Southern Decadence is one of the largest LGBT events in New Orleans. Every Labor Day weekend thousands of visitors descend on the city to party and have a good time. The annual Southern Decadence parade is a much-anticipated event; which features the official Grand Marshals.
New Orleans Southern Decadence, Inc. is the entity that raises money for the parade and various charities in New Orleans. Locals in the LGBT community and businesses give thousands of dollars to support Southern Decadence, not to mention each Grand Marshal host several events to help raise money.
New Orleans Southern Decadence, Inc., state that they are a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization on their sponsorship application Which means they can raise money as a tax-exempt organization defined by the Internal Revenue Service tax codes. Having a 501(c)(3) tax-exemption allows money collected, to possibility be tax-deductible on personal and business federal tax returns. To decide if New Orleans Southern Decadence is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization research was conducted by looking under the Exempt Organizations Select Tool of the I.R.S. and no listing was found, therefore, I called the Internal Revenue Service and spoke with a Mr. Reece (100057****), a complete search was conducted using the name(s), addresses, cities, and zip code(s) as listed in the database of the Louisiana Secretary of State, at the time this article was posted the I.R.S. could not verify New Orleans Southern Decadence, Inc. had or currently is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, nor was an application submitted. As a matter of fact, according to Ambush Magazine in their Nov. 22 – Dec. 5, 2016 edition, New Orleans Southern Decadence, Inc. paid $15.00 to the Louisiana Secretary of State to file their annual report; however according to the state’s database they are not in good standing for failure to file an annual report. So, what did they file?
I find it strange that New Orleans Southern Decadence, Inc., does not list anywhere on their website the EIN number that would have been given when their application was approved. When you give cash you never receive a receipt, which all 501(c)(3) organizations are required to give when requested. New Orleans Southern Decadence, Inc. has never posted or made available their annual reports. Unless you count the information they post in Ambush; which cannot be confirmed.
This raises concerns about the people overseeing the company. Do they know that they are cheating the public out of money? By stating a falsehood. According to a source at the United States Justice Department, “it’s considered fraud to state that you are a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization if you do not have proper documentation of the fact”. The Justice Dept. takes all accusations of fraud seriously, and there is a possibility that state statutes might have been violated. All 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations must abide by certain rules; such as, when holding a fundraising event where money is raised, funds should go directly to the charity. New Orleans Southern Decadence, Inc. may deduct certain expenses directly related to the event, but nothing outside the described event. So, where does that leave the parade? Can money be raised under a 501(c)(3) and spent on a parade (including insurance, permits, police details, costumes, and sanitation/cleanup, etc.)? Does the parade directly benefit any charity?
So, what happens to Southern Decadence? An event founded on the principle of having fun and being decadent. Is Southern Decadence as we know it coming to an end? It is a shame in my opinion when a company deceives the public and local businesses by asking for money under a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status when in fact they are not and never were! I remember a saying that someone once told me, "never fool around with the I.R.S., sooner or later they will come knocking and wanting answers" when that day comes Southern Decadence might return to its original purpose. Until then we wait!
UPDATE: It appears that New Orleans Southern Decadence, Inc. has filed their annual report with the State of Louisiana. However, that doesn't mean they are compliant with the Federal tax codes regarding 501(c)(3). At the time of this posting (8/3/2017 3:15 AM CST) New Orleans Southern Decadence Inc. sponsorship form still, states their a 501(c)(3) corporation.
Ambush Magazine. 45th Southern Decadence Sets New Records: Over 216,000 Participants, Over $259 Million Economic Impact, Over $27,000 for Charity. Vol. 34. 22 November - 5 December, 2016. Article. 28 July, 2017. Online.
Department of the Treasury. Internal Revenue Service. Charitable Contributions - Substantiation & Disclosure Requirements. Publication 1771. Catalog No. 20054Q. Rev. March 2016. 28 July, 2017. Online.
Department of the Treasury. Internal Revenue Service. Tax-Exempt Status for Your Organization. Publication 557. Catalog No. 46573C. Rev. January 2017. 28 July, 2017. Online.
Department of the Treasury. Internal Revenue Service. Tax Information for Charities & Other Non-Profits. EO Select Check. Database. 28 July, 2017. Online
Louisiana Secretary of State. Commercial Division. Charter Number 4121365N. New Orleans Southern Decadence Inc. 28 July, 2017. Online.
Image: istockphoto.com Purchased for commercial use. 28 July, 2017.