Star Power: Celebrity involvement in charitable causes raises both tax and business affairs issues

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THE PARTICIPATION OF CELEBRITIES in charitable causes is rooted in tradition and increasingly apparent in a variety of venues. When those who are famous for their achievements in the arts, entertainment, media, or sports decide to become involved in charities, they are undertaking. a complex endeavor, with a wide variety of legal and business challenges involving many parties. They are becoming "charitable actors," with many attendant rewards but also a number of responsibilities.

The close relationship between entertainment and sports celebrities and charities has a long lineage. In the entertainment world, Bob Hope's decades-long support of the USO by performing for U.S. troops throughout the world led Congress to name him an honorary veteran. At last year's Emmy Awards ceremony, George Clooney received the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for his fundraising contributions. In the sports arena, Ted Williams, the legendary baseball player with the Boston Red Sox, worked behind the scenes for years on behalf of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute's Jimmy Fund, making unannounced (and unreported) visits to children and paying their hospital bils.l

Celebrities often respond when a natural disaster strikes or when they are asked to raise public awareness for a worthy cause. One example is Farm Aid, organized by Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young in 1985. Sometimes a charitable event becomes an annual tradition, such as the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon, which has taken place every Labor Day weekend since 1966. In response to a crisis, celebrities plan and present onetime fundraisers in a matter of days, such as the Hope for Haiti event organized by George Clooney and Wyclef Jean in 2010.

Whatever the circumstance, a legal team needs to oversee the formation of the charitable program. Attorneys provide direction in working with personal and business managers, public relations teams, agents, in-house counsel, corporate advisers, and nonprofit directors to ensure strict compliance with all applicable laws. They also monitor the proceedings so that all the participants' objectives are met.

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Published In: Art, Entertainment & Sports Updates, Business Organization Updates, Communications & Media Updates, Nonprofits Updates, Tax Updates

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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