Path Continues for Repeal of Tax on Reserved Parking Benefit for Churches, Nonprofits

A legislative package approved in June by the House Ways and Means Committee means that lawmakers are making progress to repeal the “church parking tax” created in the 2017 tax bill, an effort led by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. When introduced in 2017, the 21% tax was meant to stem tax breaks that businesses used for employee fringe benefits, and nonprofits were treated the same way. Churches and nonprofits, which do not have taxable income, have been continually fighting for its repeal and gaining allies while struggling to figure out their obligations while the tax is still on the books. The Mississippi Alliance of Nonprofits and Philanthropy claims $400 in accountant fees were needed to calculate a $17 tax liability. Among hurdles for repeal is that a rollback would signal “an inequity between nonprofits and for-profit business,” according to the chief economist of the nonpartisan Tax Foundation. But there is bipartisan support for repeal, and the package could be up for a vote in the fall on the House floor. Along with the tax costing churches and nonprofits funds for charity work, it has raised uncertainty that the tax could open the way for further tax liabilities for religious organizations. “I worry there are other things they could tax,” said the Rev. Joseph Darby, senior pastor at Charleston’s Nichols Chapel AME Church.

Meet the Firms That Charge Up to 15% to Locate Unclaimed Property from SC Treasurer’s Office (Even Though Everyone Can Do It for Free)

The South Carolina Unclaimed Property database is maintained by the Treasurer’s Office so that residents can identify if they have a right to the more than $650 million connected to transactions such as inheritances, lawsuits or utility deposits that is safeguarded by the Treasurer’s Office until a proper owner can be identified. While the Treasurer’s Office offers the service for free, at least four companies charge customers up to 15% fees for assistance in filing these claims. Dennis Pruszinske, owner of Florida-based ProLocators, maintains that his service is necessary because sorting through state databases can be arduous, such as instances when names are misidentified. After records from the state Comptroller’s Office showed that S.C.’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism paid about $580 to ProLocators for finding $38,000 the department couldn’t locate when a vendor declared bankruptcy, S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis said of his State House grounds neighbors paying the fee, “They’re in the next building. There’s no reason they should have done that.”

SC Agencies Struggle to Fill Gap of 17% Vacancy Rate in Hiring for State Jobs

Of South Carolina’s roughly 44,600 state jobs, more than 17% are unfilled, according to S.C. Department of Administration data, where in 2017 the rate was 14%. That’s a higher gap than pre-Great Recession 2007, when it was 11% of 46,300 posts. This year’s 7,600 vacancies do not include teaching jobs, where school districts face a teacher shortages of their own. More than 10% percent of the positions are vacant in all of the state’s 10 largest agencies as ranked by employment. Lawmakers did raise state employee pay by 2% raise with an extra $600 for workers earning $70,000 in in the state newest approved budget, but around 75% of state workers earn under $41,000. “The biggest hurdle to overcome is salaries and the wages state employees make, especially on entry-level positions,” according to Juvenile Justice Director Freddie Pough. A challenge for future hiring environments can be see at DHEC, where more than a third of its workers are eligible to retire within a three-to-five year window while 42% of its staff have been aboard for fewer than five years. “We’re hiring plenty of folks, and now it’s figuring out how to retain them … and give them incentives to stay,” Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said.

SC Farmers Received $24M in Federal Aid from September-May

More than 1,500 South Carolina farmers received more than $24 million in aid from a White House program in the months of struggle from a U.S. trade war with China from September 2018 to May 2019, according to an analysis by The State newspaper based on data obtained by the Associated Press. Orangeburg County farmers saw more federal dollars ($2.6 million) than any S.C. county, but a majority of the funds were delivered to the Pee Dee region. Crops covered in South Carolina include corn, cotton, dairy, hogs, sorghum, soybeans and wheat, according to the data. The U.S. Treasury delivered the funds to the Agriculture department through the Depression-era program known as the Commodity Credit Corporation, which supports U.S. farmers by purchasing their crops. This story on The State’s website includes a searchable database of which farms have been awarded funds from the Market Facilitation Program.

Easley Tax Preparer Sentenced to Five Years in Prison for Tax Evasion

Tax preparer Sonny M. Ninan, 65, of Easley, has been sentenced to five years in prison after a Pickens County jury convicted him of six counts of tax evasion covering 2010-2015. Judge Perry Gravely also ordered Ninan to pay the state $75,000 in restitution. A tax and business consultant, Ninan operated Global Consultants and Taxpayer Services from an office in Easley. He was convicted of underreporting $1.13 million for income earned on individual income tax returns for the six-year period. Ninan still has multiple charges pending trial in Greenville County. He was accused of failing to report more than $2.03 million of sales generated through the operation of Hailee’s Sports Bar and Grill in Mauldin in 2010 and 2011. Arrest warrant affidavits allege that Ninan attempted to evade approximately $122,000 of sales tax through understatement of sales. Ninan is also awaiting trial in Greenville on charges of preparing false tax returns and failing to remit tax payments from a third party.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

“A lot of churches have volunteers taking contributions and counting them. They don’t have CPAs.”

Galen Carey, National Association of Evangelicals VP of government relations, on how churches have to navigate complex and changing Treasury guidance on new tax liabilities for the value of their reserved parking spaces