The Donor Bill of Rights was designed about 25 years ago as a blueprint of best practices for not-for-profits. Some critics have since asserted that the rights are out of date or not comprehensive enough. However, revisiting the list’s basic principles can help you build solid relationships with donors — and even boost fundraising.
Here are the rights and what they might mean for your nonprofit:
1. To be informed of the organization’s mission, how it intends to use donated resources and its capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purposes. This information is the bedrock of your outreach efforts and should be clear to your board, staff and anyone reading your organization’s materials.
2. To be informed of who’s serving on the organization’s governing board, and to expect the board to exercise prudent judgment in its stewardship responsibilities. You must be transparent about who serves on your board, their responsibilities and the decisions they’re making.
3. To have access to the organization’s most recent financial statements. Make your nonprofit’s financial data easily accessible to constituents, potential donors and charitable watchdog groups.
4. To be assured gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given. Donors expect that you’ll minimize administrative expenses so their funds are available for programming and that you’ll honor any restrictions they’ve placed on gifts.
5. To receive appropriate acknowledgment and recognition. In addition to thanking donors, provide them with the substantiation required for a federal tax deduction and information about the charitable deduction rules and limits.
7. To expect that relationships between individuals representing organizations and donors will be professional. Staff and board members should be trained in proper donor interaction — both off- and online.
8. To be informed whether fundraisers are volunteers, employees of the organization or hired solicitors. Again, transparency about your operations is critical.
9. To have the opportunity for donors’ names to be deleted from mailing lists that an organization may intend to share. Donors, not your nonprofit, get to decide whether their information can be shared. Make it easy for donors to opt out of email and other lists.
10. To feel free to ask questions and receive prompt, truthful and forthright answers. Open dialogue between your nonprofit and your donors fosters respect and deepens relationships.
Contact us for help implementing these 10 tenets or developing a customized donor bill of rights. © 2018
If you own a business and have a child in high school or college, hiring him or her for the summer can provide a multitude of benefits, including tax savings. And hiring can make more sense than ever due to changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).
How it works
By shifting some of your business earnings to a child as wages for services performed, you can turn some of your high-taxed income into tax-free or low-taxed income. For your business to deduct the wages as a business expense, the work done must be legitimate and the child’s wages must be reasonable.
Here’s an example: A sole proprietor is in the 37% tax bracket. He hires his 20-year-old daughter, who’s majoring in marketing, to work as a marketing coordinator full-time during the summer. She earns $12,000 and doesn’t have any other earnings. The father saves $4,440 (37% of $12,000) in income taxes at no tax cost to his daughter, who can use her $12,000 standard deduction (for 2018) to completely shelter her earnings. This is nearly twice as much as would have been sheltered last year, pre-TCJA, when the standard deduction was only $6,350.
The father can save an additional $2,035 in taxes if he keeps his daughter on the payroll as a part-time employee into the fall and pays her an additional $5,500. She can shelter the additional income from tax by making a tax-deductible contribution to her own traditional IRA. Family taxes will be cut even if an employee-child’s earnings exceed his or her standard deduction and IRA deduction. Why? The unsheltered earnings will be taxed to the child beginning at a rate of 10% instead of being taxed at the parent’s higher rate.
Avoiding the “kiddie tax”
TCJA changes to the “kiddie tax” also make income-shifting through hiring your child (rather than, say, giving him or her income-producing investments) more appealing. The kiddie tax generally applies to children under age 19 and to full-time students under age 24.
Before 2018, the unearned income of a child subject to the kiddie tax was generally taxed at the parents’ tax rate. The TCJA makes the kiddie tax harsher. For 2018-2025, a child’s unearned income will be taxed according to the tax brackets used for trusts and estates, which for 2018 are taxed at the highest rate of 37% once taxable income reaches $12,500. In contrast, for a married couple filing jointly, the 37% rate doesn’t kick in until their taxable income tops $600,000. In other words, children’s unearned income often will be taxed at higher rates than their parents’ income. But the kiddie tax doesn’t apply to earned income.
Other tax considerations
If your business isn’t incorporated or a partnership that includes nonparent partners, you might also save some employment tax dollars. Contact us to learn more about the tax rules surrounding hiring your child, how the kiddie tax works, and other family-related tax-saving strategies. © 2018
IRS rules governing private foundations are complex and include many exceptions, which is why your foundation needs to write and follow a detailed conflict-of-interest policy. Taking this proactive step can help you avoid potentially costly public and IRS attention.
Casting a wide net
Conflict-of-interest policies are critical for all not-for-profits. But foundations are subject to stricter rules and must go the extra mile to avoid anything that might be perceived as self-dealing. Specifically, transactions between private foundations and disqualified persons are prohibited. The IRS casts a wide net when defining “disqualified persons,” including substantial contributors, managers, officers, directors, trustees and people with large ownership interests in corporations or partnerships that make substantial contributions to the foundation. Their family members are disqualified, too. In addition, when a disqualified person owns more than 35% of a corporation or partnership, that business is considered disqualified.
Avoiding dangerous transactions
Prohibited transactions can be hard to identify because there are many exceptions. But, in general, you should ensure that disqualified persons don’t engage in the following transactions with your foundation:
• Selling, exchanging or leasing property,
• Making or receiving loans or extending credit,
• Providing or receiving goods, services or facilities, or
• Receiving compensation or reimbursed expenses.
Disqualified persons also shouldn’t agree to pay money or property to government officials on your behalf.
Facing the consequences
What happens if you violate the rules? Your foundation’s manager and the disqualified person may be subject to an initial excise tax (5% and 10%, respectively) of the amount involved and, if the transaction isn’t corrected quickly, an additional tax of up to 200% of the amount. Although liability is limited for foundation managers ($40,000 for any one act), self-dealing individuals enjoy no such limits. In some cases, private foundations that engage in self-dealing lose their tax-exempt status.
Private foundations that run afoul of the IRS usually have good intentions. You may assume, for example, that transactions with insiders are acceptable so long as they’re fair or benefit your foundation. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Most activities defined by the IRS as self-dealing — regardless of whom or what they reward — are off-limits. If you’re unsure about whether a transaction might violate IRS rules, please contact us. © 2018
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provides a valuable new tax break to noncorporate owners of pass-through entities: a deduction for a portion of qualified business income (QBI). The deduction generally applies to income from sole proprietorships, partnerships, S corporations and, typically, limited liability companies (LLCs). It can equal as much as 20% of QBI.
But once taxable income exceeds $315,000 for married couples filing jointly or $157,500 for other filers, a wage limit begins to phase in.
Full vs. partial phase-in
When the wage limit is fully phased in, at $415,000 for joint filers and $207,500 for other filers, the QBI deduction generally can’t exceed the greater of the owner’s share of:
- 50% of the amount of W-2 wages paid to employees during the tax year, or
- The sum of 25% of W-2 wages plus 2.5% of the cost of qualified business property (QBP).
When the wage limit applies but isn’t yet fully phased in, the amount of the limit is reduced and the final deduction is calculated as follows:
1. The difference between taxable income and the applicable threshold is divided by $100,000 for joint filers or $50,000 for other filers.
2. The resulting percentage is multiplied by the difference between the gross deduction and the fully wage-limited deduction.
3. The result is subtracted from the gross deduction to determine the final deduction.
Let’s say Chris and Leslie have taxable income of $600,000. This includes $300,000 of QBI from Chris’s pass-through business, which pays $100,000 in wages and has $200,000 of QBP. The gross deduction would be $60,000 (20% of $300,000), but the wage limit applies in full because the married couple’s taxable income exceeds the $415,000 top of the phase-in range for joint filers.
Computing the deduction is fairly straightforward in this situation. The first option for the wage limit calculation is $50,000 (50% of $100,000). The second option is $30,000 (25% of $100,000 + 2.5% of $200,000). So the wage limit — and the deduction — is $50,000.
What if Chris and Leslie’s taxable income falls within the phase-in range? The calculation is a bit more complicated. Let’s say their taxable income is $400,000. The full wage limit is still $50,000, but only 85% of the full limit applies:
($400,000 taxable income - $315,000 threshold)/$100,000 = 85%
To calculate the amount of their deduction, the couple must first calculate 85% of the difference between the gross deduction of $60,000 and the fully wage-limited deduction of $50,000: ($60,000 - $50,000) × 85% = $8,500
That amount is subtracted from the $60,000 gross deduction for a final deduction of $51,500.
That’s not all
Be aware that another restriction may apply: For income from “specified service businesses,” the QBI deduction is reduced if an owner’s taxable income falls within the applicable income range and eliminated if income exceeds it. Please contact us to learn whether your business is a specified service business or if you have other questions about the QBI deduction.
For small businesses, managing payroll can be one of the most arduous tasks. Adding to the burden earlier this year was adjusting income tax withholding based on the new tables issued by the IRS. (Those tables account for changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.) But it’s crucial not only to withhold the appropriate taxes — including both income tax and employment taxes — but also to remit them on time to the federal government. If you don’t, you, personally, could face harsh penalties. This is true even if your business is an entity that normally shields owners from personal liability, such as a corporation or limited liability company.
The 100% penalty
Employers must withhold federal income and employment taxes (such as Social Security) as well as applicable state and local taxes on wages paid to their employees. The federal taxes must then be remitted to the federal government according to a deposit schedule. If a business makes payments late, there are escalating penalties. And if it fails to make them, the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty could apply.
Under this penalty, also known as the 100% penalty, the IRS can assess the entire unpaid amount against a “responsible person.” The corporate veil won’t shield corporate owners in this instance. The liability protections that owners of corporations — and limited liability companies — typically have don’t apply to payroll tax debts. When the IRS assesses the 100% penalty, it can file a lien or take levy or seizure action against personal assets of a responsible person.
Who is a “Responsible person”?
The penalty can be assessed against a shareholder, owner, director, officer or employee. In some cases, it can be assessed against a third party. The IRS can also go after more than one person. To be liable, an individual or party must:
1. Be responsible for collecting, accounting for and remitting withheld federal taxes, and
2. Willfully fail to remit those taxes.
That means intentionally, deliberately, voluntarily and knowingly disregarding the requirements of the law.
Prevention is the best medicine
When it comes to the 100% penalty, prevention is the best medicine. So make sure that federal taxes are being properly withheld from employees’ paychecks and are being timely remitted to the federal government. (It’s a good idea to also check state and local requirements and potential penalties.)
If you aren’t already using a payroll service, consider hiring us to take care of your payroll. We will relieve you of the burden of withholding the proper amounts, taking care of the tax payments and handling recordkeeping. Contact us for more information. © 2018
If your not-for-profit relies heavily on a few large funding sources (for example, an annual government or foundation grant), what happens if you suddenly lose that support? The risk may be compounded if you generally spend every penny that comes in the door and fail to build adequate reserves.
Bottom line: If your nonprofit hopes to serve its community many years into the future, you need to think about financial sustainability now.
No organization can accurately evaluate its sustainability without timely, comprehensive, and accurate financial reporting. In addition to providing a current picture of your standing, financial reports should compare actual figures with historical and projected numbers. Some nonprofits use “dashboards” that give real-time financial data, ratios and trends in easily understood graphic form.
It’s not enough for the board to simply review financial statements. Board members must provide true fiscal oversight and not leave major financial decisions to staff, no matter how trusted and loyal. The finance committee should report regularly to the full board and engage in dialogue about their reports and the organization’s financial health.
Most importantly, your board shouldn’t merely take a backward-looking view but should also consider the future — for example, how current trends and developments might affect future plans for funding your nonprofit’s mission.
Lower costs, more revenue
Holding expenses down and continually searching for new revenue sources are critical to long-term financial sustainability. Many nonprofits forge formal partnerships with other organizations to share costs. Look into partnering with organizations that share your missions and serve similar populations. Such collaboration may enable you to make better use of limited resources while reducing competition for funding. By joining forces, you can more quickly scale up high-demand programs or services.
If you’re seeking new revenue ideas, consider expanding fee-based service offerings to new locations or populations. For example, an organization that provides services to children with disabilities in schools also could offer the services to children with disabilities in foster homes.
Funds in reserve
Finally, maintaining adequate reserves is a key component of financial sustainability. If you don’t have a reserve fund — or have one but no formal policy for determining the appropriate amount, maintaining it and allocating funds when necessary — make developing such a policy a priority. Contact us for help. © 2018
You’ve probably heard about the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing state and local governments to impose sales taxes on more out-of-state online sales.
The ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. is welcome news for brick-and-mortar retailers, who felt previous rulings gave an unfair advantage to their online competitors. State and local governments are pleased to potentially be able to collect more sales tax. But for businesses with out-of-state online sales that haven’t had to collect sales tax from out-of-state customers in the past, the decision brings many questions and concerns.
What the requirements used to be
Even before Wayfair, a state could require an out-of-state business to collect sales tax from its residents on online sales if the business had a “substantial nexus”, or connection, with the state.
The nexus requirement is part of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Previous Supreme Court rulings had found that a physical presence in a state (such as retail outlets, employees or property) was necessary to establish substantial nexus. As a result, some online retailers have been collecting tax from out-of-state customers, while others haven't had to.
What has changed
In Wayfair, South Dakota had enacted a law requiring out-of-state retailers that made at least 200 sales or sales totaling at least $100,000 in the state to collect and remit sales tax. The Supreme Court found that the physical presence rule is “unsound and incorrect,” and that the South Dakota tax satisfies the substantial nexus requirement. The Court said that the physical presence rule puts businesses with a physical presence at a competitive disadvantage compared with remote sellers that needn’t charge customers for taxes.
In addition, the Court found that the physical presence rule treats sellers differently for arbitrary reasons. A business with a few items of inventory in a small warehouse in a state is subject to sales tax on all of its sales in the state, while a business with a pervasive online presence but no physical presence isn’t subject to the same tax for the sales of the same items.
What the decision means
Wayfair doesn’t necessarily mean that you must immediately begin collecting sales tax on online sales to all of your out-of-state customers. You’ll be required to collect such taxes only if the particular state requires it. Some states already have laws on the books similar to South Dakota’s, but many states will need to revise or enact legislation.
Also keep in mind that the substantial nexus requirement isn’t the only principle in the Commerce Clause doctrine that can invalidate a state tax. The others weren’t argued in Wayfair, but the Court observed that South Dakota’s tax system included several features that seem designed to prevent discrimination against or undue burdens on interstate commerce, such as a prohibition against retroactive application and a safe harbor for taxpayers who do only limited business in the state.
Please contact us with any questions you have about sales tax collection requirements. © 2018
When you think about how the recent tax law changes will affect your business, you’re probably thinking about the new 20% pass-through deduction for qualified business income or the enhancements to depreciation-related breaks. Or you might be contemplating the reduction or elimination of certain business expense deductions.
But there are also a couple of recent tax law changes that you need to be aware of if your business sponsors a 401(k) plan: plan loan repayment extension and the limit increase for hardship withdrawals. While the changes appear to be benign, or even helpful, making use of these changes could have serious repercussions for retirement savings later on.
Plan loan repayment extension
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) gives a break to 401(k) plan participants with outstanding loan balances when they leave their employers. While plan sponsors aren’t required to allow loans, many do. Before 2018, if an employee with an outstanding plan loan left the company sponsoring the plan, he or she would have to repay the loan (or contribute the outstanding balance to an IRA or his or her new employer’s plan) within 60 days to avoid having the loan balance deemed a taxable distribution (and be subject to a 10% early distribution penalty if the employee was under age 59-1/2). Under the TCJA, beginning in 2018, former employees in this situation have until their tax return filing due date — including extensions — to repay the loan (or contribute the outstanding balance to an IRA or qualified retirement plan) and avoid taxes and penalties.
Hardship withdrawal limit increase
Beginning in 2019, the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) eases restrictions on employee 401(k) hardship withdrawals. Most 401(k) plans permit hardship withdrawals, though plan sponsors aren’t required to allow them. Hardship withdrawals are subject to income tax and the 10% early distribution tax penalty. Currently, hardship withdrawals are limited to the funds employees contributed to the accounts. (Such withdrawals are allowed only if the employee has first taken a loan from the same account.) Under the BBA, the withdrawal limit will also include accumulated employer matching contributions plus earnings on contributions. If an employee has been participating in your 401(k) for several years, this modification could add substantially to the amount of funds available for withdrawal.
These changes might sound beneficial to employees, but in the long run they could actually hurt those who take advantage of them. Most Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement already; therefore, taking longer to pay back a plan loan (and thus missing out on potential tax-deferred growth during that time) or taking larger hardship withdrawals might result in a much smaller nest egg at retirement. So consider educating your employees on the importance of letting their 401(k) accounts grow undisturbed and the potential negative tax consequences of loans and early withdrawals.
Please contact us if you have questions. © 2018