A trio of well-known tech billionaires have emerged as among the biggest donors to the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund after an inadvertent disclosure by the Internal Revenue Service revealed their names, Bloomberg reports.
The disclosure occurred after two pages of a filing that should have been excised by the IRS were posted on the GuideStar website and subsequently obtained by Bloomberg. The filing shows that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer donated $1.9 billion to GSPF, a donor-advised fund, and that trusts linked to Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum donated $526 million and $114 million, respectively, to the fund. GSPF received $3.2 billion in donations in 2016, five times what it received in 2015. According to a 2017 report from the National Philanthropic Trust, a large donor-advised fund manager, DAFs in the U.S. received $23.27 billion in gifts in 2016 and distributed grants totaling $15.75 billion.
According to Bloomberg, the pages, which have since been removed from the GuideStar site, did not specify which assets had been donated, but $1.1 billion of Ballmer's gift was in the form of publicly traded shares of stock, while half of Powell Jobs' gift and all of Koum's gift was stock.
Private foundations are subject to more regulations and required to disclose more information than are donor-advised funds, which have become increasingly popular among wealthy individuals. With a donor-advised fund, donors are eligible for an immediate tax deduction but can recommend gifts from their fund at their convenience and, if they so choose, privately. Critics of DAFs argue that they reduce the amount of funds going to nonprofits and lower the level of transparency in the philanthropic sector.
"Steve Ballmer and other donors still benefit from the utter lack of transparency that characterizes donor-advised funds," said consultant Alan Cantor, a well-known critic of DAFs. "We now know that Ballmer put $1.9 billion into the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund, but from that point on we know nothing."