May 29, 2020

Congress Asks I.R.S. About Oversight of Nonprofit Hospitals

Those hospitals, however, remain exempt from federal taxes — a far bigger benefit — because the Internal Revenue Service is not collecting information to assess the extent of the care for poor and uninsured patients that nonprofit hospitals nationwide are supposed to provide. In September, the governor of Illinois suspended the revocation pending legislation that set more definitive guidelines.

An overhauled tax form for nonprofits would give the federal tax agency that data, but complaints from the American Hospital Association and aspects of the new health care law have prompted the I.R.S. to delay requiring hospitals to fill out the portion of the form on charity care. Hospitals may not have to fill it out this year, either, because the agency has yet to make a decision.

Jessica Curtis, project director for the hospital accountability project of Community Catalyst, a consumer advocacy group, said she could not understand why the I.R.S. had not enforced the reporting requirement. The new schedule “asks a good set of questions that are pretty straightforward and easy to answer,” Ms. Curtis said. “Many of them are questions most major hospitals have already been voluntarily answering, anyway.”

She said regulators might not understand the impact such disclosure had on poor patients and their advocates. “In the current environment, more and more patients are trying to figure out what’s available to them, and this schedule would help,” she said.

Sarah Hall Ingram, commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division of the I.R.S., said the new federal health care legislation, not hospital complaints, had influenced the agency’s decision to reconsider the requirement.

Now, Congress has started asking questions about the reporting required of nonprofit hospitals — and a wide range of other issues around the tax agency’s oversight of charities. Last month, Charles W. Boustany Jr., Republican of Louisiana and a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, sent the I.R.S. a letter seeking an explanation of how it conducted nonprofit oversight and what it was doing to tighten compliance with the laws and regulations governing charity and philanthropy.

In particular, Mr. Boustany asked the I.R.S. to explain its plans for monitoring the so-called community benefits that nonprofit hospitals provided. He also wanted the agency to outline how it would comply with requirements for filing annual reports to Congress on the charity care provided by all hospitals.

In the letter, Mr. Boustany, who is chairman of the Ways and Means subcommittee on oversight, wrote that panel members were concerned that “tax exempt organizations may not be complying with the letter or the spirit of the tax-exempt regime, yet continue to enjoy the benefits of tax exemption.”

In a subsequent telephone interview, Mr. Boustany said: “We need to get a general sense of what’s going on in this whole sector of the economy. Ways and Means hasn’t looked at it for some time, and I’m really trying to take the role of oversight very seriously.”

In the last decade, Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, and Bill Thomas, the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, were the most aggressive among lawmakers trying to exert control over the nonprofit sector. “There is strong bipartisan interest,” Mr. Boustany said, in having Congress be more active in supervising these organizations.

A number of lawyers, accountants and state regulators say Congressional attention is long overdue. They have expressed frustration with what they regard as the I.R.S.’s failure to police nonprofits, which come to life at the rate of roughly one every 10 minutes.

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Economix Blog: New Leader for Liberal Research Group

A veteran of the Obama and Clinton administrations, Neera Tanden, will be taking over as president of the Center for American Progress, a research organization that represents the views of the president’s more liberal, and somewhat disaffected, base.

She will succeed John Podesta, who ran President Obama’s transition team and served as White House chief of staff to President Clinton, on Nov. 1. Mr. Podesta will remain at the organization as non-executive chairman of the board.

In an interview on Monday, Ms. Tanden said she hoped “big ideas,” both from  her organization and other progressives, would help unite the left in the year leading up to the next presidential election. Recent national polls show that Mr. Obama is behind the Republican candidate on a generic ballot.

“There’s a lack of faith in our ability to solve large-scale problems together, and that weakens the progressive cause,” she said. “There’s big hunger for bigger solutions, and some of the reaction we’re seeing in this country is a rejection of the current discourse in Washington.”

She said she believed that Mr. Obama’s recent push for more economic stimulus intended to create jobs may be winning him back more liberal supporters who had felt alienated by his push for austerity measures.

Ms. Tanden is  the chief operating officer at the Center for American Progress, and served as senior adviser for health reform at the Department of Health and Human Services, where she helped shape the Affordable Care Act. She said that despite continuing criticism of the health care legislation passed last year, she did not anticipate that Congressional Republicans would make a serious attempt to dismantle it before the next election.

“There were two moments where Republicans had had levers over the Senate and the White House to dismantle the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “One was the government shutdown, and the other was the debt limit deal. In neither case did they use those levers to destroy the Affordable Care Act.”

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Boeing’s Profit Rises but Revenue Slips

The ’company said Wednesday that it made $586 million, or 78 cents a share, compared with $519 million, or 70 cents a share, in the period a year ago when the company took a 20 cents-per-share charge related to health care legislation.

Analysts on average expected Boeing to report a first-quarter profit of 70 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenue, however, slipped 2 percent to $14.9 billion.

Boeing, which competes with EADS unit Airbus, splits its business almost evenly between commercial airplanes and defense products.

The commercial airplane unit’s first-quarter revenue decreased by 5 percent to $7.1 billion on fewer 777 deliveries.

Boeing repeated that first delivery for the long-delayed 787 Dreamliner was on track for the third quarter.

First-quarter revenue for the military subdivision was $7.6 billion, in line with the year-ago quarter.

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