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Confusion Abounds Over East LA Vets Post’s Tax Status

The Eugene A. Obregon American Legion Post 804, which houses numerous veterans’ organizations in unincorporated East Los Angeles, is working to get its tax-exempt status reinstated, though no one at the Post seems to know for sure, or wants to say, when they lost their non-profit status.

Several organizations meet at the post, including local branches of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), VFW Woman’s Auxiliary, Son’s of the Legion, American Legion, American Legion Lady’s Auxiliary, Airborne Association, Hispanic American Airborne Association and the Marine Corp Detachment League.

While each organization has it’s own agenda, typically, they all hold meetings, organize events to promote patriotism and observe veteran holidays. They also hold fundraisers and parties for soldiers going on deployment or coming back from a tour of duty.

Members of Post 804 are also involved in the “Cinco Puntos” traffic turnabout project and in the past have held fundraisers for veteran families in need of help with funeral costs.

Post 804, its walls lined with photos of veterans from past and present wars, serves as an informal gathering place where veterans can hang out, share stories and camaraderie, and maybe get a bite to eat or have a beer with friends. Located on Cesar E. Chavez Avenue, Post 804 has a bar, kitchen and rooms for meetings or other gatherings.

But the Post should also be paying California taxes and fees, according to state officials.

Questions about its non-profit status have been raised.

According to Roxane Márquez, press deputy for Supervisor Gloria Molina, the veteran’s organization lost it’s tax-exempt status after the California Secretary of State – Department of Corporations, an agency that issues and collects taxes, went after them for nonpayment of a minor fee that was supposed to be submitted with their annual Form 990, required for non-profit organizations.

Post Commander Nick Rosa told EGP that he and new post officers elected in May, have been trying to figure out what the problem is and to get it corrected, but they still do not have all the answers they need.

“We’ve been working on getting tax-exempt statues…” Rosa told EGP on Tuesday, adding, “We’re good guys, not bad guys.”

Rosa told EGP the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) office in Arcadia brought the problem to their attention about a month ago as they were updating their records with the names of the group’s new officers.

However, adding to the confusion, the State of California Franchise Tax Board has American Legion Post 804’s tax-exempt status as inactive, and says it was suspended in 1979, according to Dan Tahara, a spokesman for the California Tax Franchise Board.

Brigadier General Ruth A. Wong, of the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, says it doesn’t seem the issue is a matter of not paying taxes.

“They just didn’t submit the annual tax form and my understanding is that the state is going after these agencies to collect the tax money,” she said. “Not that they are imposing taxes [on non-profits], they just want to collect the fees.”

The filing fee the post owes is about $15 plus a one-time $50 flat-fee penalty, she said.

Wong could not confirm whether the post lost their tax-exempt status 33 years ago.

The Internal Revenue Service will not confirm or deny specific taxpayer information, however, the Post was not on a list of organizations or individuals with tax-exempt statues, IRS spokesperson Anabel Marquez told EGP.

Emilio Olguin, the Post’s former bar manager, use to handle all the Post’s sales tax and liquor license issues. He told EGP that when he left in May, everything was in order. “I paid all of that, or else they fine the hell out of you…” said the 81-year-old veteran.

Rosa said the Post’s new bar manager, Art Rodriguez, is now handling the paperwork. Rosa anticipates he’ll submit the required documents and fees within the next week. Rodriguez told EGP he was not at liberty to talk about the matter.

Beside the tax-exempt issue, a source told EGP that the Post could have other bureaucratic matters to address, such as whether it should have a retail liquor license or a health permit for the facility.

Rosa said the Post has a liquor sales license for their members-only bar, but the ABC online license query system shows nothing for the address 4615 East Cesar E Chavez Avenue, information confirmed by Will Salao, ABC District Administrator for LA/Metro District.

And according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, Post 804 does not have a Public Health Permit and their kitchen has not been inspected, Allen Solomon, Public Health public information officer told EGP.

Solomon added, however, that the Post doesn’t need the license unless they are selling or serving food.

Sixteen American Legion Posts in LA County have letter grade Food Facility Ratings, including American Legion Post #272 located in nearby Montebello, the L.A. County Public Health website shows.

But Rosa says they don’t need one once since they do not operate a restaurant, though sometimes food is cooked in their kitchen for post members.