Mormon whistleblower: alleged $100B tax-exempt fraud

Newly in from WaPo: a former investment manager for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints alleges that the church has stockpiled $100 billion in donations instead of using them for charitable works. The complaint also accuses church leaders of using the tax-exempt donations to prop up a pair of businesses.

A confidential document was received by the IRS on Nov. 21. It was filed by David A. Nielsen, a 41-year-old Mormon who worked until September as a senior portfolio manager at the church’s investment division, a company named Ensign Peak Advisors that is based near the church’s headquarters.

In a declaration signed under penalty of perjury, Nielsen urges the IRS to strip the nonprofit of its tax-exempt status and alleges that Ensign could owe billions in taxes. He is seeking a reward from the IRS, which offers whistleblowers a cut of unpaid taxes that it recovers.

His twin brother, Lars P. Neilsen, provided a copy of the complaint to The Post, along with dozens of supporting documents. Lars Nielsen, a health-care consultant in Minnesota, said in a statement to The Post that his brother asked him to write an exposé on his former employer. He also said he prepared the complaint with his brother and helped him submit it to the IRS.

“Having seen tens of billions in contributions and scores more in investment returns come in, and having seen nothing except two unlawful distributions to for-profit concerns go out, he was dejected beyond words, and so was I,” Lars Nielsen wrote.

Last year, a high-ranking cleric in the church, Bishop Gérald Caussé, said it “pays taxes on any income it derives from revenue-producing activities that are regularly carried on and are not substantially related to its tax-exempt purposes.”

The church typically collects about $7 billion each year in contributions from members, according to the complaint. Mormons, like members of some other faith groups, are asked to contribute 10 percent of their income to the church, a practice known as tithing. Failure to tithe 10 percent results in loss of the member’s “temple recommend,” which in the LDS belief system is a prerequisite for entering the highest level of heaven.

Nielsen’s complaint is sharply critical of church leaders for continuing to ask for tithes, even from members who are struggling financially, while the church sits on a fortune. “Would you pay tithing instead of water, electricity, or feeding your family if you knew that it would sit around by the billions until the Second Coming of Christ?” he wrote in a 74-page narrative that accompanied his complaint.

Full story at The Washington Post.

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