BREA, Calif. (1/19/11)--A three-year investigation by U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) into the financial practices of six ministries has resulted in a new commission to explore accountability and the tax-exempt status of religious organizations. A credit union CEO has been named to the commission. After staff reported on the investigation, Grassley asked the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) for input on how to facilitate discussion about whether the issues it raised “can be addressed without legislation.” ECFA responded by creating the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations. Evangelical Christian CU (ECCU) President/CEO Mark G. Holbrook joins ECFA President Dan Busby as an ex-officio member of the commission, which is chaired by Michael Batts, a certified public accountant with experience in board governance, financial reporting and tax-compliance issues for nonprofits. Four to six additional panel members will be named soon. Holbrook’s selection aligns with Brea, Calif.-based ECCU’s commitment to financial accountability, which is a common topic of discussion with ministry leaders, the credit union said. Ensuring financial integrity is one of four financial priorities by which the credit union’s ministry development officers encourage ministries to operate. “The commission will address some of the most challenging tax and policy issues involving religious organizations” according to an ECFA statement. Its approach will be to gather input from religious organizations of many faiths and provide feedback to Grassley’s office. Issues the commission will address include:
* Whether churches should file the same highly detailed annual information returns that other nonprofits must file (Form 990); *Whether legislation is needed to curb abuses of the clergy housing-allowance exclusion; * Whether the current prohibition against political campaign intervention by churches and other nonprofits should be repealed or modified; and *Whether legislation is needed to clarify tax rules covering “love offerings” received by some clergy.