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17 Dec, 2019 22:45

Mormon Church hiding $100bn from the IRS as contingency plan for End of Days, whistleblower claims

Mormon Church hiding $100bn from the IRS as contingency plan for End of Days, whistleblower claims

The Mormon Church has $100 billion socked away in a secret cash stash for the Second Coming, its former money manager has told the IRS. He claims that the massive nest-egg, unknown even to rank-and-file Mormons, is illegal.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), as it is officially called, is sitting on an eye-popping sum of money that was donated with the expectation it would be used for charitable works, David Nielsen claimed in a whistleblower complaint to the Internal Revenue Service last month. The 41-year-old is the former senior portfolio manager of the Church’s investment firm, Ensign Peak Advisors.

A copy of the complaint was obtained by the Washington Post on Monday, along with “dozens of supporting documents.” 

Nielsen accuses the Church of violating tax law, which exempts churches from responsibility for paying taxes so long as they use the untaxed money exclusively for religious, educational, or other charitable purposes. Hoarding billions of dollars against the End of Days – Nielsen’s complaint reportedly claims Ensign Peak’s president said the fund would be used “in the event of the second coming of Christ” – does not fall under the heading of charity, according to a former IRS official who reviewed the complaint for the Post.

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The whistleblower wants the Church stripped of its nonprofit status, which could put the Mormons on the hook for billions of dollars in unpaid taxes – and provide a hefty reward to Nielsen, as the IRS rewards whistleblowers a percentage of recovered tax money.

The Church takes in about $7 billion per year in “tithes” – a contribution of 10 percent of their income – from members. About $6 billion of that sum goes to keeping the Church running, but the remaining money goes to Ensign, which invests it, according to the complaint. The endowment was established in 1997 with just $12 billion and has swollen to its current size since then; Nielsen claims he has never seen the Church use Ensign-managed money for charity. Church leaders continue collecting money rather than risk “losing control over their members’ behavior,” Nielsen alleges.

“Would you pay tithing instead of water, electricity, or feeding your family if you knew that it would sit around by the billions until the Second Coming of Christ?”

The Church has dipped into the stash on two occasions, Nielsen alleges, using some $2 billion in 2009 to bail out Beneficial Life – a LDS-run insurance company – that had fallen prey to the mortgage bubble, as well as shore up a Salt Lake City shopping mall that it partnered with a large real-estate corporation to run as a joint venture, between 2009 and 2014. These payments were allegedly made despite assurances by the Church at the time that no tithing funds were used in either venture.

The LDS Church often tries to downplay the extent of its riches, which Reuters estimated at around $35 billion in 2012.

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Former LDS President Gordon Hinckley admitted in a 2002 interview that “if you count all our assets, yes, we are well-off,” but insisted that “those assets, you have to know this, are not money-producing. Those assets are money-consuming.”

“When all is said and done, the only real wealth of the church is in the faith of its people,” Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé said last year in a speech, dodging a similar inquiry.

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