San Diego Comic-Con Threatened With Loss of Nonprofit Status Over IRS Flap

The organization behind the annual San Diego Comic-Con International could lose its tax-exempt status in the state of California over a delay in filing paperwork with the IRS.

According to its mission statement, San Diego Comic Convention, aka Comic-Con International, “is a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation organized for charitable purposes and dedicated to creating the general public’s awareness of and appreciation for comics and related popular art forms, including participation in and support of public presentations, conventions, exhibits, museums and other public outreach activities which celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture.”

In an April 8 letter to SDCC, California Attorney General Rob Bonta indicated the state’s Registry of Charitable Trusts had not received a copy of SDCC’s Form 990 filing, which the Internal Revenue Service uses to gather information on tax-exempt organizations. Bonta’s letter gave SDCC a May 15 deadline to provide the state with a copy of the form or an approved IRS extension. Failure to submit the paperwork within 60 days of the date of the letter would result in the California Franchise Tax Board would being notified to treat SDCC as a taxable corporation.

Delinquent organizations may not engage in any activity for which registration is required, including solicitation or disbursing of charitable assets. Such a restriction would hamper SDCC’s ability to conduct its annual July San Diego Comic-Con event, which at its pre-pandemic peak drew 130,000 registered attendees. SDCC in the spring also stages the annual WonderCon in Anaheim, Calif., drawing about 60,000 guests.

According to Bonta’s letter, late fees will be imposed by the Registry of Charitable Trusts for each month or partial month for which the reports are delinquent. Directors, trustees, officers and return preparers responsible for failure to timely file these reports are also personally liable for payment of all late fees, which cannot be paid with charitable assets.

According to the Times of San Diego, SDCC this past Nov. 18 filed its annual registration renewal fee report, claiming it lost more than $8 million in 2020 when it was forced to cancel both WonderCon and Comic-Con due to the pandemic ($3.97 million gross revenue vs. $11.98 million in gross expenses). It reported total assets of $42.4 million.

SDCC also canceled WonderCon and San Diego Comic-Con in 2021, and didn’t return to staging live events until a smaller convention in San Diego during Thanksgiving Weekend in 2021. WonderCon returned to the Anaheim Convention Center in early April 2022. Its next summer convention is slated for a return to the San Diego Convention Center July 21-24.

The website solicits donations and sells membership packages for the new Comic-Con Museum in San Diego’s Balboa Park.

SDCC may try to make up its pandemic losses through franchising. April 4 global brand management firm IMG announced it had been retained as SDCC’s first-ever licensing agency.

“Over 50 years ago, the Comic-Con founders simply wanted to draw attention and recognition to the comics and other art forms they loved,” Bruno Maglione, president of licensing at IMG, said in a statement. “In doing so, they discovered a shared interest in this and related Sci-Fi, fantasy, and genre content wider than they could have possibly imagined. Today, that comic culture is mainstream entertainment culture thanks in large part to Comic-Con’s championing of this art form and its brilliant creators, and Comic-Con is the leading curator brand and guide in this space, allowing it to secure consumer attention and deliver consumer value in more ways.”

IMG will be working with SDCC to identify partners who can develop products, retail destinations, and experiences for the millions of fans not able to partake in the annual Comic-Con convention experience. Brand licensing is allowed under IRS nonprofit regulations.

“We began talking to IMG around six months ago and in the course of those discussions, it hit home to us that we could use our expertise to serve the ever-growing fan community in more ways, places and times than ever before,” David Glanzer, chief communications and strategy officer for SDCC, said in a statement. “In 2021, we embarked on the new Comic-Con Museum and now, with IMG’s expertise working with specialist partners to deliver authentic brand experiences, we can pursue an exciting new phase for the Comic-Con brand.”

Writing for, observer Rich Johnston noted the licensing deal could be the first step in SDCC expanding its shows beyond California, emulating the for-profit ReedPOP company, which produces several events globally, including trademark comic conventions in New York and Chicago, Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, and Disney’s Star Wars Celebrations (the next of which is slated for May 26-29 in Anaheim).

Another for-profit convention organizer, Wizard World, recently sold its slate of events to the nonprofit Fan Expo.


San Diego Comic-Con Going Virtual Again in 2021, Eyeing Live Event in November

Organizers of the annual San Diego Comic-Con International announced March 1 that the 2021 edition of the confab has been canceled for the second year in a row as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and as with 2020 programming will be presented online through a free virtual Comic-Con@Home.

“It is the policy of the organization to continue to closely monitor information from local and national healthcare officials as it pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic. Never could we have imagined what the world experienced in 2020 and continues to experience today,” San Diego Comic Convention wrote in a statement posted at “While we are buoyed by the rollout of the vaccine and the growing number of individuals being inoculated, it appears that July will still be too early to safely hold an in-person event of the magnitude of Comic-Con. For this reason, we have made the challenging decision to postpone Comic-Con 2021 as an in-person gathering until our 2022 dates, and once again hold this year’s celebration as the free online Comic-Con@Home.”

San Diego Comic-Con had been slated for July 22-25 at the San Diego Convention Center. In their statement, organizers indicated “the challenges of this past year and the multiple postponements of our two largest events have left us with limited financial resources,” resulting on the decision to narrow the scope of Comic-Con@Home to three days, spanning July 23-25.

The San Diego Comic Convention organization earlier had announced the 2021 in-person WonderCon slated for Anaheim, Calif., has been replaced by the virtual WonderCon@Home March 26-27.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Meanwhile, organizers announced they are hoping to stage a smaller, three-day in-person convention in San Diego in November, with details to come, should the effects of the pandemic subside to an acceptable degree by then.

“While we lament the postponement of the in-person Comic-Con, our commitment to this community of fans and our celebration of comics and the related popular arts endures as an important part of who we are,” organizers wrote. “As the timing and scope of our larger event factored greatly into our decision to postpone, we believe that launching a smaller in-person event at a later time may be a safe alternative.”

Individuals who had purchased badges to the 2020 San Diego Comic-Con and had them roll over to the 2021 show will now have those badges automatically transferred to the 2022 event unless a refund is requested at Exhibitors who carried over from 2020 can forward their payment to 2022 or request a refund.

Carryover badge holders and exhibitors may also be able to transfer their credentials to the November event should it happen.