Senate Bill Would Allow Tax-Exempt Status for Newspapers
By Mark Fitzgerald
Published: March 24, 2009 1:08 PM ET
CHICAGO Newspapers perform a public service for democracy and should be allowed to operate as tax-exempt non-profits, U.S. Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D.-Md., proposed Tuesday.
Cardin introduced a bill that would explicitly include newspapers among organizations eligible for 501(c)(3) status. The non-profit status is the same that public radio and television have now. The legislation would give a national green light for newspapers to adopt the so-called Low Profit Limited Liability Company business model, often shortened to L3C.
The L3C model, which the Newspaper Guild supports as an alternative newspaper ownership model, is the subject of a feature story in the current print issue of Editor & Publisher. Under Cardin's legislation, newspaper revenue would be tax-exempt, and contributions to papers would be tax deductible. The status would also allow non-profits to invest in newspapers, something that is forbidden now.
Cardin said action is needed to help preserve local newspapers.
"We are losing our newspaper industry," Cardin said in a statement. "The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy."