David L. Thompson, vice president of public policy for the National Council for Nonprofits, told Montana Watchdog in a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., there is increased tension nationwide over tax exempt status.
“It happens whenever a city or locality runs out of money,” he said, adding a nonprofit’s job is to earn its nonprofit exemption every day.
He said the mix of what nonprofits pay and don’t pay is part history, part negotiation and part bargain struck between the organization and the community.
“Our books are open,” Thompson said. “We can’t run a political campaign to knock off mayor so and so. We have to give back to the communities. We have to earn it.”
He said many nonprofits, such as YMCAs, reduce costs to governments. He said a typical YMCA supervises children in afterschool programs rather than have them get into trouble and be a burden on the justice system.
Thompson said the danger with some committees or panels discussing nonprofits is the “cherry picking” in which members zero in on one item.
“It has to be the whole package of what we give,” he said, adding that it is usually prompted by claims of unfair competition. “Nonprofits usually pay a lot more into community more than anyone imagined.”