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Harvard Undergraduate Council President Noah A. Harris ’22 and Vice President Jenny Y. Gan ’22 defended the Council against accusations that it committed tax fraud by failing to maintain its nonprofit status in an interview Monday.
Presidential ticket Ivor K. Zimmerman ’23 and Joy Y. Lin ’23 launched their campaign last week on the premise that the Council is “incompetent” and is committing tax fraud by not filing for nonprofit status.
The UC has not filed for non-profit status since 2008, and its non-profit status was revoked in 2012, according to filings with the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
By failing to register as a nonprofit, Zimmerman argued that the UC “dissolved” itself, citing the Council’s constitution.
The UC constitution mandates the Council register as a nonprofit with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In the event that it fails to do so, the UC must dissolve itself and redistribute its funding.
“If the corporation dissolves without a legal successor, then its residual assets shall be distributed among the house committees and the First-Year Class Committee, on a per-undergraduate basis, if possible,” reads Section 12.4 of the UC constitution.
“According to their own bylaws — the very thing which defines them and allows them to do things — they no longer exist, and they haven’t existed for nine years,” Zimmerman said in an interview.
“Harvard deserves a student government that exists,” Zimmerman and Lin wrote in an email sent over House email lists. “Help us build it.”
Harris and Gan refuted the Zimmerman-Lin campaign’s allegations in the interview Monday. Though they acknowledged that the Council has not filed as a nonprofit since 2008, they said the Council is under no obligation to do so, given its capacity as a student organization within Harvard.
“The UC is not officially registered as anything with the state government. The UC is an organization that falls under Harvard College and the school’s status as tax-exempt. As a result, the UC has tax-exempt status,” Harris wrote in an emailed statement after the interview.
Harris and Gan both said they do not know why the Council stopped filing for its nonprofit status almost a decade ago. Gan speculated that the Council stopped filing because a nonprofit status offered few benefits compared to the amount of time it took to maintain.
Gan said the UC constitution needs to be updated to supplant “outdated clauses.”
“We need to update the Constitution because it’s old. It’s been a while so we’re working on that and we’re going to be doing a full overhaul of the constitution because of these outdated clauses,” Gan said.
Gan added that she wants candidates to devote their campaigns to strategizing “how we’re going to improve the lives of people” rather than focusing on the fine print.
—Staff writer Mayesha R. Soshi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Lucas J. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.
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