Tax & Wealth Advisor Alert: What Should Non-Profits Know About the Tax Plan?

If you’ve been following our posts, this is the second installment in our series on the tax plan. Previously, we highlighted the most important changes affecting individuals. (Read full article here) This week, we’re discussing the most important changes affecting non-profits. Spoiler alert: the tax plan may cause non-profits to see less revenue and owe more tax in the future! Why would Congress disadvantage non-profit organizations, you ask? In most instances, non-profits were collateral damage.

For starters, we discussed in last week’s post that Congress doubled the standard deduction, which will benefit some individuals. By doubling the standard deduction, fewer taxpayers will itemize deductions. Because those who claim the standard deduction do not receive a tax break for donations to charity, those taxpayers have less incentive to donate. This means non-profit organizations may see fewer donations coming through the door. All hope is not lost, however, because the tax plan increased the itemized deduction available to those taxpayers who do receive a tax break for donations to charity. However, this may mean non-profits have to push for larger donations from fewer donors.

Not only did Congress reduce the incentive to give to charity each year, but it reduced the incentive to give at death, too. We also discussed in last week’s post that the tax plan doubled the amount someone may leave at death estate-tax free (up to $11,200,000 in 2018), which will benefit the wealthiest individuals. Because fewer estates will receive a tax break for donating to charity, it’s possible fewer individuals will provide for charitable donations in their estate plans.

If non-profits weren’t already panicking, they should take a seat for the next few changes to the tax code. The tax plan tried to curb what some see as excessive compensation by imposing a 21% excise tax on salary and benefits paid to any one employee in excess of $1,000,000. Although $1,000,00 may seem lofty for a non-profit and may seem like an appropriate limit for non-profit employees such as college football coaches, this change will hurt charitable organizations trying to attract talent away from the private sector through competitive compensation packages. This excise tax may make such compensation packages cost prohibitive.

Further, non-profit organizations may see an increase in the tax they owe on Unrelated Business Taxable Income (UBTI). For those who aren’t familiar, the UBTI rules require a non-profit organization to pay tax on income earned through activities unrelated to charitable purpose. Previously, if a non-profit organization engaged in multiple activities unrelated to its charitable purpose, it could offset the gains and losses from those activities against each other, possibly eliminating taxable income. Going forward, non-profits can’t offset gains and losses across activities. UBTI will also be increased by certain fringe benefits paid by a non-profit organization to its employees. Again, this will make it more difficult for these organizations to attract talent away from the private sector.

In sum, non-profits should know that they will see a handful of changes to their tax returns, and they won’t likely be happy with the changes. These organizations might consider separating operations into different legal entities to avoid the $1,000,000 cap or condensing unrelated activities to avoid the rule against offsetting gains and losses. As of now, we will continue brainstorming creative solutions for our non-profit clients so they can pursue their charitable missions with tax efficiency.