PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem announces that the Tour has surpassed $2 billion in all-time charitable giving. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
In a press conference prior to the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California, PGA Tour President Tim Finchem announced that the Tour recently surpassed $2 billion in charitable giving, just eight years after it reached the $1 billion mark.
"The $2 billion number is just a number, it's just a point in the road," Finchem said. "The reason we decided to focus on it was because ... we can get more folks' attention. And if we can get more people's attention and they realize that when they buy a ticket, play in a pro-am, their company invests in hospitality, a percentage of those dollars is going to the bottom line, staying in the community."
But before we give the Ponte Vedrans a collective pat on the back, consider this report from ESPN’s Outside the Lines, which claims “The PGA Tour's nonprofit business model has allowed it to avoid paying up to $200 million in federal taxes over the past 20 years, and its tournaments -- designed to benefit local charities -- operate in ways that fall short of acceptable charitable practices.”
In September, Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., introduced legislation that would strip the PGA Tour and other major professional sports leagues (including the NFL) of their nonprofit, tax-exempt status. Coburn told ESPN that the PGA Tour “takes the largest advantage” of the tax code as it’s currently written.
Finchem dismissed the revelations in ESPN’s report on Wednesday, calling it “wrong,” “ill-advised” and “unfortunate,” and said that while he respects Sen. Coburn’s broader stance on fiscal conservatism, he believes the senator is “upside-down” on this issue.
“If Congress wants to change the rules as it relates to our tax status, that’s up to Congress,” Finchem said. “We'll play by whatever rules we have to play by. We like our model … We don’t want to change it, and we’ll try hard not to.”
That must be why, as ESPN reported, the PGA Tour spent half a million dollars lobbying Congress concerning “tax matters affecting exempt organizations” in 2012.
Charitable dollars can’t hurt the communities that receive them, but as Finchem himself makes clear, they certainly help the Tour.
“To the investor, the value is enhanced,” Finchem said. “You're able to entertain your customers and help local charities at the same time.”
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