Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just what is the tax status of a lodge?

R.W. Brother Grand Secretary,
Some confusion. What is the tax status of the Grand Lodge? I know its not a 501c3, but is it tax exempt and are donations deductible? Are the local lodges covered under the Grand Lodge status?

The Grand Lodge of Minnesota and all of the constituent lodges under the Grand Lodge of Minnesota are tax exempt entities under section 501(c)(10) of the IRS code. Below you will find what the IRS website ( says about both 501(c)(8) and 501(c)(10) - Fraternal Beneficiary Societies and Domestic Fraternal Societies. Disregard what it says about 501(c)(8), that is similar but not us, we do not provide an insurance benefit.
The bold under tax treatment is something that I call your attention to. A contribution to the lodge, under the IRS regulations, is probably tax deductible to the donor in most situations, as long as the contribution is used exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
So my interpretation of the rules is that while a tax deductible contribution cannot be used to pay the lodge property taxes, it can be used to provide a scholarship. Etc.
I trust this has answered your questions and if so, you are now an expert on this just as much as your Grand Secretary.

501(c)(8) and 501(c)(10) - Fraternal Beneficiary Societies and Domestic Fraternal Societies
This section describes the information to be provided upon application for recognition of exemption by two types of fraternal societies: beneficiary and domestic. The major distinction is that fraternal beneficiary societies provide for the payment of life, sick, accident, or other benefits to their members or their dependents, while domestic fraternal societies do not provide these benefits but rather devote their earnings to fraternal, religious, charitable, etc., purposes. The procedures to follow in applying for recognition of exemption are described in chapter 1.
If your organization is controlled by a central organization, you should check with your controlling organization to determine whether your unit has been included in a group exemption letter or may be added. If so, your organization need not apply for individual recognition of exemption. For more information see Group Exemption Letter in chapter 1 of this publication.
Tax treatment of donations. Donations by an individual to a domestic fraternal beneficiary society or a domestic fraternal society operating under the lodge system are deductible as charitable contributions only if used exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, literary, or educational purposes or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
Remember we are not (c-8), just similar to that status.
Fraternal Beneficiary Societies (501(c)(8))
A fraternal beneficiary society, order, or association should file an application for recognition of exemption from federal income tax on Form 1024. The application and accompanying statements should establish that the organization:
1. Is a fraternal organization,
2. Operates under the lodge system or for the exclusive benefit of the members of a fraternal organization itself operating under the lodge system, and
3. Provides for the payment of life, sick, accident, or other benefits to the members of the society, order, or association or their dependents.
Lodge system. Operating under the lodge system means carrying on activities under a form of organization that comprises local branches, chartered by a parent organization and largely self-governing, called lodges, chapters, or the like.
Payment of benefits. It is not essential that every member be covered by the society's program of sick, accident, or death benefits. An organization can qualify for exemption if most of its members are eligible for benefits, and the benefits are paid from contributions or dues paid by those members.
The benefits must be limited to members and their dependents. If members will have the ability to confer benefits to other than themselves and their dependents, exemption will not be recognized.
Whole-life insurance. Whole-life insurance constitutes a life benefit under section 501(c)(8) even though the policy may contain investment features such as a cash surrender value or a policy loan.
Reinsurance pool. Payments by a fraternal beneficiary society into a state-sponsored reinsurance pool that protects participating insurers against excessive losses on major medical health and accident insurance will not preclude exemption as a fraternal beneficiary society.

Domestic Fraternal Societies (501(c)(10))
A domestic fraternal society, order, or association may file an application for recognition of exemption from federal income tax on Form 1024. The application and accompanying statements should establish that the organization:

1. Is a domestic fraternal organization,
2. Operates under the lodge system,
3. Devotes its net earnings exclusively to religious, charitable, scientific, literary, educational, and fraternal purposes, and
4. Does not provide for the payment of life, sick, accident, or other benefits to its members.

The organization may arrange with insurance companies to provide optional insurance to its members without jeopardizing its exempt status.

Questions About the Ballot

An interested Brother writes: I have a few obscure ballotting questions:
What if a brother gets the box to vote and there are no black balls in it? Should he assume that they are all used? Can he refuse to vote, or demand that there be some made available?
What if a brother knows that there are black balls cast, but yet the ballot is declared clear? (suggested to me as being within the Master's power and legend has it that that is how Masters did it in the old days)
Once a ballot is closed can there be objections raised, and a re-ballot ordered?
Does the Sr. Deacon go without the door to get the Tyler's vote, or is he called in to vote?
If business is being conducted on the First Degree, can an Entered Apprentice vote?

I don’t really think that most of your questions are answered in the Minnesota Masonic Code. But definitely, if a Brother is ready to vote and the color or shape that he needs cannot be found, then I think he should make that fact known immediately to the Master. One of the things that is said by the W. Master right before the ballot takes place, is “Brother Sr. Deacon, prepare the ballot box.” Preparing the ballot box must mean more that picking it up off of a table. He should check and be sure there are plenty of all choices available. If the Sr. Deacon does not do that then he should probably be talked to about it before a fresh ballot takes place.
So let me get this right, the second question assumes at least three of the three top officers of the lodge are lying to the lodge in performance of their official duties. I don’t really know how to respond to that. Perhaps
I would assume that a mistake was made but that I as the black balling voter must have made the mistake by putting in a white ball instead of a black ball?
I see no provision anyplace for objecting to a ballot after it has taken place. The sideliners only recourse would be then to object the candidate before or at the time of the Entered Apprentice Degree.
The correct place for the Tyler is outside of a tyled lodge room. But many lodges now make it a practice of inviting the Tyler into the room and then allow him to exit just before the closing. I have no big problem with this other than it is technically not correct and that it really leaves the lodge untyled. But if he is inside then he can vote, if he is a member in good standing of that lodge. The Tyler need not be a member of the lodge for which he is the Tyler. It would be incorrect for the Sr. Deacon to go to the Tyler’s door to have him vote. Members eligible to vote are those members in good standing who are inside the tyled lodge room at the time of the ballot.
And in response to the last question, only members of the lodge can vote. With a change to the Minnesota Masonic Code about ten years ago, we made it permissible for a lodge to open on the Entered Apprentice Degree or the Fellowcraft Degree so those Masons could attend meetings prior to being raised as Master Masons, but that did not change the definition of a member of the lodge:
ARTICLE XIII. Chartered Lodges
Composition - Degrees - Demits - Membership - SECTION G13.01 A Lodge shall be composed of its charter members who shall be petitioners for dispensation whose demits are filed with the Grand Secretary prior to the issuance of the charter and all Master Masons raised while under dispensation. The Grand Secretary shall keep a roll of such charter members. No demits need be filed for dispensation for an Educational Lodge. After receiving a charter, all Master Masons receiving degrees conferred, and all petitioners accepted for affiliation, reinstatement or restoration, by ballot, shall be members thereof. No Lodge shall be named for any living person and shall be numbered according to the dates of their respective charters.

Monday, October 26, 2009

One-Day-to-Masonry Petition Procedures

Hello Doug
Our lodge has a petition for the One-Day-to-Masonry and I do not know the proper way to handle this. Could you give the information?
Brother Dave

The One-Day-to-Masonry candidate needs to go through the normal process of petitioning your lodge, having the petition read at a stated meeting, investigation committee work and then being balloted on at a subsequent stated meeting. The candidate can use a regular petition or we also have a special One-Day-to-Masonry petition up on the Grand Lodge of Minnesota website, either one is just fine. Once all that has taken place, then the lodge mails a copy of the petition and the $250 One-Day-to-Masonry fee to the Grand Lodge office. This can be done anytime, sooner rather than later, with a deadline of ten days prior to the One-Day-to-Masonry event. So in the case of the next one taking place at the Minneapolis Scottish Rite Temple on January 19, 2013, we would need the petition copy and the fee no later than January 9, 2013. This ten day advance notice is to allow us time to send the candidate a letter containing the day’s itinerary, a map to help get him to the Minneapolis Scottish Rite Temple and other important information. We also send him a special version of the Quest booklet to help prepare him for the ceremonies taking place as part of the One-Day-to-Masonry.
Lastly, we want at least one Brother from the lodge to plan on coming down to the event so the candidate can know a familiar face or two when he goes to his first lodge meeting back in his home lodge. The lunch fee for the sideliner is $15.00 and can be paid at the door on checking in on January 19th. So please canvass your Brothers a bit and encourage them to plan to come to the One-Day-to-Masonry as your lodge initiates, passes and raises a new member that day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Residency Requirements to Join a Lodge

Just what is the residency requirement for a petitioner?

There is a 90 day residency requirement for a man to be a resident of Minnesota when he petitions for the degrees. This can be found in the Minnesota Masonic Code in Section C9.10:
No Lodge shall initiate any person except upon his personal and voluntary petition, nor shall such petition be received unless the petitioner has therein fully answered all questions required to be contained in such petition by the laws of the Grand Lodge; nor unless such petitioner shall have been an actual resident in the jurisdiction of the Lodge for ninety (90) days immediately preceding the date of his petition. Petitions are part of the records and must not be destroyed after they have been acted upon.
All constituent lodges under the Grand Lodge of Minnesota share concurrent jurisdiction.
There is no residency requirement for a petition for dual membership, affiliation or restoration. In other words, a Mason who would like to affiliate with a lodge under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota doe not need to be a resident of Minnesota.