MYRTLE BEACH -- Skip Hoagland, a Hilton Head Island resident with a passion for taking on what he calls abuses by local chambers of commerce, has trained his sights on the Myrtle Beach chamber by filing a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service.
This time his fight has a new twist -- a $20,000 reward for help from the public.
Hoagland's StopChamberAbuse.com website promises "a $20,000.00 cash reward to anyone who provides information that leads to a conviction or IRS whistle-blower collection from any abuse, violation or corruption by anyone involved or employed by local Chambers of Commerce."
Hoagland's complaint against the nonprofit Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce claims it is using a for-profit corporation it created -- the Myrtle Beach Area Commerce Center Inc. -- to get around IRS rules and avoid paying taxes.
Hoagland, an investor in Internet domain names, has fought with the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton chamber for years. He has sued the island-based chamber, alleging it denied him access to financial records in violation of South Carolina's Freedom of Information Act. He also has claimed that the chamber, which is supported in part with tax dollars, unfairly competes with some of its own members for advertising revenue and pays exorbitant salaries.
Gary Sadowski, whose Savannah accounting firm is assisting with Hoagland's complaint against the Myrtle Beach chamber, said the chamber is violating its tax-exempt status: "We are trying to get the IRS to revoke their tax-exempt status or get the chamber to quit performing services normally carried on for profit in violation of the (IRS) regulations."
Hoagland also has filed whistle-blower complaints against chambers of commerce in Charleston and Savannah.
Lev Glikman, the IRS analyst in charge of investigating Hoagland's complaint against the Myrtle Beach chamber, could not be reached for comment.
Robert Martin, a Sadowski & Co. accountant, said Hoagland's complaint also alleges the Myrtle Beach chamber is using a hybrid tax structure to avoid transparency and public accountability.
Myrtle Beach chamber spokesman David Slough said the chamber is doing nothing wrong, adding that it makes "a comprehensive effort to comply with the Internal Revenue Code and related regulations, and most importantly the spirit of those regulations."
Slough said the method used to prepare the chamber's tax returns and financial statements "has been reviewed and approved by other accountants and legal counsel."
Hoagland has fought with Myrtle Beach officials in the past.
In December 2001, the city filed a complaint over Hoagland's ownership of the myrtlebeach.com Internet domain name. Myrtle Beach officials claimed the city was the rightful owner of the name and wanted the domain transferred to the city.
Hoagland, who purchased the domain name for $10,000 in 1997, won the case and eventually sold the name to a Myrtle Beach marketing group for $6.5 million.