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Klein earned $1.2 million from the ZOA in 2008. Of that, $360,000 was Klein’s base compensation while $630,000 was in retirement and other deferred compensation. Drimer did not respond to a request for Klein’s salary in subsequent years.
The ZOA’s current tax trouble began in May 2011, when the organization failed to file its 2008 Form 990s, the tax documents that the IRS requires exempt groups to file annually.
All 501(c)3s must file their 990s within 11.5 months from the end of their fiscal year. Recent legislation has allowed the IRS to automatically revoke a group’s exempt status after missing three consecutive years of filings. Drimer told the Forward that the ZOA ran two years late in its filings as a matter of course, and asserted that this isn’t unusual among not-for-profit organizations.
Charity law experts contacted by the Forward disputed the idea that running two years late in tax filings was normal. William Josephson, an attorney who ran Charities Bureau at the New York State Attorney General’s office from 1999 to 2004, said that there is no legitimate reason for a tax exempt group to be filing its 2008 form as late as 2011.
“This is inexcusable,” Josephson said.
According to Drimer, the final missed deadline came as a result of a misunderstanding on the part of ZOA management and the group’s outside auditors. The 2008 990s were filed in November 2011, which the ZOA believed to be the last moment that they could be filed without the group losing its exemption. The IRS informed the ZOA in February of 2012 that that deadline had been in May 2011 and that the ZOA’s exempt status had been automatically revoked.
“It’s really just a technical, meaningless revocation,” Drimer told the Forward. Drimer, who previously worked as the associate publisher of the Forward Association, joined the ZOA after the organization had already missed the May 2011 deadline.
In an email provided to the Forward, ZOA tax attorney Tyler Korn wrote that “serious failures by the ZOA’s accountants, management and Board” led to the loss of the group’s exemption.
According to Drimer, the group scrubbed its website of claims to be a 501(c)3 once it received notice that it had lost its tax exemption. “[S]ince [February 22, 2012], we have never intentionally represented the [ZOA] as being a 501(c)3,” Drimer wrote in an email.