GrassRoots Television won’t get any more static from the IRS |

GrassRoots Television won’t get any more static from the IRS

Local television viewers who tune into Channel 12 won’t have to worry about any more static from the Internal Revenue Service.

The federal government’s collection agency has officially released Aspen’s community television station, GrassRoots TV, from all penalties stemming from the station’s failure to file income tax returns over a four-year period.

The news came in a July 26 notice from the Office of Taxpayer Relations in Ogden, Utah. “After reviewing your account, we have determined that we are able to remove the penalty at this time,” the notice read.

“Everybody’s ecstatic,” said GrassRoots TV Executive Director Sean Sunkel. “It was the last unresolved issue facing the station, and with it behind us, we can finally devote all of our energy toward rebuilding the station.”

GrassRoots has been under review at the IRS since January, when it learned that income tax returns had not been filed from 1994 through 1997. The IRS could have fined the nonprofit station as much as $20 a day for each tax return it failed to file, an agent with the IRS field office in Denver told The Aspen Times in January.

Sunkel said the matter was resolved with the help of local tax attorney Joe Kowar, who notified the agency of the missing tax returns and then convinced IRS officials to forgive the penalties. Kowar argued that the station’s reliance on the volunteer services of a board member to file its returns was at the root of the problem.

That board member, who happens to be a local accountant, resigned last October, and the station’s taxes are being now handled by Kowar himself, Sunkel said. Although nonprofit organizations such as GrassRoots television are not required to pay taxes, they are required to file a form that lists contributions and expenditures.

The IRS is not alone in scrutinizing the station, however. The community at large has its concerns as well.

The problems at GrassRoots became apparent last fall, when the board of directors resigned en masse and the previous executive director quit.

Sunkel was put in charge by the three remaining board members, and he has been under a microscope ever since. He was hit with criticism especially hard after the station’s election coverage last fall was deemed inadequate by local politicos.

In addition to getting out from under the IRS, the station has put on a successful fund-raising concert, rewritten its by-laws and appointed a new board of directors. Sunkel said the station is now negotiating with the county and the local cable provider to secure new equipment, and producing new programming.

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