That is not definitive, but it indicates that you don’t evaluate Ensign in isolation. (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. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below. 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 suppose at some point, investment goals could swamp religious ones, but I’m not sure at what level that would be. I have extensive experience with partnerships, real estate and high net worth individuals. 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. In his presentation, Mr. Nielsen makes much of the way Ensign had Form 990-T prepared. In some sense I think what we are witnessing is the asking and answering of different questions. 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. Ensign Peak Advisors is designated as a supporting organization and integrated auxiliary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints’ (LDS). Maybe if we knew what they were going to do with it there wouldn’t be such a surprise to members. He claims Ensign Peak, which he says has holdings worth between $99 and $101 billion, does not meet the IRS’s regulations requiring a … Ensign, as an integrated auxiliary of a church, would not be taxed on investment income such as interest, dividends and capital gains. David released a statement stating “Any publi… 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. And what needs to be done about tax-exempts accumulating vast pools of capital that is never put to charitable use? I have been a CPA for over 30 years focusing on taxation. If we view total expense in comparison to endowment if there were some payout requirement it would be met. By Susie Madrak. Really, it's way past time to look at taking away the tax-exempt status of churches. 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. 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… Whistleblower: Mormon Church Stockpiled $100B, Falsely Claimed Non-Profit Status. 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. I actually generally agree with what you say. Brunson wrote: “There are no judicial or agency pronouncements I’m aware of applying the test to integrated auxiliaries. 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. (Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Visitors take in the sights at Temple Square in Salt Lake City on November 29, 2019. Furthermore the church pays out lots of money every year from its tithing. 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. One of the complaints that seems to come up a lot is that LDS does not have paid janitors. Sources confirm that David’s job at EPA became complicated as his wife and children left the LDS Church. 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. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images). The whistleblower complaint noted that David had concerns about some practices at EPA since 2013 and voiced some of those … The Post says since Ensign is legally registered as a “supporting organization and integrated auxiliary of … A inside whistle blower has alleged the Mormon Church misled members on how a $100 billion investment fund was used. 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. 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. 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. So there’s that. 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. He … Whistleblower - Ensign Peak Advisors; If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. I asked Professor Brunson about that. Most financial scandals involving churches involve the people running them looting them, not the church saving up too much money. 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. In just over 20 years, Ensign amassed $100 billion. A church-owned ‘anti-bank’ Consider what happened in … I saw your piece. He notes that there are two bases for Ensign’s exemption. Not answering a question is not the same as getting your tax wrong. I’ve decided to call the matter Ensigngate. Ensign Peak Advisors. The 41-year-old is the former senior portfolio manager of the Church’s investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors. 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. All rights reserved. Or would they just turn the money over to the church and fade away? Trump's … 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. 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 … A former employee of the Church’s non-profit investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors, has complained to the IRS. 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. © 2020 Forbes Media LLC. In a very technical sense I think it is a nothing. 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. According to the whistleblower complaint, the LDS Church takes in about $7 Billion in tithing each year, spends $6 billion and invests the rest. deductible. It is worth checking out this Reddit site to see some of the reactions to the story. As a “supporting organization,” having the money going in but never going out is a problem. The church has its own investment division, Ensign Peak Advisors, with offices close to the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the subject of a new whistleblower complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service. I have been a CPA for over 30 years focusing on taxation. 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. In 2019, the Washington Post reported a whistleblower complaint had been filed with the Internal Revenue Service(IRS) by a former EP employee, David A. Nielsen, that brought national attention to the reported size of the investments. 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. The church reports spending $2.2 billion since 1985 through LDS Charities. 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. “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. Brunson -Right. The argument is that a private foundation is supposed to distribute 5% of its assets. 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. I would think retroactivity would be really unlikely here. Donate to the newsroom now. 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. I’m sticking with EPA being an integrated auxiliary that does not have a distribution requirement. His other comment to me really gets to the heart of the matter. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. When it comes to churches, LDS may be sui generis in that regard. I probably oversimplified the Nielsens' argument, which Mr. Nielsen characterized on the phone as an inadvertent straw-man argument. He is a former investment manager at Ensign Peak Advisors, the Post reported. 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. He wrote, “Wow, that is a lot of money. He wrote a piece for By Common Consent. The article said Nielsen, until recently, worked at “Ensign Peak Advisors,” an investment company owned by the church and is responsible for church investments. By Susie Madrak on Tue, 12/17/2019 - 5:48am. Nielsen reportedly sent Ensign a resignation letter dated Aug. 29. It is just not that big a one. 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. Mormon Whistleblower – Commentary on the $100 Billion at Ensign Peak Advisors. Why are churches treated differently when it comes to disclosure? As an integral part of the Mormon church, Ensign is required to operate exclusively for religious, educational, or other charitable purposes. Its initial filing revealed You may opt-out by. A whistleblower is accusing the Mormon church of allegedly violating federal tax laws and accumulating nearly $100 billion in charitable accounts. “To me, that’s low,” Quinn said of the complaint’s $7 billion income estimate, “very low for tithing.”. Over 22 … And there is nothing in the tax law that prevents churches from accumulating wealth.”. 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. The Mormon Church's investment division is a company named Ensign Peak Advisors. But it also invested in partnerships which would generate unrelated business taxable income. Ensign Peak Advisors is an integrated auxiliary and supporting organization of the church and is tax exempt. “Yes. We fit in. I have brought this up a number of times in my coverage of Scientology. 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. “He is seeking a reward from the IRS, which offers whistleblowers a cut of unpaid taxes that it recovers.”. 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. 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. 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. While accumulating this wealth, Ensign has not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years, the complaint said. David Nielsen did not speak to The Washington Post and has not commented publicly. Nielsen Founded His Own Tech Startip in Silicon Valley in 2012. - Brendan Behan. “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. My ideology can. You can figure out the correct tax without knowing that, but I do believe in answering all the questions. The whistleblower, David Nielsen, is a Mormon who worked for the church until September, his brother, Lars Nielsen, told CNN. There is another matter Nielsen raises that intrigues me. Whistleblower - Ensign Peak Advisors; If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. 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. Ensign is not a private foundation. The question usually comes up when discussing universities and donor advised funds. According to the whistleblower complaint, the LDS Church takes in about $7 Billion in tithing each year, spends $6 billion and invests the rest. The Salt Lake Tribune, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) public charity and contributions are tax “I am so utterly ashamed that her money, week after week, has gotten buried in a mountain, which is Ensign Peak Advisors.”. But if it is integrated maybe it is just a pocketbook for the church which puts it back to the previous question. 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. Life is more complicated now, but it's real and we're still happy. Professor Brunson was also interviewed by Paul Glader of Religion Unplugged. 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. The whistleblower is a Mormon who worked for the church until September. Religious groups are typically categorized as nonprofit organizations in the United States, meaning they are exempted from paying taxes on their income. Why doesn’t it just issue audited financial statements every year? 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." It’s not that paid labor is a welfare thing, but it is a useful way to make a living.”. A whistleblower is accusing the Mormon church of allegedly violating federal tax laws and accumulating nearly $100 billion in charitable accounts. 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”. Nielsen’s complaint also says the church may have additional holdings outside the management of Ensign Peak Advisors. Mr. Nielsen also focuses on the question about total book value of assets not being disclosed. My ideology can be summarized at least metaphorically by this quote: Giuliani Promotes Anti-Semitic 'One World' Government Theory On Fox News. I wrote to Professor Hackney citing my article and soliciting his opinion. I also heard from Professor Samuel Brunson. In June 2012, Nielsen founded his … 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. We’ll see how that goes. 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. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below. 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. All Rights Reserved, This is a BETA experience. I have extensive experience with partnerships, real estate and high net worth individuals. In his letter, he asked the IRS to remove Ensign Peak’s tax-exempt status and compel it … Last month, Nielsen filed a complaint with the IRS in Ogden. I wrote: “I don’t think David Nielsen will be able to retire on the reward from this case. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post which shared details from the complaint. 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. It Was the Best-Kept Secret in the Investment World,” the Journal explored the remarkable growth of the investment fund. My reading of the situation is that not much thought went into trade or business question. David Nielsen is … Ensign Peak Advisors, the report claims, has not used its money as a nonprofit should. That’s because there is not much of a case. But what I was being asked was whether the brothers raised legitimate concerns. (i.e. It makes me sick. 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. Reilly - Assuming IRS were to revoke Ensign's status, is there any chance at all that it would be retroactive? The whistleblower. “The church does not provide information about specific transactions or financial decisions,” Hawkins said. 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.”. "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).”. Here is our email exchange in interview format: Reilly - Suppose there was no separate tax exempt involved. If you don’t have the patience for the whole video check out the last five minutes or so. Here is one particularly touching one. And here is an hour long podcast interview with Professor Brunson by Gina Colvin. He wrote me: “As for janitors: it’s within my lifetime that the church shifted from paid janitors to asking members to clean the church. 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 … Is it really OK for the church to not be transparent about its finances? 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. The church also spends a significant amount on philanthropic ventures. The whistleblower … I thought when I reviewed the WB complaint it would be a nothing. 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. Until September 2019, Nielsen had been a senior portfolio manager for the Mormon-church run investment non-profit, Ensign Peak Advisors. I refer to this as the “Al Capone” syndrome — the notion that the IRS is there to right wrongs rather than collect taxes. And how much should the church be salting away for a rainy day? But you should know how much you gave their (Ensign Peak Advisors) slush fund since the COP (Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) created it … The Nielsens are raising very important issues that Mormons need to consider. Latest. The 990-T that is in Mr. Nielsen’s document package was signed by the preparer the day before it was due. I heard from Lars Nielsen just as I was getting ready to wrap this piece up. There is nothing in these allegations that indicates that LDS leadership is enriching itself. This is likely the first time this particular question has come up, at least to this degree. 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. But Nielsen’s complaint indicates that’s not how the Ensign fund has been used. There is this “commensurate in scope” test to be concerned about for a “supporting organization”. Brunson - No, not really. 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 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… 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 whistleblower in the case is David A. Nielsen, a former senior portfolio manager working with Ensign Peak Advisors. 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. sltrib.com © 1996-2020 The Salt Lake Tribune. That may be so and because of that the IRS would almost surely never challenge this situation. Later reports indicated that Lars approached the Washington Post with the information, and that David was against releasing the information publicly. “My responsibility and allegiance is to the truth; we can't get there without faithfully presenting every possible alternative and eliminating them with careful and transparent evidence. We were happy in the church. He is a former investment manager at Ensign Peak Advisors, the Post reported. Ensign Peak Advisors' articles of incorporation confirm Ensign Peak is an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hackney, who served in the IRS chief counsel’s office, has been retained by The Post to analyze the whistleblower documents.”. 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. “ i don ’ t it just issue audited financial statements every year its! 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