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Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations

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PYA Tax Manager Elizabeth Wright presented “Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations” at the Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA) Luncheon in Knoxville, TN. The presentation provides an overview of good governance practices to assist any size 501(c)(3) organization in complying with IRS governance guidelines.

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Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations

  1. 1. Page 0 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations Prepared for Accounting and Financial Women’s Alliance (AFWA) March 27, 2014
  2. 2. Page 1 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Elizabeth Wright, CPA PYA Manager Elizabeth has specific knowledge in tax accounting and reporting for exempt organizations, including issues related to private inurement, unrelated business tax, and tax-exempt status. She also provides research and planning for mergers and acquisitions, reorganizations, affiliations, and joint ventures. Elizabeth has experience assisting tax-exempt hospitals in fulfilling IRS requirements for community health needs assessments and financial assistance policies.
  3. 3. Page 2 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Agenda Public trust is a charity’s greatest asset Importance of having knowledgeable/ engaged governing boards Effective self-policing policies Avoiding conflicts of interest Importance of implementing a code of ethics policy Financial statements and Form 990 reporting What you need to know about Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBIT) Useful resources for your organization
  4. 4. Page 3 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Public Trust • The concept of “public trust” originated around the same time as the beginning of our democracy. It is the idea that the public is the true power of any society and that their trust must be respected by public officials. • “Trust” and “charitable giving” are inseparable. • The IRS is focused on exempt organizations practicing good governance.
  5. 5. Page 4 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 What is Good Governance? • Just as there is no single model for charity, there is no single model for governance. Instead, there are practices charities should consider when looking for an effective governance structure. • It is the IRS’s view that “a well-governed charity is more likely to obey the tax laws, safeguard charitable assets, and serve charitable interests than one with poor or lax governance.”
  6. 6. Page 5 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Good Governance – Con’t • The IRS “promotes” good governance practices to the tax-exempt community. • Superior board governance may have more to do with the values, active engagement, and accountability of those in charge than the adoption of procedures and policies.
  7. 7. Page 6 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Sarbanes-Oxley Act • Enacted in response to corporate accounting oversight scandals. • Introduced significant new governance standards, requiring the boards of publicly traded companies to oversee financial transactions and auditing procedures. • Two provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act apply to nonprofit organizations:  Whistle Blower Protection  Document Destruction
  8. 8. Page 7 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 State Nonprofit Procedures • Many governments have passed or are considering legislation that addresses nonprofits’ accounting and auditing procedures. • California enacted the California Nonprofit Integrity Act of 2004. It applies to foreign (out-of-state) charitable corporations that do business in California, or hold property in California for charitable purposes. – All CA nonprofits with annual revenues of at least $2 million must have an independent audit. The audit must be available to the public and the CA attorney general.
  9. 9. Page 8 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Governance & Form 990 • Governance questions added to the 2008 Form 990. • Information sought:  Composition and independence of the governing body.  Governance policies and procedures.  How governance and financial information is made available to the public.
  10. 10. Page 9 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Organizational Documents A tax exempt organization must have organizational documents that provide the framework for its governance and management. State law often prescribes the type and content of organizational documents. The IRS reviews these documents in applications for exemption.
  11. 11. Page 10 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Organizational Needs Size Independence Knowledge Mission Statement
  12. 12. Page 11 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Internal Controls Segregation of Duties Control Execution of Transactions Personnel Assets Recordkeeping
  13. 13. Page 12 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Recordkeeping Good Records allow organizations to track expenses • How much did each activity cost? • How did you organization spend its money? Tracking volunteers’ hours allow organizations to: • Know who did what • How long it took • Which programs or activities were successful • Formalize lessons learned • Verify items on the IRS and state returns
  14. 14. Page 13 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Due Diligence • Board members act as stewards and have certain fiduciary responsibilities under Tennessee law. • Acting consistently with a duty of care: – Care that ordinary, prudent person in like circumstances would exercise – In good faith
  15. 15. Page 14 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Due Diligence – Con’t • In an organization’s best interest:  Review and approve strategic and operating plans.  Evaluate senior leadership performance.  Evaluate and approve senior leadership compensation.  Oversee the financial reporting and audit process.  Oversee legal compliance.
  16. 16. Page 15 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Due Diligence – Con’t Board member best practices: • Attend board meetings and committee meetings. • Carefully read all the material received, ask questions and be an active participant in board discussions. • A board member should be informed about every major action the nonprofit takes, and be proactive about reviewing materials in a timely manner. • Use personal judgment in voting. • A responsible board member will ask about the reasons for recommending a particular action and the consequences--good and bad--such action will bring.
  17. 17. Page 16 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Duty of Loyalty A board member must act with undivided loyalty in the best interests of the nonprofit organization and not seek to benefit personally from the business activities of the nonprofit organization served. Actions that benefit a board member at the expense of a nonprofit organization are a breach of the board member’s fiduciary duty. Prior to joining a board or being employed as an officer by a nonprofit, an individual must disclose any personal or business relationship that is in conflict with the duty of undivided loyalty, whether direct or indirect, actual or potential.
  18. 18. Page 17 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Conflict of Interest Require officers/directors/employees to act for the benefit of the charity without regard for personal interest. Include written procedures for determining whether a relationship, financial interest or business affiliation is, or could be a conflict of interest. Prescribe a course of action in the event a conflict is identified. Require annual disclosure of any known interest in an entity that transacts business with charity. Conflict of Interest policy should:
  19. 19. Page 18 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Private Inurement • Applied to insiders of the organization: officers, board members, key employees. • Examples: payment of unreasonable compensation to insiders, the transfer of property to insiders for less than fair market value, or business transactions that provide greater benefit to insiders than to the charity.
  20. 20. Page 19 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Private Inurement – Con’t • Prohibition against inurement to insiders is absolute. • Any amount of inurement is grounds for loss of tax- exempt status. • An insider involved in inurement—and any managers that approved the transaction—may be subject to an excise tax.
  21. 21. Page 20 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Inurement/Private Benefit • A “private benefit” to someone who is not an insider must be substantial in order for the organization’s exempt status to be in jeopardy. The next two slides contrast two situations when private benefit to non-insiders is insubstantial versus substantial.
  22. 22. Page 21 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Inurement/Private Benefit – Con’t • A nonprofit develops a community center in a residential neighborhood. Although some homes will be very close in proximity, the community center is open to the public and therefore provides insubstantial, incidental private benefit to the surrounding homes.
  23. 23. Page 22 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Inurement/Private Benefit – Con’t • Facts similar to the previous example, except the residential neighborhood is exclusive and private; only residents of the neighborhood will have access to the community center. This is an example of a substantial private benefit that is prohibited.
  24. 24. Page 23 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Code of Ethics/Whistleblower Policy • The board should adopt and regularly evaluate code of ethics reflecting behavior it wants to encourage and discourage. • A code of ethics can be used to communicate to all personnel a strong culture of legal compliance and ethical integrity. • Whistleblower policy: procedures for employees to report in confidence suspected improprieties.
  25. 25. Page 24 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Compensation Practices • The public, which supports the nonprofit and uses its services, is interested in knowing how its charitable donations are being used and what compensation levels are being paid. • This information is publicly available through the Form 990. • A major responsibility of the board of directors is the selection of a qualified chief executive officer; the establishment of that person’s compensation; and a review of that person’s performance on an annual basis, offering criticism, where appropriate.
  26. 26. Page 25 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Compensation Practices – Con’t • Establish reasonable compensation. • Only independent board members should make decisions involving compensation. – Understand steps to establish a presumption that compensation is reasonable (IRC Section 4958) • Keep records of how compensation was determined. • Establish procedures to properly classify and distinguish between employees and independent contractors.
  27. 27. Page 26 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Transparency • Consider making information about an organization’s mission, activities, and finances publicly available. • Ensure charity’s annual reports, Form 990s, financial statements, and board meeting minutes are complete and accurate.  Forms 990 are public documents.
  28. 28. Page 27 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Disclosure Statement • A charitable organization must provide a written disclosure statement to donors of a quid pro quo contribution in excess of $75. • A quid pro quo contribution is a payment made to a charity by a donor partly as a contribution and partly for goods or services provided to the donor by the charity. Disclosure Statement
  29. 29. Page 28 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Financial Statements & Form 990 Organizations that file Form 990 will find that Part XII, Line 2, asks whether the organization’s financial statements were compiled or reviewed by an independent accountant. Charities should use professionals to prepare financial statements. The board may establish an independent audit committee to select a certified public accountant to conduct an audit. 1 2 3
  30. 30. Page 29 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Form 990-Series Filing Requirements • Who is required to file? – Most 501(c) organizations are required to file a Form 990-series return annually. – Failure to file a required Form 990, Form 990-EZ, or Form 990-N for three consecutive years will result in automatic revocation of the organization’s federal tax- exemption.
  31. 31. Page 30 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Exceptions to Rule • Churches, association of churches, and integrated auxiliaries of churches do not have to file the Forms 990, 990-EZ or 990-N. • They must file Form 990-T to report unrelated business income (“UBI”) if they have over $1K of gross UBI in a given tax year. • Form 990 and 990-EZ instructions list all the exceptions to Form 990-series filing requirements.
  32. 32. Page 31 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 990-N (e-Postcard) • Filing is easy  Obtain a password on IRS.gov • Provide basic information  Legal name  Address  Employer Identification Number  Website address (if any)  Principal officer’s name and address  Confirmation that the organizations’ annual gross receipts are normally $50,000 or less
  33. 33. Page 32 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Form 990 (Part VI) Section A asks questions about the governing body composition, director, independence, and insider transactions with one another and the organization. Section B asks questions about written policies and procedures regarding conflict of interest, record retention, whistleblower, compensation, and joint ventures. Section C asks questions about disclosure of the organization’s Form 1023/1024, Forms 990 or 990-EZ, and other financial and governance information.
  34. 34. Page 33 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Unrelated Business Taxable Income • If an exempt organization regularly carries on a trade or business not substantially related to its exempt purpose, it may be subject to tax on its income from that unrelated trade or business. • All tax-exempt organizations with over $1,000 of gross UBI in a tax year must file Form 990-T, in addition to their Form 990 or Form 990-EZ, and may be liable for UBI tax. • UBI, if substantial, will jeopardize exempt status.
  35. 35. Page 34 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Resources Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p526.pdf) Publication 1771, Charitable Organizations: Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements, (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/91771.pdf) Publication 598, Tax on Unrelated Business Income of Exempt Organization (www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p598.pdf)
  36. 36. Page 35 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 IRS Website
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  40. 40. Page 39 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 IRS Website
  41. 41. Page 40 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Tennessee Resources • The Tennessee Attorney General has a guidebook for Tennessee nonprofits entitled, “What Every Board Member and Officer Should Know.” • Tennessee Secretary of State Division of Solicitations and Gaming, https://www.tn.gov/sos/charity/index.htm.
  42. 42. Page 41 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Summary There is no “one size fits all” approach to nonprofit governance. Superior board governance may have more to do with the values, active engagement, and accountability of those in charge than the adoption of procedures and policies.
  43. 43. Page 42 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Questions?
  44. 44. Page 43 Good Governance Practices for 501(c)(3) Organizations March 27, 2014 Contact Information Elizabeth Wright, CPA Manager, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C. (865) 673-0844 ewright@pyapc.com

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