Do Nonprofits Ever Pay Taxes?

When you think about a nonprofit, the first thing that often comes to mind is that it is tax-exempt. Most nonprofits are not subject to federal, state, and local income tax.

Does that mean nonprofits are completely free of ANY tax liability? The answer to this is likely no – there are still some taxes that a nonprofit might be liable for. If you are considering starting a nonprofit organization, you won’t want to be surprised, so we’ll break it down for you. 

Taxes That Do NOT Apply to Nonprofits

Generally a nonprofit is not subject to income tax at the federal, state, or local level on funds raised in direct association with the organization’s mission.  The reasoning behind this exemption is that it allows more resources to be put toward its cause(s).

A nonprofit that qualifies for federal tax-exempt status is also exempt from paying property tax in all 50 states, by law. Sales tax is also often waived for certain transactions related to the organization’s mission, but not always. It depends on the nature and amount of sales activities of the nonprofit.

Taxes That Do Apply to Nonprofits

If a nonprofit organization hires employees, it will be subject to payroll taxes. Just like employees of for-profit entities, these individuals are required to pay tax on their earnings, and the organization is liable for the employer’s share of the payroll taxes.

Sales and use tax may also need to be paid. With sales tax, there is a distinction between paying sales tax on purchases, and collecting and remitting sales tax on sales. A nonprofit may need to pay sales tax on purchases from a vendor depending on the rules of its state and other considerations.

On the flip side, if a nonprofit is engaged in a business activity unrelated to its charitable mission and/or involved in sales of taxable items or services to customers, it may be obligated to collect and remit sales tax.

It is important to distinguish between these two areas and keep in mind that even if a nonprofit is exempted from paying sales tax on purchases, that exemption does not necessarily extend to collecting and remitting sales tax on outside sales.

Another area where a nonprofit might be liable to pay tax would be on what is called Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI). This is income that is unrelated to the nonprofit’s core mission. As an example, a fundraising event to sell merchandise to raise money for equipment that will directly help carry out the entity’s cause would NOT be considered an unrelated activity, despite the sale of items to customers, because the money is going directly towards helping to advance the charitable mission.

On the other hand, if that merchandise is sold as part of a trade or business that is regularly carried on by the nonprofit and the proceeds are used to fund general operating costs like payroll or office expenses and not specific program expenses, that income could be considered UBTI because it is not substantially related to the organization’s charitable purpose.

If a nonprofit has over $1,000 of UBTI it must file Form 990-T and pay tax on that income. If the nonprofit is structured as a corporation, it will pay the flat 21 percent rate on that income, like the 21 percent tax paid by for-profit corporations.  If it’s set up as a trust it will be taxed at trust rates, the highest of which is 37 percent. Because this is a gray area of the law and subject to some interpretation, it is highly recommended that a nonprofit seeks the advice of a tax professional in navigating the rules and determining if it is subject to UBTI reporting and taxation.

So, as you can see, taxes are not completely off the table just because an organization is exempt from federal income tax. Several different types of tax could come into play for a nonprofit, depending on whether it has employees, the nature of its activities, and other considerations.

If you need help with taxes in your nonprofit, please contact us. 

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5 Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Accounting System

To maximize profits in your business, all of your business functions need to run smoothly, including your accounting department. Your accounting system is at the core of your accounting function. If it is old or lacks the features you need, your business may suffer.  Here are five warning signs you can look for to determine if it’s time to upgrade or replace your current accounting system with something more cost-effective. 

  1. Not enough users

If your current system limits the number of users you can have in the system at any one time, this could be a major enough reason in itself to switch to a larger option. Luckily, most accounting software companies include an accountant user for free, so at least this type of user doesn’t have to count toward your total requirements. 

If you’re not sure how many users you currently have a license for, we can help you check on that. It might be as easy as buying more licenses if you’re not at the maximum capacity.  But if you are at maximum, it may be time to look for a better accounting system with room for you and your business to grow. 

  1. Outdated

 If your accounting system runs on desktop-based software that’s upgraded every year and you have not paid for or installed the upgrades, then your system is outdated.  If it’s been sunsetted, that means the software vendor no longer supports the software. You are at major risk for the software crashing, getting buggy, getting hacked, or worse, permanently breaking. 

The cost of getting the system current may be better spent looking for a new alternative, or moving to a cloud-based system where updates occur automatically. 

  1. Lack of functionality or scale

It is commonly the case that your business has grown so much that it’s outgrown your original accounting solution. That’s good news!  It’s time to find a solution that will scale better for your business. 

You might be missing important features that are costing you more time and money than if you were on a system that offered those features. Common time-wasting activities in accounting include too much time spent on data entry and/or Excel spreadsheets to make up for what the accounting system can’t do.

  1. Lack of reporting and analytics

If you’re unable to receive the reports and analytics you want to run your business better from your current accounting system, it may be time to switch. With better data comes better decision-making and if lack of data is costing you money, then it’s time to find a more robust system.

  1. Lack of integrations

Thousands of apps exist to expand accounting systems’ core functionality. If your current accounting system lacks integration capabilities or does not have apps that are built to integrate with it, you may be missing out on additional functionality.  This include mobile apps; it’s quite common now to do much of your accounting work from your mobile phone. 

Does your current accounting system have any of these red flags?  If so, please reach out. We can help you find a best fit for your accounting needs. 

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