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Charities May Lose Tax Exempt Status

Although it is listed as one of 72 nonprofits in Westport in danger of losing its tax-exempt status, the Westport Interfaith Housing Association, better known as Homes With Hope, is in the clear, President and CEO Jeff Wieser said.

Because of a change to federal law in 2006, more than 5,000 nonprofits in the state, including the 72 in Westport, will lose their tax-exempt status unless they file federal tax returns by Oct. 15.

"I've been assured by our comptroller that we are well outside the concern for all that," Wieser said. "We have always filed taxes, as far as I know, as quickly as possible, so we're in good shape; it's a nonissue for us."

Before the 2006 law change, nonprofits weren't required to file tax returns if they collected less than $25,000 in nongrant contributions. Starting in the 2007 tax year, though, all organizations, no matter how small, have had to report to the Internal Revenue Service. And if an organization failed to file for three straight years, it'll lose its tax exemption automatically.

Although Homes With Hope, a locally grown organization that battles homelessness, is ahead of the curve, Carolanne Curry, president and founder of First Woman President Inc. — a nonprofit that provides help and resources to serious female candidates considering a run for the White House — said she has yet to file but plans to.

"I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity. I already put a couple calls out to new" certified public accountants, Curry said.

Although her organization is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status if she misses the deadline, Curry is optimistic she'll file on time. And if she doesn't, she said she's willing to reapply for tax-exempt status.

"I definitely don't want to go through that whole process again," Curry said. "But I would if I had to. That's how important I feel this organization is."

Originally, tax returns were due not later than May 17, but the IRS extended the deadline because so many nonprofits hadn't gotten the message. And if you still haven't filed, it's easy to do online .

If you've made a donation to a charity on the at-risk list, it's still tax deductible: The organization won't lose its tax-exempt status until the IRS updates its list of revoked organizations in January.

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