update on Carl Brandon Society’s tax-exempt status

I administer Con or Bust as a project of the Carl Brandon Society, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the production of and audience for speculative fiction. Questions about the Carl Brandon Society’s tax-exempt (501(c)(3)) status with the IRS were recently brought to my attention.

The Carl Brandon Society’s tax-exempt status was automatically revoked in August 2013; the CBS has today published an apology and an explanation on its blog. I apologize as well for inadvertently misleading donors to Con or Bust. I strive to run Con or Bust in as transparent and accountable a manner as possible, and I would never have represented that the CBS was a current 501(c)(3) organization if I had known that its status had been revoked.

As the CBS says in its statement, it will be applying for retroactive reinstatement soon and expects to be reinstated with no difficulty. Retroactive reinstatement means, effectively, that an organization will be considered to have been a tax-exempt organization all along, with no break in its status.

What does this mean for Con or Bust donors? If you’ve donated money to Con or Bust since August 2013, and you would like to be updated on the Carl Brandon Society’s reinstatement application, you can email con.or.bust@gmail.com with “tax status” in the Subject. I will add you to a mailing list that has the sole purpose of updating people on the CBS’s tax status. (No spam!) You can also keep an eye on the CBS’s website. So that future donors are aware, I am updating Con or Bust’s website with this information and will provide it in the thank-you emails to donors from now on. Unfortunately, if you’ve listed contributions to the Carl Brandon Society as itemized deductions on your tax returns in the past, either because you donated to Con or Bust or donated to support one of the CBS’s other projects, I cannot advise you on what, if any, steps you should take; please consult an appropriate professional.

Finally, I want to assure all donors that 100% of their donations are provided directly to fans of color/non-white fans to help them attend SFF cons. All administrative expenses are donated by me (principally web hosting, domain name, and postage) or the Carl Brandon Society (principally PayPal fees and postage), and everyone who helps with Con or Bust volunteers their time. I’m grateful for, and humbled by, all the support Con or Bust has received over the years, particularly the most recent outpouring of support thanks to John Scalzi’s donation drive, and I will continue to do everything I can to run Con or Bust in a manner worthy of that support.


  1. Boy, does this sound familiar. I am currently working to restore the tax-exempt status of the Queen City Rugby Football Club, which had its status revoked in 2013 because, you know, rugby players don’t make good accountants (even when they are are actually accountants in real life). Since I’m the team lawyer and a tax publications editor, I’m working on QCRFC’s reinstatement packet.

    I’m also a big fan of John Scalzi,and I’m delighted to see that your worthy cause has received a helping hand from him. If there is anything I can do to help you with your reinstatement process, please feel free to drop me a line.

    Jason Gilbert

  2. 6 months and the Carl Brandon Society still does not have tax exempt status with the IRS. Their taxpayer number doesn’t even come up and their website.

    Wonder why?

  3. The last I heard they were very close to filing the necessary paperwork; I’ve asked for another status update.

    (You are still moderated because of your past comments.)

  4. Have you heard any updates on the tax-exempt status of the CBS? We’re getting tax info together and would appreciate knowing whether to include our donations to Con or Bust with the rest of our donation tally for last year. Thanks.

  5. Karen, I’m checking on that for you!

  6. Karen, the CBS tells me that it will be filing the reapplication very soon, but unfortunately that the IRS generally takes at least a few months to process, so it does not seem that it will be reinstated by April 15. I’m very sorry; I really hoped to have better news.

  7. C’mon, Kate, six months later and they’re now gonna be filing the reapplication “very soon.”

    Sheesh. Hard fall from the turnip truck?

    Want to make a bet? I bet they will not have tax exemption status anytime in 2016. If they do, I will donate $100 to Con-or-Bust. If not, you publicize this failure on Scali’s blog and File 770 and pledge to fund a few Con visits for some deserving poor white kids.


  8. Dorien, I’m unscreening this one comment from you to say that I don’t need to make a bet because these updates are all public anyway (in addition to these comments, I have been emailing people who asked for updates and will be making a top-level post along with the auction announcement). I will also not make a bet because as upsetting the tax situation is to everyone, myself included, exceeding the clearly stated mission of CoB is another wrong that would not collectively make a right.

  9. As the CBS has announced on its blog, its outstanding tax returns and reinstatement paperwork (form 1023, which requests retroactive reinstatement of official non-profit status) has been delivered to the IRS. It will post an update when the paperwork is processed.

This is an archive view of Con or Bust's 2013-2016 auctions and posts. For the 2017 auction, to request assistance, and other current information, please see Con or Bust's main site.