IRS: Food Pantry Not Eligible For Tax-Deductible Donations

When local food pantry founder Lynda A. Carroll was a no-show at three consecutive meetings of the Mashpee Board of Health at which she was on the agenda, board members began to wonder if she was avoiding them.

Of particular concern was the $100 permit fee payment the board had received for operation of her food pantry, now known as Upper Cape Helping Hands Inc. Ordinarily, a fee payment would not attract much attention, except that Ms. Carroll has long requested the fees be waived because the organization was considered a nonprofit.

As of last Wednesday, Ms. Carroll had still not provided documentation to the board that the organization was indeed a nonprofit in the eyes of the state. The request to see the documentation was first made to Ms. Carroll more than a year ago.

Since 2010, Ms. Carroll has run afoul of the board on at least two occasions, having meat confiscated from what was considered unsanitary storage facilities when the pantry was located at Mashpee Village, and being reprimanded for not completing a mandated food handling class.

Ms. Carroll and the food pantry were involved in a contentious disagreement with town officials in late 2010, during which Ms. Carroll demanded the town provide public space for the operation. Town officials refused and repeatedly questioned the organization’s legal status as a nonprofit.

Upper Cape Helping Hands is registered as a nonprofit corporation with the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, effective as of December 7, 2010, according to a public database maintained on the secretary’s website.

However, the organization is not listed as a nonprofit by the federal Internal Revenue Service, according to a public registry and interviews with an IRS spokesman.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Ms. Carroll attributed her absence at the health board's recent meetings to ongoing recovery from serious injuries sustained in an automobile accident in December.

When asked why she paid the fee, Ms. Carroll said that it was “just easier to pay the fee” during her recuperation period.

Upper Cape Helping Hands Inc., formerly known as the Mashpee Food Pantry, operates non-perishable food distribution centers in Mashpee and Sandwich. The Mashpee facility is located on Bowdoin Road, off Route 28. Ms. Carroll said that the pantries have been very busy as of late, and have been seeing an increase in military families and the elderly.

The organization’s website states, “Tax Deductible Financial Donations are gladly accepted,” with Ms. Carroll’s home address listed below.

Ms. Carroll said that the organization is “all set with IRS” and is awaiting some paperwork changes. She also said that the donation request on the website was for non-perishable food, not for cash or checks.

At one point, a check was received and was used toward providing children with coats, she said.

Kathleen A. Wilbur of East Falmouth, listed on state documents as the organization’s treasurer, did not return a call made by the Enterprise earlier this week.

Peggy Riley, spokesman for the IRS in the New England region, said that donations made to Upper Cape Helping Hands Inc., would be disallowed as tax deductions.

“This does not mean that people should not donate, but if the charity is not showing up on the IRS database, then you can’t take a deduction,” Ms. Riley said.

Roche Bros. supermarket of Mashpee is one of the many local businesses that donate to Upper Cape Helping Hands on a regular basis. Artie Kroese, manager of the Mashpee store, declined to comment on the matter.

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