PTL Requests Review of IRS Decision
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ The PTL has asked a federal claims court in Washington to review a decision by the Internal Revenue Service to revoke its tax-exempt status, a spokesman said Wednesday.
David West, PTL spokesman, said the appeal delays an IRS decision last week that lifted the troubled television ministry’s tax-free status, making contributions no longer tax deductible.
Until the review is completed, donations of up to $1,000 may be claimed as federal income tax deductions, West said in a telephone interview from Heritage USA, the ministry’s theme park in Fort Mill, S.C.
″Anyone who gives money and deducts it won’t be asked (by the IRS) for money back,″ he said.
However, a staff member in the IRS regional office in Atlanta, referring to a statement prepared on the case by IRS spokesman Les Witmer, said past contributions by PTL supporters will remain fully deductible until April 22 - the date of the revocation.
In revoking PTL’s tax-free status, the IRS cited its own report last December which concluded that Jim and Tammy Bakker and their aides profited excessively from donations made to the ministry.
The revocation extends back to 1981. If allowed to stand, the financially troubled ministry will also owe taxes on proceeds from Heritage USA, much of which the IRS ruled came from commercial, rather than ministerial, operations.
West said the ministry would argue in claims court that if PTL’s tax-exempt status is lifted, the decision should apply only to the years in which the Bakkers controlled the ministry, from 1981 through 1987.
Moreover, he said PTL, which is undergoing reorganization under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code, was expecting a decision in federal bankruptcy court on its application for a new, non-profit ministry.
If that status is granted, the new ministry would not be held responsible for debts of the old one, he said.
IRS spokesman Witmer was attending a meeting in Washington Wednesday afternoon and could not be reached by telephone for comment, said the IRS staff member, who asked not to be identified.
West said he was unsure whether news reports of the IRS decision were affecting contributions to the ministry.
″It’ll be about 10 days - it takes that long for mails to come in and (for PTL to) see if there’s been an impact,″ West said.