When done well, delegation allows not-for-profit executives to focus on their most important tasks, helps to build bench strength and gets staffers out of the office before midnight. But done poorly, it can create more burdens than it eases.
Here are five practices all nonprofit leaders should adopt:
1. Choose tasks wisely
Always try to devote your time to the projects that are the most valuable to your organization and can best benefit from your talents. On the other hand, delegate tasks that frequently reoccur, such as sending membership renewal notices, or tasks that require a specific skill in which you have minimal or no expertise, such as reconciling bank accounts.
2. Pick the right person
Before you delegate a task, consider the person’s main job responsibilities and experience and how those correlate with the project. However, keep in mind that employees may welcome opportunities to test their wings in a new area or take on greater responsibility. Be sure to consider staffers’ schedules and whether they actually have time to do the job well.
3. Perfect the handoff
When handing off a task, be clear about the goals, expectations, deadlines and details. Explain why you chose the individual and what the project means to the organization as a whole. Also let the employee know if he or she has any latitude to bring his or her own methods and processes to the task. A fresh pair of eyes might see a new and better way of accomplishing it.
4. Keep in touch — to an extent
Delegation doesn’t mean dumping a project on someone else and then washing your hands of it. Ultimately, you’re responsible for the task’s completion, even if you assign it to someone else. So stay involved by monitoring the employee’s progress and providing coaching and feedback as necessary. Remember, however, there’s a fine line between remaining available for questions and micromanaging.
5. Acknowledge the help
A good delegator never takes credit for someone else’s work. Be sure you generously — and publicly — give credit where credit is due. This could mean verbal praise in a meeting, a note of thanks in a newsletter or a letter to the person’s manager. If the project’s size and scope warrant it, consider offering extra time off or a special gift. © 2018
If most of your money is tied up in your business, retirement can be a challenge. So if you haven’t already set up a tax-advantaged retirement plan, consider doing so this year. There’s still time to set one up and make contributions that will be deductible on your 2018 tax return!
Not only are contributions tax deductible, but retirement plan funds can grow tax-deferred. If you might be subject to the 3.8% net investment income tax (NIIT), setting up and contributing to a retirement plan may be particularly beneficial because retirement plan contributions can reduce your modified adjusted gross income and thus help you reduce or avoid the NIIT.
If you have employees, they generally must be allowed to participate in the plan, provided they meet the qualification requirements. But this can help you attract and retain good employees. And if you have 100 or fewer employees, you may be eligible for a credit for setting up a plan. The credit is for 50% of start-up costs, up to $500. Remember, credits reduce your tax liability dollar-for-dollar, unlike deductions, which only reduce the amount of income subject to tax.
3 options to consider
Many types of retirement plans are available, but here are three of the most attractive to business owners trying to build up their own retirement savings:
1. Profit-sharing plan. This is a defined contribution plan that allows discretionary employer contributions and flexibility in plan design. You can make deductible 2018 contributions as late as the due date of your 2018 tax return, including extensions — provided your plan exists on Dec. 31, 2018. For 2018, the maximum contribution is $55,000, or $61,000 if you are age 50 or older and your plan includes a 401(k) arrangement.
2. Simplified Employee Pension (SEP). This is also a defined contribution plan, and it provides benefits similar to those of a profit-sharing plan. But you can establish a SEP in 2019 and still make deductible 2018 contributions as late as the due date of your 2018 income tax return, including extensions. In addition, a SEP is easy to administer. For 2018, the maximum SEP contribution is $55,000.
3. Defined benefit plan. This plan sets a future pension benefit and then actuarially calculates the contributions needed to attain that benefit. The maximum annual benefit for 2018 is generally $220,000 or 100% of average earned income for the highest three consecutive years, if less. Because it’s actuarially driven, the contribution needed to attain the projected future annual benefit may exceed the maximum contributions allowed by other plans, depending on your age and the desired benefit. You can make deductible 2018 defined benefit plan contributions until your tax return due date, including extensions, provided your plan exists on Dec. 31, 2018. Be aware that employer contributions generally are required.
If the benefits of setting up a retirement plan sound good, contact us. We can provide more information and help you choose the best retirement plan for your particular situation. © 2018
A fiscal sponsorship occurs when an established charity provides a kind of legal and financial umbrella to a charitable project that lacks 501(c)(3) status. This type of arrangement can benefit both groups. But before agreeing to be a sponsor, be sure you understand how these arrangements work and the risks involved.
In a fiscal sponsorship, the 501(c)(3) sponsor is legally responsible for the charitable project. It acts as employer to the project’s paid workers and manages all of its funds. Donations and grants are made directly to the fiscal sponsor, thus qualifying their donors for a charitable deduction (if the donors itemize deductions and other applicable requirements are met). It’s easy to see why small charitable projects seek fiscal sponsorships. Such relationships can provide much-needed infrastructure and fiscal management to a project. By making it possible to receive charitable donations, sponsorships can make more funds available. Plus, associating with an established charity can enhance the project’s credibility.
These arrangements benefit sponsors, too. A sponsorship can provide greater exposure for the 501(c)(3) organization, possibly resulting in new donors for established programs. When you choose a project that shares your mission and basic objectives, it can enhance your own program offerings with minimal monetary outlay. Although a sponsorship isn’t intended to be a source of income for the sponsor, nonprofits often charge a nominal fee to offset their overhead costs.
Projects that can best benefit from a fiscal sponsorship generally include those that are:
• Too small to have staff or much infrastructure,
• Temporary or periodic,
• Waiting to secure 501(c)(3) status, but that want to operate sooner, or
• Based outside the United States.
When you find a good candidate, make sure you thoroughly discuss each partner’s expectations and roles. Mutually agree on start and termination dates and decide which group will make decisions about what. Because nothing causes conflict like money issues, be sure to decide on the sponsorship charge (up to 10% is typical), how disbursements will be handled and who will handle audit and reporting requirements. Both parties must understand the key responsibilities in the relationship. First and foremost, the fiscal sponsor is responsible because the project and its sponsoring nonprofit are legally one entity.
Keep in mind that any fiscal sponsorship involves some risk to your organization’s finances and reputation. So it’s important to discuss your plans with legal and financial advisors before entering into one of these arrangements. Contact us for more information.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has enhanced two depreciation-related breaks that are popular year-end tax planning tools for businesses. To take advantage of these breaks, you must purchase qualifying assets and place them in service by the end of the tax year. That means there’s still time to reduce your 2018 tax liability with these breaks, but you need to act soon.
Section 179 expensing
Sec. 179 expensing is valuable because it allows businesses to deduct up to 100% of the cost of qualifying assets in Year 1 instead of depreciating the cost over a number of years. Sec. 179 expensing can be used for assets such as equipment, furniture, and software.
Beginning in 2018, the TCJA expanded the list of qualifying assets to include qualified improvement property, certain property used primarily to furnish lodging and the following improvements to nonresidential real property: roofs, HVAC equipment, fire protection and alarm systems, and security systems.
The maximum Sec. 179 deduction for 2018 is $1 million, up from $510,000 for 2017. The deduction begins to phase out dollar-for-dollar for 2018 when total asset acquisitions for the tax year exceed $2.5 million, up from $2.03 million for 2017.
100% bonus depreciation
For qualified assets that your business places in service in 2018, the TCJA allows you to claim 100% first-year bonus depreciation -- compared to 50% in 2017. This break is available when buying computer systems, software, machinery, equipment and office furniture. The TCJA has expanded eligible assets to include used assets; previously, only new assets were eligible. However, due to a TCJA drafting error, qualified improvement property will be eligible only if a technical correction is issued.
Also be aware that, under the TCJA, certain businesses aren’t eligible for bonus depreciation in 2018, such as real estate businesses that elect to deduct 100% of their business interest and auto dealerships with floor plan financing (if the dealership has average annual gross receipts of more than $25 million for the three previous tax years).
Traditional, powerful strategy
Keep in mind that Sec. 179 expensing and bonus depreciation can also be used for business vehicles. So purchasing vehicles before year end could reduce your 2018 tax liability. But, depending on the type of vehicle, additional limits may apply. Investing in business assets is a traditional and powerful year-end tax planning strategy, and it might make even more sense in 2018 because of the TCJA enhancements to Sec. 179 expensing and bonus depreciation. If you have questions about these breaks or other ways to maximize your depreciation deductions, please contact us. © 2018
How efficient is your not-for-profit? Even tightly run organizations can use some improvement — particularly in the accounting area. Adopting the following six tips can help improve timeliness and accuracy:
1. Set cutoff policies. Create policies for the monthly cutoff of invoicing and recording expenses — and adhere to them. For example, require all invoices to be submitted to the accounting department by the end of each month. Too many adjustments — or waiting for different employees or departments to turn in invoices and expense reports — waste time and can delay the production of financial statements.
2. Reconcile accounts monthly. You may be able to save considerable time at the end of the year by reconciling your bank accounts shortly after the end of each month. It’s easier to correct errors when you catch them early. Also reconcile accounts payable and accounts receivable data to your statements of financial position.
3. Batch items to process. Don’t enter only one invoice or cut only one check at a time. Set aside a block of time to do the job when you have multiple items to process. Some organizations process payments only once or twice a month. If you make your schedule available to everyone, fewer “emergency” checks and deposits will surface.
4. Insist on oversight. Make sure that the individual or group that’s responsible for financial oversight (for example, your CFO, treasurer or finance committee) reviews monthly bank statements, financial statements, and accounting entries for obvious errors or unexpected amounts. The value of such reviews increases when they’re performed right after each monthly reporting period ends.
5. Exploit your software’s potential. Many organizations underuse the accounting software package they’ve purchased because they haven’t learned its full functionality. If needed, hire a trainer to review the software’s basic functions with staff and teach time-saving shortcuts.
6. Review your processes. Accounting systems can become inefficient over time if they aren’t monitored. Look for labor-intensive steps that could be automated or steps that don’t add value and could be eliminated. Often, for example, steps are duplicated by two different employees or the process is slowed down by “handing off” part of a project.
Contact us - We can help review your accounting function for ways to improve efficiency. © 2018
As we approach the end of the year, it’s a good idea to review your business’s expenses for deductibility. At the same time, consider whether your business would benefit from accelerating certain expenses into this year.
Be sure to evaluate the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which reduces or eliminates many deductions. In some cases, it may be necessary or desirable to change your expense and reimbursement policies.
What’s deductible, anyway?
There’s no master list of deductible business expenses in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). Although some deductions are expressly authorized or excluded, most are governed by the general rule of IRC Sec. 162, which permits businesses to deduct their “ordinary and necessary” expenses. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your business. (It need not be indispensable.) Even if an expense is ordinary and necessary, it may not be deductible if the IRS considers it lavish or extravagant.
What did the TCJA change?
The TCJA contains many provisions that affect the deductibility of business expenses. Significant changes include these deductions:
Meals and entertainment: The act eliminates most deductions for entertainment expenses, but retains the 50% deduction for business meals. What about business meals provided in connection with nondeductible entertainment? In a recent notice, the IRS clarified that such meals continue to be 50% deductible, provided they’re purchased separately from the entertainment or their cost is separately stated on invoices or receipts.
Transportation: The act eliminates most deductions for qualified transportation fringe benefits, such as parking, vanpooling and transit passes. This change may lead some employers to discontinue these benefits, although others will continue to provide them because 1) they’re a valuable employee benefit (they’re still tax-free to employees) or 2) they’re required by local law.
Employee expenses: The act suspends employee deductions for unreimbursed job expenses — previously treated as miscellaneous itemized deductions — through 2025. Some businesses may want to implement a reimbursement plan for these expenses. So long as the plan meets IRS requirements, reimbursements are deductible by the business and tax-free to employees.
The deductibility of certain expenses, such as employee wages or office supplies, is obvious. In other cases, it may be necessary to consult IRS rulings or court cases for guidance. For assistance, please contact us. © 2018
Not-for-profits often struggle with valuing noncash and in-kind donations. Whether for record-keeping purposes or when helping donors understand proper valuation for their charitable tax deductions, the task isn’t easy. Although the amount that a donor can deduct generally is based on the donation’s fair market value (FMV), there’s no single formula for calculating it.
FMV is often defined as the price that property would sell for on the open market. For example, if a donor contributes used clothes, the FMV would be the price that typical buyers pay for clothes of the same age, condition, style, and use. If the property is subject to any type of restriction on use, the FMV must reflect it. So, if a donor stipulates that a painting must be displayed, not sold, that restriction affects its value.
According to the IRS, there are three particularly relevant FMV factors:
1. Cost or selling price. This is the cost of the item to the donor or the actual selling price received by your organization. However, note that, because market conditions can change, the cost or price becomes less important the further in time the purchase or sale was from the contribution date.
2. Comparable sales. The sales price of a property similar to the donated property can determine FMV. The weight that the IRS gives to a comparable sale depends on the:
• Degree of similarity between the property sold and the donated property,
• Time of the sale,
• Circumstances of the sale (was it at arm’s length?), and
• Market conditions.
3. Replacement cost. FMV should consider the cost of buying or creating property similar to the donated item, but the replacement cost must have a reasonable relationship with the FMV.
Businesses that contribute inventory can generally deduct the smaller of its FMV on the day of the contribution or the inventory’s basis. The basis is any cost incurred for the inventory in an earlier year that the business would otherwise include in its opening inventory for the year of the contribution. If the cost of donated inventory isn’t included in the opening inventory, its basis is zero and the business can’t claim a deduction.
Even if a donor can’t deduct a noncash or in-kind donation (for example, a piece of tangible property or property rights), you may need to record the donation on your financial statements. Recognize such donations at their fair value, or what it would cost if your organization were to buy the donation outright. Contact us for more information. © 2018a
In today’s tightening job market, to attract and retain the best employees, small businesses need to offer not only competitive pay, but also appealing fringe benefits. Benefits that are tax-free are especially attractive to employees. Let’s take a quick look at some popular options:
Businesses can provide their employees with various types of insurance on a tax-free basis. Here are some of the most common:
Health insurance: If you maintain a health care plan for employees, coverage under the plan isn’t taxable to them. Employee contributions are excluded from income if pretax coverage is elected under a cafeteria plan. Otherwise, such amounts are included in their wages, but may be deductible on a limited basis as an itemized deduction.
Disability insurance: Your premium payments aren’t included in employees’ income, nor are your contributions to a trust providing disability benefits. Employees’ premium payments (or other contributions to the plan) generally aren’t deductible by them or excludable from their income. However, they can make pretax contributions to a cafeteria plan for disability benefits, which are excludable from their income.
Long-term care insurance: Your premium payments aren’t taxable to employees. However, long-term care insurance can’t be provided through a cafeteria plan.
Life insurance: Your employees generally can exclude from gross income premiums you pay on up to $50,000 of qualified group term life insurance coverage. Premiums you pay for qualified coverage exceeding $50,000 are taxable to the extent they exceed the employee’s coverage contributions.
Other types of tax-advantaged benefits
Insurance isn’t the only type of tax-free benefit you can provide ¬― but the tax treatment of certain benefits has changed under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:
Dependent care assistance: You can provide employees with tax-free dependent care assistance up to $5,000 for 2018 though a dependent care Flexible Spending Account (FSA), also known as a Dependent Care Assistance Program (DCAP).
Adoption assistance: For employees who’re adopting children, you can offer an employee adoption assistance program. Employees can exclude from their taxable income up to $13,810 of adoption benefits in 2018.
Educational assistance: You can help employees on a tax-free basis through educational assistance plans (up to $5,250 per year), job-related educational assistance and qualified scholarships.
Moving expense reimbursement: Before the TCJA, if you reimbursed employees for qualifying job-related moving expenses, the reimbursement could be excluded from the employee’s income. The TCJA suspends this break for 2018 through 2025. However, such reimbursements may still be deductible by your business.
Transportation benefits: Qualified employee transportation fringe benefits, such as parking allowances, mass transit passes and van pooling, are tax-free to recipient employees. However, the TCJA suspends through 2025 the business deduction for providing such benefits. It also suspends the tax-free benefit of up to $20 a month for bicycle commuting.
Varying tax treatment
As you can see, the tax treatment of fringe benefits varies. Contact us for more information.
To protect the organization, demonstrate openness, and support the greater good, your not-for-profit needs to embrace accountability. Doing so will also help you fulfill your fiduciary responsibilities to donors, constituents, and the public.
Fairness and clarity
Accountability starts by complying with all applicable laws and rules. As you carry out your organization’s initiatives, do so fairly and in the best interests of your constituents and community. Your status as a nonprofit means you’re obligated to use your resources to support your mission and benefit the community you serve. Evaluate programs accordingly, both in respect to the activities and their outcomes.
There can be no accountability without good governance, and that’s ultimately your board’s responsibility. Your board needs to understand the importance of its role and focus on the big picture — not the process-oriented details best handled at the staff or committee level. For example, management will likely prepare internal financial statements and review performance against approved budgets on a quarterly basis. But it will present these statements to the board (or its audit or finance committee) for review and approval. Your board is also responsible for establishing and regularly assessing financial performance measurements.
Communicating with your public
Communication is a big part of accountability. Your annual report, for example, is designed to summarize the year’s activities and detail your nonprofit’s financial position. But the report’s list of board members, management staff and other key employees can be just as important. Stakeholders want to be able to assign responsibility for results to actual names. Your nonprofit’s Form 990 also provides the public with an overview of your organization’s programs, finances, governance, compliance and compensation methods. Notably, charity watchdog groups use 990 information to rate nonprofits.
Whether your organization is accountable — and able to communicate its accountability — can affect everything from donations to grants, hiring to volunteering and good word-of-mouth. Contact us for more information. © 2018