Open Source Digital Voting Foundation Announces IRS Tax-Exempt Determination
Concludes a Record 6-Year Application Review
PALO ALTO, Calif., Aug. 7, 2013 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- The Open Source Digital Voting Foundation (OSDVF), a non-profit public benefits corporation providing public education, scientific research, and reference implementations of freely available elections technology, today announced that the IRS has granted its 7-year old organization tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code as a public charity. This brings to a close an application review that consumed over 6 years—one of the longest for a public benefits non-profit organization.
The Foundation's fund raising efforts and corresponding work on behalf of elections officials and their jurisdictions nationwide has been largely on hold since its original IRS application was filed in February 2007. The Foundation has managed to remain active through what self-funding it could afford, and generous grants from individuals and collaborating organizations that continued to support the organization's "TrustTheVote™ Project" despite its pending status.
"This determination allows the Foundation to accelerate full speed ahead on the work of developing next generation transparent voting technology that is key to our Democracy," said Gregory Miller, co-executive director & chief development officer for the Open Source Digital Voting Foundation. "We have been fortunate to be able to work on basic elements of the framework such as voter registration and information services, ballot design, election night reporting systems, and common data formats and standards, but not the real core of ballot casting and counting technology. Now we've been set free to deliver on our charter to develop accurate, transparent, verifiable and more secure voting technology as a public benefit."
Christine Santoro, the Foundation's General Counsel, explained that, "this is interesting news because this project, which has a clear charitable cause with a compelling public benefit, was caught up in an IRS review perhaps mostly for having the wrong words in its corporate name." Santoro stopped short of calling out the IRS as having acted in bad faith, but observed this case to be likely targeted in the so-called "Bolo-Gate" scandal at the IRS Exempt Division. "We unintentionally became a poster child for be-on-the-lookout reviews as such applied to entities involved in open source technology."
John Sebes, the Foundation's Chief Technology Officer was more pointed. "Gregory speaks of being set free to pursue our charter, but to be candid this was starting to feel like a hostage situation, which we're glad is over but not without damage."
The Foundation notes that with the hold-up it missed several windows of opportunity to offer free know-how and open source technology to elections jurisdictions, forcing them to continue with closed, proprietary black-box solutions. The Foundation also missed opportunities for funding grants given the uncertainty of their exempt status and unwillingness for fiscal sponsors to step in due to their lack of understanding about the processes of software research and development. "Candidly, the IRS process also took a deep financial toll on the co-founders and Board members, and OSDVF faces steep accounting and legal bills to earn its tax exempt status—far more than typically spent to do so," observed Santoro. Finally, the project itself has fallen more than 2-years behind its planned schedule, and will now seek to dramatically accelerate its efforts—both in fund raising and technology development, including recruiting talent.
"We've definitely learned things about how to handle a tax exempt application for an organization trying to provide public benefit in the form of software technology," said Miller. "There is clearly learning here, and a story yet to be told about what it took for us to achieve our 501(c)(3) standing—a status that every single attorney, CPA, or tax expert who reviewed our case believed we deserved," added Santoro. Miller also noted, "We are grateful to our outside tax counsel, Caplin Drysdale, who helped us press our case. Now its time to focus ahead, get to work, and raise awareness of the TrustTheVote Project and the improvements it can bring to public elections."
About the OSDV Foundation:
The OSDV Foundation ("OSDVF") is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public benefits corporation based in the Silicon Valley. Its flagship effort – known as the TrustTheVote™ Project – is providing public education, scientific research, and reference implementations for next generation elections technology framework that can achieve accuracy, transparency, verification and improved security in public elections. This is a digital "public works" project – producing actual voting technology the public can see, touch and try. The work of the Foundation, including elections systems blueprints, specifications and reference implementations is available under a public royalty-free license for any elections jurisdiction to adopt, adapt and deploy. Success of this project can restore trust in how America votes. For more information, please visit http://osdv.org/.
Media Contact: Greg Miller, OSDV Foundation, 503-703-5150, firstname.lastname@example.org
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SOURCE OSDV Foundation
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