Charleston Waterkeeper loses IRS tax-exempt status, but has backup

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- According to Internal Revenue Service documents, Charleston Waterkeeper has lost its 501(c)(3) status, but donations are still tax exempt thanks to their national sponsor.According to the IRS, the tax-exempt status was revoked in May 2012 because they failed "to file a Form 990-series return or notice for three consecutive years." This means that, according to the IRS, donations to Charleston Waterkeeper are no longer tax-deductible.However, the Waterkeeper Alliance, which Charleston Waterkeeper is a member of, has a temporary fiscal sponsorship program that allows them "to raise tax-deductible funds and apply for grants while your application for charitable status is reviewed."So all donations to Charleston Waterkeeper are still tax-exempt under the national organization's umbrella.The revocation came to light in a mass email from former supporter Ken Bonerigo."After repeated discussions and emails requesting financial information be made available for inspection not only have my and others calls for financial transparency been ignored my request that the Charleston Waterkeeper organization inform supporters and donors of their tax exempt status has also been ignored," he said. "In my opinion not informing those who have supported and donated to the organization of this apparent lapse is not only unethical but calls into question the integrity of the organization as a whole. With the organizations future in doubt continuing to accept donations without full financial discloser must end."Executive Director Cyrus Buffum responded to Bonerigo's email with the following."On March 18, 2013, we received a notification from the IRS stating that our 501c3 designation had been revoked. The reason for the automatic revocation was due to our failure to submit necessary filings for three consecutive years: 2009, 2010, 2011. From 2009-2011 Charleston Waterkeeper operated and accepted donations under Waterkeeper Alliance's 501c3 status. Eventually, on August 31, 2011, we received our own 501c3 designation from the IRS. We, however, neglected to realize our responsibilities to file an e-Postcard, a summarized annual filing to the IRS, for the years we operated under the Waterkeeper Alliance's fiscal sponsorship. This administrative oversight lead to our automatic revocation as seen in the IRS's explanation here:

Since learning of this issue, we have been working with our general counsel and CPA to correct the error and are seeking retroactive reinstatement of our 501c3 status. All documentation is scheduled to be submitted this month, and all filings will be available to the public.Our status as a nonprofit organization has not changed, and all donations to Charleston Waterkeeper continue to be tax-deductible under our fiscal sponsor, the Waterkeeper Alliance."A staff member with Waterkeeper Alliance verified that Charleston Waterkeeper became part of the fiscal sponsorship program when their 501(c)(3) status was pulled from the IRS. She said the program usually covers organizations for about a year while they iron out their issues with the IRS.

Charleston Waterkeeper is a nonprofit organization that focuses on water quality issues in the Ashley/Cooper River Basin,{} monitoring Charleston's{}waterways for pollution in the Charleston Harbor, the Ashley, Cooper, Wando, and Stono Rivers,{}and coastal areas.