The Internal Revenue Service has reclassified one of the most famous Christian organizations, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
At the request of the Graham organization, the IRS changed its tax status from a nonprofit to an “association of churches,” the NonProfit Times reported on Sept. 26. The change was made last November.
The change means the 66-year-old Christian organization no longer has to file what the IRS calls Form 990, a public statement of its financial information, including salaries for top officials. It will continue to publish an annual financial report, available to the public on its website.
The reason for the change, said Mark DeMoss, a Graham spokesperson, is primarily to avoid the intense work required to file a 990, which he described as “onerous.”
“It takes a full-time person a big part of a year just to prepare the 990, and when you are also having to prepare audited financial statements anyway, it is a bit of an extra burden,” he said.
The shift will not affect who the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association may hire or what kind of health care it must provide employees.
DeMoss also said the new tax status will safeguard the organization’s religious liberties.
“There are many organizations who believe that religious liberties are better protected if they are designated as an association of churches,” he said. “A lot of people feel like those freedoms are increasingly being restricted.”
The BGEA was founded by the Rev. Billy Graham, 97, and is now run by his son Franklin Graham. Franklin Graham has been critical of IRS scrutiny of both his father’s and his own organization, the humanitarian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse.
“I believe that someone in the administration was targeting and attempting to intimidate us,” Graham said in a letter to President Obama in 2013 after both nonprofits were audited by the IRS. “This is morally wrong and unethical.”
According to its most recent IRS disclosures, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association took in almost $107 million in 2015. Samaritan’s Purse recorded an income of $593 million for that year. Franklin Graham was compensated a total of more than $1 million between both groups.