Montana Gov. Steve Bullock this week urged the IRS to reconsider its proposed rules that would reduce donor disclosure rules for certain tax-exempt groups.
In comments to the IRS, Bullock reiterated his concern about the influence of “dark money” in politics and said the states may need donor information to enforce limits on nonprofit political activity.
“I am deeply concerned that the proposed rule will further degrade transparency for so-called ‘dark money’ groups that spend money to influence elections,” Bullock said in his comments. “Most concerning, the proposed rule threatens to invite foreign election influence and thwart the enforcement of state and federal prohibitions on foreign election spending.”
Bullock was part of a legal challenge to the IRS’s revenue procedure in 2018 eliminating the donor disclosure requirement for most 501(c) groups. In July, District Court Judge Brian Morris ruled that the IRS should have provided a notice-and-comment period before issuing the guidance. The IRS heeded that direction and in September published a new set of rules for nonprofit donor disclosure in the Federal Register, providing a 90-day public comment period that ends Dec. 9.
Under the proposed rules, trade associations and other 501(c) tax-exempt organizations would no longer be required to report the names and addresses of major donors on their Form 990 returns to the IRS. Organizations would still be required to collect donor information and provide it upon request to the IRS. Charities and other 501(c)(3) groups and Section 527 political groups would still be required to disclose donors as usual.
Treasury and IRS officials have said the agencies do not need names and addresses of donors to carry out tax enforcement and that there is a danger that donor information could be inadvertently made public.
“The need for the IRS and the states to be able to review the donor identifying information outweighs the minimal risks of inadvertent disclosure,” Bullock countered.