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 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." The church also spends a significant amount on philanthropic ventures. By Susie Madrak. 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 … The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the subject of a new whistleblower complaint filed with the Internal Revenue Service. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below. You can figure out the correct tax without knowing that, but I do believe in answering all the questions. © 2020 Forbes Media LLC. Nielsen reportedly sent Ensign a resignation letter dated Aug. 29. My difference with them is in the expectation that there is a role for the IRS here given the current state of the law. “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. If we view total expense in comparison to endowment if there were some payout requirement it would be met. As a “supporting organization,” having the money going in but never going out is a problem. 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. You may opt-out by. Mr. Nielsen also focuses on the question about total book value of assets not being disclosed. “The church does not provide information about specific transactions or financial decisions,” Hawkins said. I also heard from Professor Samuel Brunson. 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. 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 … 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. It is an integrated auxiliary of a church. Ensign Peak Advisors' articles of incorporation confirm Ensign Peak is an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 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 wrote: “I don’t think David Nielsen will be able to retire on the reward from this case. A former employee of the Church’s non-profit investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors, has complained to the IRS. Ensign is not a private foundation. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. 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. The 41-year-old is the former senior portfolio manager of the Church’s investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors. The whistleblower, David Nielsen, is a Mormon who worked for the church until September, his brother, Lars Nielsen, told CNN. 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. I consulted with a couple of people who should know and that seems to be the common view.”. 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. But we would expect that in a preliminary and open forum of civic discussion. 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. I actually generally agree with what you say. Why doesn’t it just issue audited financial statements every year? I’m sticking with EPA being an integrated auxiliary that does not have a distribution requirement. The whistleblower … Mormon Whistleblower – Commentary on the $100 Billion at Ensign Peak Advisors. 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 … Ensign Peak Advisors' articles of incorporation confirm Ensign Peak is an arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is worth checking out this Reddit site to see some of the reactions to the story. That is not definitive, but it indicates that you don’t evaluate Ensign in isolation. But it also invested in partnerships which would generate unrelated business taxable income. Latest. 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. The whistleblower. deductible. He is a former investment manager at Ensign Peak Advisors, the Post reported. 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. (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. 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. David released a statement stating “Any publi… sltrib.com © 1996-2020 The Salt Lake Tribune. 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. If you don’t have the patience for the whole video check out the last five minutes or so. (It is volunteer-driven, with only a couple levels of paid clergy, none of which are at the local congregation level.) 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. And here is an hour long podcast interview with Professor Brunson by Gina Colvin. 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. Lars Nielsen, brother of whistleblower David Nielsen, explains how Ensign Peak Advisors allegedly operates. This allowed the investment branch to be largely exempt from paying taxes on its income. According to the whistleblower complaint, the LDS Church takes in about $7 Billion in tithing each year, spends $6 billion and invests the rest. I refer to this as the “Al Capone” syndrome — the notion that the IRS is there to right wrongs rather than collect taxes. The question usually comes up when discussing universities and donor advised funds. David Nielsen did not speak to The Washington Post and has not commented publicly. We fit in. In his presentation, Mr. Nielsen makes much of the way Ensign had Form 990-T prepared. “Yes. I have extensive experience with partnerships, real estate and high net worth individuals. I like the “Middle Road” approach to this story taken by Bishop Bill over on Wheat & Tares last Sunday. 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. 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. This is likely the first time this particular question has come up, at least to this degree. 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. 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." I have expressed the view that there is probably nothing for the IRS to investigate. 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. 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. Ensign has a problem there. Of all the experts I have communicated with Professor Brunson is the one with most serious concerns about Ensign. Why are churches treated differently when it comes to disclosure? In some sense I think what we are witnessing is the asking and answering of different questions. While accumulating this wealth, Ensign has not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years, the complaint said. Included is an organization that is exclusively financing, funding the activities of or managing the funds of a church. 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. 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. “I am so utterly ashamed that her money, week after week, has gotten buried in a mountain, which is Ensign Peak Advisors.”. But Nielsen’s complaint indicates that’s not how the Ensign fund has been used. Is there any question about how much wealth the church could accumulate? Whistleblower - Ensign Peak Advisors; If this is your first visit, be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above. The whistleblower in the case is David A. Nielsen, a former senior portfolio manager working with Ensign Peak Advisors. And what needs to be done about tax-exempts accumulating vast pools of capital that is never put to charitable use? 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. 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. 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. I’m not completely sure how the commensurate-in-scope rule applies to integrated auxiliaries (or even if it does). But if it is integrated maybe it is just a pocketbook for the church which puts it back to the previous question. Whistleblower: Mormon Church Stockpiled $100B, Falsely Claimed Non-Profit Status. He … Brunson -  There’s always a chance, I suppose. Reilly - Assuming IRS were to revoke Ensign's status, is there any chance at all that it would be retroactive? All Rights Reserved, This is a BETA experience. All rights reserved. The Salt Lake Tribune, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) public charity and contributions are tax He had an issue with something in my previous piece. I admire the Nielsens. A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post which shared details from the complaint. 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. The church reports spending $2.2 billion since 1985 through LDS Charities. And there is nothing in the tax law that prevents churches from accumulating wealth.”. 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. So he does have a point. It’s not that paid labor is a welfare thing, but it is a useful way to make a living.”. 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 Monday report published by The Washington Post, The Spiritual Foundations of Church Financial Self-Reliance, a historian who has studied LDS Church finances. 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 whistleblower is a Mormon who worked for the church until September. I have written about that here, here and here. The whistleblower complaint noted that David had concerns about some practices at EPA since 2013 and voiced some of those … I would think retroactivity would be really unlikely here. My ideology can. Furthermore the church pays out lots of money every year from its tithing. Whistleblower Alleges $100 Billion Secret Stockpile By Mormon Church. Ensign, as an integrated auxiliary of a church, would not be taxed on investment income such as interest, dividends and capital gains. They are also raising important policy issues. 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. Is it really OK for the church to not be transparent about its finances? Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. 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. Reality is the church likely has sufficient technical reasons to pursue the path it has pursued. 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. The whistleblower allegation that Ensign Peak Advisors, has in its over 20 years of existence accumulated over $100 billion dollars in excess … The whistleblower is a Mormon who worked for the church until September. Donate to the newsroom now. Nielsen was a senior portfolio manager and filed the complaint with his twin brother, Lars. 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. Giuliani Promotes Anti-Semitic 'One World' Government Theory On Fox News. I have brought this up a number of times in my coverage of Scientology. It Was the Best-Kept Secret in the Investment World,” the Journal explored the remarkable growth of the investment fund. He has not responded to … In his letter, he asked the IRS to remove Ensign Peak’s tax-exempt status and compel it … He is a former investment manager at Ensign Peak Advisors, the Post reported. To start viewing messages, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below. And how much should the church be salting away for a rainy day? A copy of the report was obtained by The Washington Post which shared details from the complaint. 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. That money isn’t being spent on charitable endeavors, as required by law. You may have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed. 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.”. In June 2012, Nielsen founded his … In a very technical sense I think it is a nothing. I’ve decided to call the matter Ensigngate. So if the question is will the church lose its status, the answer is almost surely no. Under the headline “The Mormon Church Amassed $100 Billion. “To me, that’s low,” Quinn said of the complaint’s $7 billion income estimate, “very low for tithing.”. 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.". 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. Here is our email exchange in interview format: Reilly - Suppose there was no separate tax exempt involved. That’s because there is not much of a case. 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 … A inside whistle blower has alleged the Mormon Church misled members on how a $100 billion investment fund was used. The church has its own investment division, Ensign Peak Advisors, with offices close to the church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City. Nielsen Founded His Own Tech Startip in Silicon Valley in 2012. His other comment to me really gets to the heart of the matter. Religious groups are typically categorized as nonprofit organizations in the United States, meaning they are exempted from paying taxes on their income. The complaint was shared with The Post by Lars Nielsen of Minnesota, who said he worked with his brother on the complaint. “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. My ideology can be summarized at least metaphorically by this quote: 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. Ensign Peak Advisors is an integrated auxiliary and supporting organization of the church and is tax exempt. Later reports indicated that Lars approached the Washington Post with the information, and that David was against releasing the information publicly. He notes that there are two bases for Ensign’s exemption. A whistleblower is accusing the Mormon church of allegedly violating federal tax laws and accumulating nearly $100 billion in charitable accounts. By Susie Madrak on Tue, 12/17/2019 - 5:48am. I think about it ALL THE TIME.”. 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”. 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. 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. 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. 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. Ensign Peak Advisors, the report claims, has not used its money as a nonprofit should. The Nielsens are raising very important issues that Mormons need to consider. Not answering a question is not the same as getting your tax wrong. 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 “ He claims Ensign Peak, which he says has holdings worth between $99 and $101 billion, does not meet the IRS’s regulations requiring a … In most situations, it would need to qualify as exempt on its own, but if it can rest its exemption on being really tightly connected to the Mormon church, then there’s probably not a problem. 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. 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