Mozilla Foundation Is Being Audited By the IRS

By | November 20, 2008

Posted on TechCrunch

Buried in the financial statements is the fact that the Mozilla Foundation is being audited by the IRS and its non-profit status is in question:

On the audit of the Foundation there has not been any formal notification of issues. There has been inquiry regarding its tax exemption. Management believes that it is conducting its operations in accordance with its original application for exemption and for which it received the advance ruling as a public benefit corporation.

The Foundation has an advance ruling as a public benefit corporation. The ruling period ended December 31, 2007. It submitted its public support test documentation as required by the advance ruling. While the Foundation did not automatically qualify as a public charity with public support at 33% of total support, it believes that it qualifies as a public charity under the facts and circumstances test with public support over 10%.

Mozilla argues that the search dollars should be treated as royalties, and thus not count as revenues under the tax code. There is little precedent for a non-profit generating so much of its “support” from what is, in effect, a commercial agreement. If the IRS rules against it, the Mozilla Foundation would lose its tax-exempt status. It would then be classified as a private foundation and have to pay an estimated $100,000 in excise tax for 2007 alone.

That’s peanuts, and wouldn’t change much at Mozilla—except for the fact that it is pretending to be a non-profit foundation when everyone knows it is a charitable arm of Google. What we still don’t know is how Google accounts for the $66 million it paid to Mozilla last year. Was it a charitable contribution, or lumped in with its regular traffic acquisition costs?

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Vygantas is a former web designer whose projects are used by companies such as AMD, NVIDIA and departed Westood Studios. Being passionate about software, Vygantas began his journalism career back in 2007 when he founded Having said that, he is also an adrenaline junkie who enjoys good books, fitness activities and Forex trading.

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  1. Nox says:


    Mike Beltzner wrote to me saying that the article is full of inaccuracies.
    The Mozilla Corporation is not registered as a non-profit entity, pays taxes, receives revenues, etc. The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organization, and its status is not under question. Google does not provide funds to Mozilla as “charity”; it’s a negotiated revenue deal, and they make more money off of the traffic generated than they pay to Mozilla. It’s easy to forget that, but this is not a charity issue; it’s an “affinity” revenue sharing deal.”