December 30, 2012; Source: Bismarck Tribune

With programs focused on serving the emergency and ongoing needs of native peoples, the Sioux Falls, S.D.-based nonprofit American Indian Services, Inc. (AIS) used to host the annual Northern Plains Tribal Arts Show and Market. It had loaned 16 pieces of art that it owned for ongoing display at the Visual Arts Center at the Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science, a Sioux Falls-based nonprofit organization. Now, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has seized these pieces from the museum’s display and plans to auction them on January 31.

American Indian Services reportedly owes the IRS about $118,000 in unpaid taxes and penalties, an amount equivalent to between one-half and two-thirds of its average annual revenue. The IRS has set a minimum price for the collection of artwork at just under $25,000, though it reserves the right to sell the pieces separately if it appears that approach will raise more money to satisfy the tax liens.

The Washington Pavilion is seeking charitable donations to bid on the artwork in order to establish a permanent collection at the Visual Arts Center. Solicitations are being made to the Washington Pavilion’s major donors and to supporters of the former Northern Plains Tribal Arts festival.

American Indian Services representatives have had no comment on the matter, and their organization’s website is mute on the topic. There are two very striking points to this story. First, the nonprofit in question receives 98 percent of its revenue from governmental sources, according to its most recent Form 990. Also, it’s certainly unusual to see the IRS seizing the assets of an operating nonprofit for nonpayment of taxes, is it not? –Michael Wyland