Several television ministries whose finances are being audited by the Internal Revenue Service in the wake of the PTL scandal are in danger of losing their federal tax exemptions, the IRS says.
Loss of the exemptions would mean future contributors could not claim tax deductions for donations to those ministries.The IRS investigated 23 TV ministries during the last quarter of 1988, the agency said in a report to Rep. J.J. Pickle, D-Texas, chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee. Pickle made parts of the report public on Monday.
"The service is continuing to devote significant examination resources to media evangelist cases," Robert I. Brauer, assistant commissioner for exempt organizations, said in a cover letter to Pickle. He identified six of those cases as involving prominent TV evangelists.
"We anticipate that several cases involving prominent media evangelists will move to the final stages of the examination process this year," Brauer wrote. "We also anticipate that some of these cases will present serious issues relating to continued federal income tax exemption."
The report names none of the 23 ministries; privacy laws prohibit such disclosure. However, it is known that one of those being probed by the IRS is PTL, which is fending off the IRS and several credits in bankruptcy court.
The report uses numbers to refer to the cases. No. 15, PTL, is under investigation for allegedly failing to pay tax on some of its unrelated income, including rental of part of its satellite network; for not reporting some of its income; and for allowing part of its funds to be used for the benefit of private individuals.
In public proceedings, the IRS has alleged that PTL paid excessive salaries to founder Jim Bakker and some of his associates.
PTL foundered and the IRS intensified its scrutiny of TV ministries after Jessica Hahn charged that Bakker associates paid her to keep quiet about allegations that she had been seduced by Bakker.
Pickle, in releasing the IRS report, said the agency and one prominent evangelist had reached an agreement that led to the minister's payment of back taxes, interest and penalties totaling more than $1 million over a four-year period. Key issues in that case were the minister's pay, housing and transportation.
The IRS said the cases under review also involve allegations of political activities, not fully reporting income, allowing earnings to benefit officials of the ministry, or failing to pay employment taxes on employees' wages.
Brauer's cover letter said two organizations connected with former Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson have refused to provide records of the type that other TV ministries have provided voluntarily.