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Association Bisnow
September 25, 2008

Jerry’s 990
Attack Plan

A big welcome to great new sponsor CBIZ MHM and Mayer Hoffman McCann P.C., the 8th largest accounting services provider in the US.   Check out the info they've prepared on the New Form 990 at


Pillsbury’s Jerry Jacobs, counsel to more than 200 trade associations and charities, says tackling the IRS’s new 990 form is a piece of cake. With bigger battles to wage—namely, the economy—we sat down with Jerry in his war room (ok, empty conference room, but we’re looking for drama) to hear his plan of action.


The first offensive happened when Sen. Grassley put the pressure on the IRS to tighten oversight of associations. That means the 990 form used for 35 years got a face-lift. Jerry says the new form is “what everyone is talking about,” but it’s not all that bad. The main concern in his opinion has been the yes/no questions. The IRS asks associations if they have a policy concerning conflict of interest, document retention and destruction, whistleblower protection, compensation of CEOs and joint ventures. “Nobody wants to say ‘no,’” Jerry says.


From the 2300 N. St. lobby at the Pillsbury HQ, Jerry says boards are scrambling to create policies that meet the IRS’s questions. So, he has an arsenal of ready-made policies that associations can use; if you’d like to see them, send him a note:


But in the swamps of IRS-land are tricky new reporting requirements for CEO and top executive pay. Grassley wanted some more sunshine in the association’s account books, so the IRS now asks for itemized descriptions of top executive compensation (including R&R perks like access to a jet, severance pay and ongoing consulting contracts after departing). Jerry says for some clients that is “embarrassing and awkward.” It also will require salary reporting of the top 20 execs earning over $150k—which can open an association to treasonous poaching from rival warlords—err, other associations.


But, just like any great general has a contingency plan for charging through the tough times, Jerry says the associations he counsels are bracing for a barefoot march through the economic tundra ahead. Heeding the call of their troops (keep following the metaphor here, troops= association members), some associations are merging with smaller ones that have overlapping constituents. Jerry says it results in bigger influence, and better access to representatives in state and federal government.  He says members don’t want to pay dues to seven associations and attend three trade fairs per year—uniting forces is key. Another way associations are hunkering down is with joint venture agreements. A Campbell’s Soup can with an American Diabetes Association logo is an example. With a “glass ceiling” that limits how high dues can be, and members demanding more services, associations are employing jv’s and using what Jerry calls the “AARP model.” That’s a low membership fee with a litany of additional opportunities and deals—at a small charge.

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