Nonprofit Strays Over the IRS Line in Making a Healthy Profit

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August 20, 2013; Forbes


On May 10th, the Internal Revenue Service quietly revoked the tax-exempt status of the Life Extension Foundation, Inc. (formerly known as the Florida Cryonics Association), retroactive to 2006. It will be required to pay taxes on its activity for the whole of this period, unless it wins an appeal. The Foundation is contesting the action in a lawsuit filed at the beginning of August.

The IRS’s problem with the foundation, which in 2009 had assets of more than $25 million and revenue for that year of $18 million, is that its nonprofit activities are too deeply entwined with the activities of the for-profit Life Extension Buyers Club. According to this article, “members of the Foundation receive discounts on health supplements and the Buyers Club pays royalties to the Foundation.” 

In 2009, the foundation did appear to dole out some cash:

  • The Stasis Foundation received $5 million to continue its development of a state-of-the-art facility where DNA will be stored by those who choose cryopreservation.
  • 21st Century Medicine, a for-profit company, received $3.5 million. The company is an emerging leader in living systems preservation technology.
  • Suspended Animation received $1.1 million. SA stabilizes the human body cells immediately after death and transports the deceased to a cryogenic storage site. (Before you sign up, you might want to read Larry Niven’s A World Out of Time to reflect on the possibility of a dystopian future State which is unkind to corpsicles )

But the IRS has concerns about the foundation’s grantmaking, since it publishes no written grant application form nor any published criteria for grant selection and because Saul Kent, the founder of the Foundation and major shareholder of the Buyer’s Club, has been on the boards of repeat grantees. Kent appears to be a true believer, since he had his own mother’s head frozen. And we likely do not want to know much more about that.

Long story short, the IRS does not believe that the nonprofit is as independent as it should be from its grantees or from its profit-making arm.—Ruth McCambridge