also. And what needs to be the common view. ” is more complicated,. 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