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May 10, 2017

Why the Salvation Army Should File an IRS Form 990

by Anne Paddock

The Salvation Army is an international group of Christians who claim the Salvation Army is a church.  The funny thing is I can’t remember the last time I drove down the road and saw a church with the sign “Salvation Army” in front of it although I see signs in front of other churches identifying the property as Methodist, Evangelical, Presbyterian, Catholic, and more. In fact, I don’t recall ever seeing a church with the words “Salvation Army” on a sign in front of a church. So, where is the Church of the Salvation Army? 

The Salvation Army is a non-profit “international charitable organisation structured in a quasi-military fashion” that has been granted 501 (c) (3) status – but as a church – with the IRS, which means they are not required to pay taxes or submit an IRS Form 990 annually to the IRS.

The Salvation Army maintains the organization is a “church” and therefore shouldn’t be required to file an IRS Form 990 annually which details the financial information of the organization.  The organization’s officers and members are Christians with many members actually belonging to other churches. When asked, officers and members may state they are Christian, Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, a member of the Church of England, Presbyterian but I have not heard anyone say “Salvation Armian.”

So, here are the reasons why the Salvation Army and all its affiliate organizations should file an IRS Form 990:

The Salvation Army is not a “church” in the same way other “churches” exist that identify with a specific religious organization.

The Salvation Army organizations don’t pay real estate taxes on property (the holdings of which are significant) which means the property (commercial buildings, residential homes for officers, etc) comes off the tax rolls, which means the taxpayers must carry the financial burden. If the Salvation Army wants the public to carry the tax burden that would otherwise be paid by the owner of the properties, then full disclosure should be made.

The Salvation Army organizations rely on government grants and public funds. Any organization that takes government and public funds should be transparent. The audited financial statements had to be requested (I placed a phone call to the national headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia (703-684-5500) and spoke to a man who identified himself as Wayne, an Assistant Controller and asked for the audited financial statements. After asking me what I wanted them for (yes, really) and telling him I wanted to read them and that these statements are public information, he said I would receive them in 5-7 days.

When I did not receive the statements after two weeks, I called and left a voice message at Wayne’s office extension and received a phone call from a woman who didn’t identify herself. She told me she already e-mailed the four territory audited financial statements and that they don’t keep hard copies in the office. Imagine that. The accounting office doesn’t keep hard copies of financial statements. I asked for Salvation Army USA audited financial statements and she said “fine, I will send them, goodbye” and hung up, as I was asking her whether they would be sent via e-mail or mail. I never received the statements. Wayne told me he mailed the statements but I only received via e-mail a copy of the audited financial statements for The Salvation Army National Corporation. Information on compensation of key officers and anyone given compensation in excess of $100,000 was requested numerous times and never provided. I’m still waiting.

And, finally the last reason why the Salvation Army and all its affiliate organizations should file an IRS Form 990 is because it’s the right thing to do and any organization that places itself under the umbrella of Christian values knows the difference between right and wrong.

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