IRS Revokes Tax Exempt Status for Booker T. Washington Center - WICU12 HD WSEE Erie, PA News, Sports, Weather, Events

IRS Revokes Tax Exempt Status for Booker T. Washington Center

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WICU12News and SEE News have learned that IRS has revoked the tax exempt status of the Booker T. Washington Center. The neighborhood center lost its exemption because for the last three years it failed to file the 990 tax return forms as required for non-profit organizations. 

The Booker T. Washington Center provides education and recreation programs to keep kids out of trouble, including after school and summer initiatives. They also lease space to the WIC program for mother and child nutrition and have a successful new adult education program in partnership with Mercyhurst University. But until they get the tax status matter resolved, they are no longer a 501c-3 organization. 

Executive Director Bill Jeffress said the tax problem calls attention to the larger issue of funding cuts that are impacting the Booker T. Washington Center.  He says the papers were likely not filed because administrative bills for audits and accounting were not paid, in favor of maintaining programs. But more funding cuts may be on the way.  The city of Erie normally provides a 10 thousand dollar community block grant to Booker T. for their summer program recreation, art and education program for children. Brenda Sandberg, Director of Economic Development for the city confirmed that Erie can't release the funding if the neighborhood center is no longer tax exempt. Compounding the problem, funds have also been cut for the after school program beginning next year.
    
Jeffress says accountants are working to file the proper forms, and he hopes the matter will be resolved in time for that summer funding to come through.
He promised some programming even if it doesn't.  "What that would basically mean is that we would have to minimize the program to the best of our ability, but we would still try to do something," said Jeffress.  He went on to say, "We're a non-profit organization.  We're going to continue doing non-profit work in this community.  This problem is a set back, but it could bring attention to a need.  We need partners who are going to say hey, listen how can we help you?  If anybody wants to help, come to the table and say this is what we can do for you."

Jeffress said one community partner extending an offer of help is Mercyhurst University, but officials there declined to comment on just how they will be helping.  Until the tax exempt question is resolved any donations made to the center would have to be taxed. 

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