IRS revokes Abrams foundation charity status

New troubles for veterinary-care nonprofit

Published: April 08, 2019
By Lisa Wogan

Facebook photo
Alan Abrams, who runs a troubled foundation, says current issues with the IRS stem from his accountant's poor health.

The Dr. Steve Abrams Memorial Foundation, a charity with a string of complaints in its wake, no longer qualifies to receive tax-deductible donations. An IRS list of nonprofits that have had their tax-exempt status revoked shows that the foundation automatically lost its standing when it failed to file its tax returns for three consecutive years. The revocation was posted to the list Feb. 12.

The Abrams foundation, a 501(c)(3), was started in 2015 by Alan Abrams to commemorate his father, a veterinarian. The foundation’s stated mission is to eliminate economic euthanasia by using donor funds to pay for life-saving interventions that pet owners cannot afford. During a three-month investigation in 2017, the VIN News Service identified 33 practices in 14 states that alleged the foundation had approved treatments and surgeries for more than 100 animals but never paid for the care. Veterinarians, practice managers and pet owners reported problems with the foundation to charity watchdogs, the Better Business Bureau, the IRS, local police departments and state attorneys general.

Tax-status revocation is not the end of the line for a charity. "It’s fairly easy to get reinstated," said J.C. Sowers III, a tax specialist known as an enrolled agent, in Woodland, California, speaking generally about revocations. “They usually just need to file the Form 990s that are delinquent to be current, and perhaps file a new application for exemption.” A 990 is a form that organizations exempt from federal income tax use to file their returns. Sowers said the IRS may assess a penalty, around $20 per day for smaller nonprofits but often will waive the fine if the charity has a good excuse for not filing, which can be as simple as being unaware it was necessary.

The Abrams foundation was aware of the requirement, however. Fifteen months ago, Abrams told VIN News that the foundation had filed a Form 990 and that it would be posted on the foundation’s website as soon as he had a webmaster. VIN News requested a copy of the form. IRS regulations require that charitable organizations provide copies of their tax filing within 30 days of a written request. To date, VIN News has not received the document.

Sowers said donors who contribute to an organization before its status is revoked do not face any penalties for taking deductions for their contributions. The organizations themselves, however, may be taxed at corporate or trust tax rates for any donations received after exempt status is revoked, he said.

Asked in an email about the revocation, Abrams told the VIN News Service today: "It is due to a filing. Our CPA had open heart surgery and it will be reinstated." In addition, Abrams said he himself is "on palliative care and dying," and emphatically asked to be left alone.

Abrams has in the past cited personal illness and other hardships to explain his organization's problems.

A notice posted to a profile for the Abrams foundation at Guidestar, a website that tracks and evaluates nonprofits in the U.S. and posts their tax returns, reads: "This organization's exempt status was automatically revoked by the IRS for failure to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N, or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years. Further investigation and due diligence are warranted."

The Abrams foundation used to be listed on Charity Navigator, which is similar to Guidestar, but as of today, the organization does not appear on that site.

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