Nonprofits Pay Income Taxes

It may come as a surprise to many, but nonprofits can have taxable income, known as Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI).  Even if they get a tax exemption from the IRS.

If an organization has UBTI of $1,000, it must submit 990-T Unrelated Business. You can check out his form at the IRS website –https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f990t.pdf

The government defines taxable income as income not substantially related to the organization’s tax-exempt purposes or activities. The idea is to prevent nonprofit organizations from competing with for-profit firms unfairly. The tax due is known as Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT), and it conforms to the corporate tax rate. Often, an activity generates unrelated business income if it meets three requirements:

  1. It’s a trade or business
  2. It’s regularly carried on, and
  3. It’s not substantially related to furthering the exempt purpose of the organization.

For example, an organization runs a pizza parlor selling pizza to the public. The nonprofit’s mission and programs don’t relate to the parlor’s business. The nonprofit pays employees to run the pizza place. All this information points to the pizza parlor generating unrelated business income that’s taxable.

On the other hand, a humanitarian-service organization holds a bake sale. While the sale is unrelated to the mission, It’s likely to be tax-exempt if not “regularly carried on.” Nonprofit’s activities are considered regularly carried on if they show a frequency, continuity, similarity to comparable commercial activities of for-profit businesses.

Some unrelated business activities may not be taxed. For instance, if an organization sells donated items, or if volunteers perform all the labor involved in the business, proceeds are exempt from taxes.

Note that if the IRS notices too much UBTI, it may revoke the tax-exempt status, which can spell disaster for a nonprofit. To avoid this potential risk, organizations should consider the following:

  • Resources and volunteers must spend most of the time on the mission, not business activities
  • Most of the revenue must come from the public and mission-related programs. The percentage of business income should be minimal

 

Interested on CPE credits regarding nonprofits?  Online Practical CPE Courses

You can also check out my books:

Nonprofit Finance: A Practical Guide – Second Edition — First edition nominated for a  2016 McAdam Book Award

15 Quick Tips on Becoming a Great Consultant  — Free on Kindle Unlimited

 

 

Why Financial Rules Are Good for You

Oh no….Marcie from accounting is again asking for receipts, signatures and other stuff. Can’t she see that we’re busy?  What’s wrong with these people?  Where do they come up with these ideas? Well….there is a reason for this apparent madness and annoyance.

Many managers indeed get aggravated with demands from the accounting/financial department.  However, nonprofits have a lot to gain by following proper accounting requirements, such as requesting proper receipts or approvals. The requirements may seem a bit burdensome, but they serve important purposes within a nonprofit organization’s operations.  These requests are not to drive you nuts.

Oftentimes requirements for certain tasks are to assure that processes flow properly with enough check and balances to avoid errors or fraud. Below are a few important reasons for nonprofits to follow accounting requirements:

1- Financial requirements may be mandatory for recipients of federal and other government funding, such as demands for certain internal controls to avoid errors and misappropriations and the use of a budget. There is really no choice — either the nonprofit follows the prescribed requirements or funding stops.

2- The IRS specifically asks about financial tasks on the tax form 990, the information return filed by many nonprofits. For instance, the return explicitly inquires about the number of items reported on the form 1096, the Annual Summary and Transmittal of U.S. Information Returns. This is usually related to reporting payments to contractors over a certain amount. To comply with this inquiry properly, the nonprofit should have financial rules to capture this information.

3- The nonprofit must also follow all local, State and federal laws. For example, employees may need to file time sheets to be paid correctly. If they don’t follow this accounting rule, paychecks may be printed incorrectly, putting the nonprofit at risk for fines and penalties. So, accounting folks must require proper documentation and approvals so that this process run smoothly.

4- Following financial guidelines protect nonprofits from errors and fraud. An example would be the procedure of requiring approvals on all invoices to be paid. Usually, a supervisor approves such invoices to avoid payments for fake or wrong items or services. You don’t want employees charging the nonprofit for their own tech or other personal purchases.

5- Compliance with accounting requirements, including financial processes, are often evaluated by auditors to assess the risks of nonprofits. For instance, if an accounting requires monthly cash reconciliations, but the auditors note that they are actually done once every four months, most likely the audit risk will increase along with the costs of such audit. So, accounting requirements are to be followed ALL THE TIME to avoid problems. Even by the accounting department.

6-Financial  rules can help in building a nonprofit’s competence while minimizing confusion. For example, a rule to pay bills on only certain days every week may give employees the sense of a set order in finance. One cannot walk in and expect that a check would be ready within minutes. Financial rules can instill confidence and controls within a nonprofit.

Accounting, taxes change throughout the years, so don’t be surprised if the requirements change. For example, starting effectively in 2018, nonprofits must prove that they can pay their bills short term. This is a new requirement of FASB, the organization that dictates accounting rules for nonprofits. So, expect some new requirements from folks from the accounting department regarding this new guideline and others coming down the pipe.

You can check the new edition of the book Nonprofit Finance A Practical Guide at https://goo.gl/M563u9  -First edition nominated for a McAdam Book Award.