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501(c)(3) Tax Exemption

  • Subject: [cg] 501(c)(3) Tax Exemption
  • From: Karen Flitton kjflitton@fmwk.com
  • Date: Tue, 10 Jun 2003 17:35:53 -0600

Bear Creek Garden Association (BCGA) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been
in existence for 18 years as a Colorado nonprofit corporation.  BCGA rents
land in El Paso County's Bear Creek Park for $1 per year and manages a
104-plot community garden which is open to the public.  Members of the
public rent plots and grow produce on their plots for personal use.
Thousands of pounds of excess produce from the personal plots and also from
plots gardened by volunteers exclusively for charity is donated to several
charities each year.

  BCGA recently filed an application with the Internal Revenue Service for
recognition as a 501(c)(3) organization, which, if granted, would permit
BCGA to obtain tax-free donations and grants to further the following
projects, all of which are already in existence:

		1. Promote organic gardening/education in the community;

		2. Help the County Park Department pay for bringing a herd
of 1200 cashmere goats to Colorado Springs twice a year 
		to eat the weeds in the park adjacent to the Bear Creek
Garden as an alternative to spraying chemicals in that area to
		 control weeds; and

		3.  Rent plots at the Bear Creek Garden which are then
gardened by volunteers to raise produce which is all donated
		    to the local soup kitchen, the Care & Share food bank
run by an ecumenical council of churches, and the zoo. At
this time 10% of the available plots are devoted this purpose.

We have had a call from an IRS officer who has told us that  our 501(c)(3)
application will probably be rejected because the primary purpose of the
gardens is to allow individuals to rent plots to produce vegetables for
personal use. (Incidentally, there is a strict prohibition against selling
any produce raised at the gardens).  

How can we satisfy the IRS that the produce taken home by individuals is not
grounds to deny the application?  Is there a difference between a 501(c)(3)
theater selling tickets to a performance or selling t-shirts for a show, and
our members of the public renting plots to grow vegetables for personal use?
As you can imagine, a majority of the gardeners are senior citizens on fixed
incomes.  Many are experienced gardeners who mentor the younger, newer
gardeners.  School children are brought out to see the goats when they are
here and to learn about organic gardening.  We already give scholarships to
some gardeners who are on welfare or unemployed and can't afford to rent a
plot.  The University has found a variety of ways over the years to
incorporate our gardens into its teaching programme, from biology to the
arts (a drawing class).   BCGA is a great asset to the community and should
be able to get tax-deductible donations to extend its programs.  

The local greyhound rescue organization that turns racing dogs into pets is
a 501(c)(3), but the gardens don't qualify.  Help!
Does anyone have any thoughts to offer us?  We need to make our case to the
IRS within the next ten days.  

Thank you,
                                              Karen J. Flitton
			          Board Member, BCGA
			          (719) 634-4433


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