Kane in Your Corner: NJSPCA stripped of nonprofit status by IRS
The Internal Revenue Service has stripped New Jersey's animal law enforcement agency, the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, of its nonprofit status for failing to pay taxes for three consecutive years. And a Kane In Your Corner investigation finds the IRS action only raises more questions about an agency some say already operates with too much secrecy.
Since 1868, the NJSPCA has served as the state's "animal police," at no cost to taxpayers. Established by order of the state Legislature, it is a private corporation funded by donations. But since 2012, people who gave money to the group, as well as members of the general public, have had no way to ascertain how funds are spent. The group failed to file tax returns for 2013, 2014 and 2015, leading the IRS to automatically revoke its nonprofit status. The NJSPCA is still enforcing animal welfare laws and says it believes it can get its nonprofit status restored, but until that happens, donations to the group are no longer tax-deductible.
For nonprofits, tax returns, known as Form 990s, provide important information about spending.
"Where's the money going? Nobody knows where the money's going because there's no tax returns to prove where the money's going," says Collene Freda Wronko, an animal rights critic and outspoken critic of the NJSPCA. "When you're taking in the kind of money they're taking in each year, all based as they say, on donations, you need to know where the money's going."
To Wronko and other animal rights activists who spoke to Kane In Your Corner, the unfiled taxes are another red flag about an agency they say needs to demonstrate much-greater transparency. The NJSPCA refuses to comply with New Jersey's Open Public Records Act, arguing it is not an official government agency. The group has lost in court twice but continues to appeal.
The NJSPCA has also apparently not complied in several years with a state law requiring it to prepare an annual financial audit, which must be submitted to the New Jersey Attorney General's Office and made available to the public. Government correspondence shows multiple people tried but failed to obtain copies of the annual financial audit from the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, dating back as far as 2009.
NJSPCA spokesman Matt Stanton says all three returns will be submitted by the second week of December.
"We are not swimming in money," says Stanton. "There is no conspiracy here. We live hand to mouth every year."
But Stanton also insists the group failed to file any tax returns since 2012 because its "accountant had a stroke." That's an explanation Wronko finds difficult to believe.
"It's been three years. Within a three-year time period, if your accountant had a stroke, you should have found another accountant by now," she says.