Significant Rule Change for Certain Tax Exempt Organizations Reporting Donor Information

By Marc Berger, CPA, JD, LLM

On July 16, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Revenue Procedure 2018-38, modifying the information reported to the IRS by certain tax-exempt organizations on their annual Form 990 or Form 990-EZ information return. Affected organizations will no longer be required to report the names and addresses of their reportable contributors on Schedule B of their Forms 990 or 990-EZ.

This change affects all organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c), other than charitable organizations described under Section 501(c)(3). This includes labor unions, trade associations, social welfare groups, issue-advocacy groups, local chambers of commerce and veteran groups. Nevertheless, Section 527 political organizations, like charitable organizations, will still be required to report the names and addresses of their reportable contributors on their annual returns.

The reasons provided by the IRS for the change include decreased compliance costs for affected organizations, reduced consumption of IRS resources in connection with the redaction of such information and reduced risk of the inadvertent disclosure of information that’s not open to public inspection.

The tax-exempt organizations relieved of the obligation to report the names and addresses of their contributors must continue to keep this information in their books and records in case the IRS wishes to examine this information. In addition, the change does not affect the reporting of contribution information on Schedule B, other than the names and addresses of contributors, including the dollar amount of contributions.

The revised reporting requirements apply to information returns for tax years ending on or after Dec. 31, 2018. Thus, the revised requirements generally will apply to returns that become due on or after May 15, 2019.

Implications for Nonprofits

Reactions to the new rules from those affected are strong.

Advocates claim it as an important win that supports:

  • Data privacy: While the IRS isn’t allowed to disclose confidential donor information, it has inadvertently done so in the past. Eliminating this information from tax filings will reduce the chances it may be accidentally released or fall into the wrong hands.
  • Free speech: Free-speech advocates believe donor information should be kept private, so that it can’t be used by the government to target donors. For example, the IRS was previously accused of unfairly targeting Tea Party and progressive groups.

Critics express several concerns:

  • Hampers fraud detection: The IRS may not need donor information for tax administration purposes, but it is useful for detecting fraud. The government will now have no means to track how cash is being funneled into these tax-exempt organizations, leaving the door open to potentially dangerous and foreign influences.
  • Reduces fiscal transparency: The move is a major setback for those who champion more transparency around political donations. While donor information was never disclosed to the public, the government will now remain in the dark about how foreign actors might be influencing the political landscape.

Regardless of the new guidance, all tax-exempt organizations should still diligently collect information about their donors to prepare for a potential audit or change of course by the IRS down the road.

This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” newsletter (Fall 2018). Copyright © 2018 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com

Identifying and Overcoming Common Nonprofit Challenges

By Laurie De Armond, CPA, and Adam Cole, CPA

Nonprofit organizations are uniquely shaped by their mission, history, size, program goals and community.

But leaders of these organizations—whether a CFO at a global health services charity, a CIO of an education endowment or the executive director at a museum—share a common goal of advancing their organization’s mission. To drive forward progress, it’s essential that leaders understand where their organization sits in relation to its peers on objective measures of performance.

The BDO Institute for Nonprofit Excellence’s 2018 benchmarking survey, Nonprofit Standards, surveyed leaders at midrange organizations (those with less than $25 million in annual revenue), upper-midrange organizations ($25-$75 million in annual revenue), and large nonprofits (above $75 million in revenue) to reveal insights nonprofits can leverage to strengthen their organization. Across the spectrum, the report finds that upper-midrange organizations face more significant challenges than their smaller and larger peers.

Funding Challenges Amid Rising Costs

While 56 percent of upper-midrange nonprofits saw their revenues grow over the past year, this was dwarfed by the 69 percent of large nonprofits and 70 percent of midrange nonprofits that also saw some revenue growth. At the same time, nearly half (49 percent) say declining revenue and funding is at least a moderate challenge, compared to 45 percent of midrange and large organizations. Perhaps as a result of this challenge, 49 percent of organizations at this scale maintain six months or less of operating reserves, and one third cite maintaining adequate liquidity as a moderate or significant challenge—indicating a potential gap in the fiscal safety net for these organizations.

Some of the funding challenges upper-midrange nonprofits face may be attributable to the types of funding sources these organizations rely upon, including individual contributions (15 percent), government grants (12.6 percent), fundraising/special events (11.4 percent), and corporate contributions (7.8 percent)—all of which can be either cyclical in nature or impacted by regulatory changes, such as tax reform.

Nevertheless, amid these challenges in securing funding, upper-midrange nonprofits face the same challenges as all other organization sizes in addressing rising overhead costs: 58 percent of upper-midrange nonprofits and nonprofits overall say rising costs is at least a moderate challenge.

Program Growth Emphasizes Importance of Communicating Impact

Despite challenges in securing funding, upper-midrange nonprofits are working to expand their program offerings and deliver on their core mission. Organizations in the upper-midrange devote 80 percent of their total expenditures to program-related activities—compared to 78 percent for large nonprofits and 68 percent for midrange nonprofits. Forty-two percent of upper-midrange nonprofits also say the inability to meet demand for their services is a high or moderate challenge, and 58 percent are responding by planning to introduce new programs in the next year without eliminating others.

This program expansion makes demonstrating impact to stakeholders more important than ever. When it comes to making an impact, nearly all nonprofits surveyed (93 percent) communicate their impact outside of the organization; meanwhile, 72 percent of upper-midrange nonprofits say some portion of their donors have demanded more information about outcomes and impact than before.

But as nonprofit leaders know all too well, reporting impact to donors and other stakeholders is no easy task. Organizations in the upper-midrange are more likely than midrange or large nonprofits to say they face moderate or significant challenges in reporting impact, including having no consistent framework for measuring and reporting (66 percent vs. 56 and 53 percent, respectively), lacking clear program objectives and/or key performance indicators (55 percent vs. 43 and 41 percent, respectively), and inadequate financial resources devoted to reporting (55 percent vs. 31 and 33 percent, respectively).

Recruitment and Retention Challenge Upper-Midrange Organizations

Nonprofits derive their strength from dedicated and driven employees, yet recruitment and retention remain a high or moderate challenge for 6 in 10 nonprofit leaders. Upper-midrange nonprofits are the most concerned, with 70 percent citing recruitment and retention as a high or moderate challenge, compared to 61 percent of large organizations and only 35 percent of midrange organizations.

Key factors in keeping employees engaged and growing employee satisfaction levels for all organizations include having competitive compensation levels (59 percent), up-to-date technology (58 percent), internal communications (54 percent), and management-employee relations (51 percent). These challenges were all most pronounced among upper-midsized organizations. While 7 in 10 midrange nonprofits were able to provide at least a 3 percent increase in employee compensation levels within the last year, only 44 percent of upper-midrange and large nonprofits were able to do the same.

Overcoming Key Challenges: Planning Ahead

Do the data show that upper-midrange nonprofits are doomed? Not at all. Instead, this year’s Nonprofit Standards highlights the success of many nonprofits that were able to overcome these classic scaling challenges to grow successfully and expand their programs.

While not comprehensive, below are some best practices for organizations looking to overcome these challenges.

Fundraising Effectiveness: Nonprofits looking to increase their fundraising effectiveness should:

  • Match their donor behavior. Nonprofits should consider what influences their donors to donate in general—and to their organization specifically—and tailor their messaging accordingly.
  • Reduce their giving barriers. It’s critical that organizations regularly update and modernize their donation channels (including online and mobile giving platforms) to keep pace with changing consumer behavior.
  • Leverage data analytics. Nonprofits should dig into their own data to understand the demographics of their core contributors and to identify new prospects. (See the article on page 10 entitled, How Predictive Analytics is Transforming NPO Fundraising.)

Donor Communications & Impact Reporting: To ensure smoother donor communications and reporting, nonprofits should:

  • Start with the end in mind. Organizations should identify the story they want to tell their stakeholders and paint a vision of what the world could look like if their mission were achieved.
  • Make reporting an ongoing process. Nonprofits should gather and report data on a quarterly or monthly basis to keep stakeholders in the loop and make year-end reports less daunting.
  • Remain transparent. Nonprofit reports offer an unparalleled opportunity to contextualize an organization’s metrics and finances.
  • Share their report widely. Organizations should distribute their report via multiple channels so both existing and prospective donors have a chance to see it.

Staffing and Recruiting: To maintain and attract top talent, nonprofits should:

  • Stay competitive in their local market. Nonprofits should ensure their policies make their organization an attractive place for potential employees.
  • Capitalize on flexible work options. Remote work arrangements can be both beneficial to employees and cost-effective for organizations.
  • Remain proactive about succession planning. With 4 million baby boomers retiring each year, the need for a succession plan is a “when” rather than an “if” scenario.

The more upper-midrange nonprofits—and those of all sizes—can learn from benchmarking against their peers, the better prepared they will be to advance their mission and support continued growth. Gaining intelligence is vital to staying afloat.

Adapted from article originally published in NC State University’s Philanthropy Journal News.

This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” newsletter (Fall 2018). Copyright © 2018 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com

How Predictive Analytics Is Transforming NPO Fundraising

By Joe Sremack, CFE, and Gurjeet Singh, MCP

The art of nonprofit fundraising is quickly becoming a science. Fundraising is a vital process for the mission of many nonprofit organizations (NPOs), and the better organizations are at this process, the more effective they become in their missions.

Historically, this process consisted of following standard fundraising processes and tracking the results to periodically adjust the processes based on results. This feedback loop could take months or years; however, NPOs have begun improving this process by utilizing analytics, rather than simply responding to past results.

Perhaps the most important technological breakthrough for NPO fundraising in recent memory is predictive analytics. This technology is enabling NPOs to run more effective fundraising campaigns and quickly boost their fundraising results. Rather than relying on evaluating the effectiveness of past fundraising efforts and basing decisions on opinions and experience, predictive analytics provide guidance on what will likely be the most effective campaigns, whom to target and how to allocate resources to maximize fundraising results. This article discusses how predictive analytics works and several ways it can be employed to enhance your fundraising efforts.

WHAT IS PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS AND HOW DOES IT FIT WITHIN NPOS?

Predictive analytics is a set of techniques and technologies that extract information from data to identify patterns and predict future outcomes. Based on a variety of statistical techniques and software technology, predictive analytics helps to understand the relationships between data points, and identify patterns within the data, as well as factors contributing to the prediction. This whole analysis can be configured to show prediction based on various factors and can be refined further over time as more information is included in the analysis.

Predictive analytics is being employed across numerous industries, including nonprofits. The most common examples of predictive analytics are found in data-centric industries—such as tech firms, finance, and insurance—where data is readily available and the ability to predict outcomes directly relates to the financial success of those organizations. The same is true of NPOs. While NPOs may or may not collect millions of records across hundreds of data points, they do collect a sufficient amount of donor information, marketing touch-point records, and other information that can be utilized for predictive analytics, and that predictive ability can make a significant difference in fundraising efforts.

NPOs are uniquely positioned to benefit from predictive analytics. Most NPOs house the kind of data that can fuel detailed analysis, which results in actionable insights. They have donor information that often includes a wide array of demographic information, historical behavior information and information about how donors responded to past fundraising campaigns. This type and breadth of information can quickly be converted into predictions and more effective fundraising campaigns. Even if the NPO only has hundreds or thousands of donor records—as opposed to hundreds of thousands or more—that is sufficient for creating effective predictive analyses.

When Should NPOs Consider Predictive Analytics?

  • Seeking to improve fundraising results
  • Facing competition for donors
  • Fundraising efforts not meeting goals and objectives
  • Exploring opportunities for new or enhanced fundraising campaigns
  • Shrinking donor base or difficulty reaching your donors

HOW PREDICTIVE ANALYTICS WORKS
In the traditional fundraising process, several steps are typically employed across different layers of an NPO’s data. First, key donors are identified and targeted. This may be done based on selecting key individual donors, by a prior donation level threshold, and/or demographic information. Next, past campaigns are assessed, and new campaigns may be discussed and evaluated. Finally, a plan is developed and executed to drive fundraising. For this entire process, the rigor of data analysis and the evaluation of past campaign effectiveness may vary by organization but, at a high level, the processes are similar: organizations make use of data and personal judgment to drive future fundraising efforts.

The predictive analytics process runs alongside this methodology to augment it, which acts as an advisor to existing activities and decision-making processes. Predictive analytics offers a way to look at the information in a new way by incorporating your existing methods and institutional knowledge. Predictive analytics can be run parallel to your process to offer new ideas, prove or disprove existing ideas and approaches, and provide a way to gauge how effective new approaches to fundraising will be.

A major misconception about predictive analytics is that it can replace a fundraising team or will serve as a stand-alone fundraising strategy function. A predictive analytic model is only as effective as the information and guidance that is provided to it, and performing predictive analytics effectively requires institutional knowledge and refinement. Predictive analytics is a statistical and technological way to utilize data based on institutional knowledge, so it is useful only if it is designed, implemented and evaluated by data and industry experts.

A typical scenario for NPOs to implement predictive analytics is when an NPO recognizes that its fundraising efforts could be improved. They currently may have sufficient data to understand what worked well in the past, but they often rely on comparisons between past approaches and new approaches, market research and small test campaigns for evaluating new ways to raise funds. They also recognize that these techniques test ideas and require an investment of time and resources, which may not deliver the level of results they want. This leads them to work with a data science team or a predictive analytics software package to improve their process. This begins the predictive analytics development, which may produce immediate results.

The predictive analytics process involves several steps. First, the organization’s goals are outlined and historical data is surveyed to map the goals to key data points. In this step, the organization determines which questions it wants answered and whether the data it needs is available. Next, a predictive model is developed, and the data is analyzed and visualized to derive insights. This step is where forward-looking analyses and findings are derived from historical data, and it involves specialized analysis using specialized software and/or custom-developed logic in a programming language, such as Python or R. The results are next evaluated to determine whether the analysis was effective and, if so, how to apply the findings for meaningful actions. Finally, an iterative process of refining and re-running the analysis is performed based on the findings and changes. These steps are outlined below:

WHAT CAN NPOS PREDICT?

One way that NPOs can increase fundraising results is by using predictive analytics to identify the people who are most likely to donate as well as those who will not. Through this analysis, NPOs can identify potential donors based on utilizing past donor information to identify the characteristics that most accurately determine whether someone donates. Unlike traditional analysis methods that only examine past donation information, predictive analytics leverages information—such as age, income, lifestyle, past donation information and associations to NPOs with similar missions—to pinpoint donors. With this information, NPOs can more precisely target a pool of potential donors to maximize fundraising results.

For example, an NPO with a list of 3,000 past donors and 2,500 potential donors may only be able to directly contact 2,000 donors through in-person meetings, phone calls and/or direct/digital mailing due to budget constraints. Because of this constraint and the need to maximize fundraising, the NPO wants to know which of the 5,500 potential donors to contact. The NPO utilizes predictive analytics to assign a donation probability to each potential donor based on historical donation information and each potential donor’s characteristics to then target only the donors with a high probability. This helps reduce the overhead of devoting resources to individuals or groups who are unlikely to donate and maximizes the donor conversion rate.

In addition to discovering the likelihood of donations, predictive analytics can be used to predict donation amounts. Analyzing donors for both their donation likelihood and predictive donation amount further helps NPOs identify key donor targets. An NPO may not get much value from identifying donors if they will donate in small amounts or if there is a high degree of donation amount variability. Instead, predictive analytics can be performed that assigns both a donation probability and an expected donation amount if they donate. This is an expected value for donors, and this information can be calculated to optimize the fundraising campaign. If an NPO identifies five high-value donors who only have a 40 percent donation probability, targeting those may still be more valuable than pursuing five low-value donors who have a greater than 90 percent probability of donating.

Predictive analytics can be applied to almost any area of NPO operations. While improving fundraising is often the first goal, predictive analytics can be used to improve other areas of the organization.Several examples of these are:

 Mission-specific goals
 Operational performance
 Cost forecasting
 Community and government outreach

CONCLUSION
Predictive analytics is an important method for improving your fundraising process. Just as major retailers, financial institutions and healthcare companies are utilizing predictive analytics to maximize revenue and reduce costs, NPOs have an opportunity to make use of this technology within their own organizations. Regardless of the volume of fundraising you are doing or the makeup of your donors, you can benefit from applying predictive analytics.

This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” newsletter (Fall 2018). Copyright © 2018 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com

Compensation Committee Wake-Up Call – The ‘Other Obstacle’ To Leadership Transition

By Michael Conover

I have previously discussed the inevitable transition of numerous baby boomers holding leadership posts in nonprofit organizations. The topic has been well-covered in a variety of publications for nearly a decade.

However, I believe the seismic shift that some have predicted has failed to materialize on a scale that was predicted. I attribute this to a variety of factors, including: delayed retirements out of financial need or resistance to change; belief that age 75 is the new 65; or just procrastination.

The slowdown in the rate of change will not soften its impact. It may intensify it. The delay on the part of these baby boomer executives and the boards to whom they report could increase the likelihood of an unexpected and disruptive leadership crisis. The problems can range from a noticeable decline in performance to an abrupt departure caused by sickness or death. Leadership changes under the best of circumstances are not 100 percent successful; thus, in crisis mode, the odds of success are much slimmer.

The other obstacle I allude to in my title is executive retirement arrangements (or lack of same). As organizations finally confront the departure of a long-tenured and critically important executive, the details of the retirement arrangements come to the forefront. This is the point at which many organizations and executives discover the price that will be paid for failing to address this important issue well in advance. Proper advance planning can not only minimize financial uncertainties for the executive and the organization that may interfere with retirement planning, but can prevent other potential and very expensive obstacles as well.

Many compensation committees have failed to proactively raise the subject of retirement plans and acknowledge the impact that they will have on an orderly retirement / leadership transition. There are a variety of reasons including: financial costs; reluctance to broach the subject of leadership change; mistaken assumptions that arrangements made many years ago will address the needs; embarrassment that arrangements are inadequate or have not been made; etc. Committee members must realize that time is not on their side for addressing retirement-related arrangements. Delaying can create many negative impacts for both the executive and the organization.

I would like to describe a few different scenarios that illustrate the types of situations we have discovered in “11th hour” reviews of retirement arrangements:

Plan Document Failures: Plan documents (e.g., employment contracts, deferred compensation arrangements, life insurance plans, etc.) developed many years ago and / or those that have been drafted without the benefit of needed expertise to ensure compliance with current requirements pose potential problems to the unwary.

The inclusion of what appear to be ordinary terms in the arrangements, or the failure to include critical details, can prove disastrous in terms of potential tax liability and penalties for the executive as well as the employer. Language included to ensure that retirement resources are secure may produce inadvertent vesting of a benefit and tax liability long before it is actually available. Similarly, incorrectly structuring payments can result in an unforeseen tax liability and punitive excise tax penalties.

If these issues are identified proactively or within a time period that corrective actions can be taken, the problems can be minimized. There is, however, a point at which it is simply too late.

Plan Administration Failures: In some instances, well-drafted plan documents are not adhered to from an administrative standpoint. Contributions, excess contributions, payment amounts and / or payment terms are made that fail to follow plan requirements. The failure to ensure compliance may result in adverse tax consequences to the executive and the organization.

Failure to properly recognize and report details of retirement arrangements are also common. The executive’s W-2 form, personal tax return and the organization’s Form 990 may all need to include information related to the plan arrangements as well as timely recognition of income when vesting occurs. Discovering these issues after the fact can necessitate amending prior year returns and also involve adverse tax consequences to the executive and the organization.

Improbable Catch Up: A compensation committee’s failure to establish a specific position on retirement benefits for the executive, as well as a specific objective for the level of benefits to be provided well in advance of the probable retirement event, drastically diminishes the likelihood of providing any level of benefit beyond that provided to all employees. Waiting until just a year or two prior to retirement will likely place an unreasonable financial burden on the organization to fund a benefit that might have been spread over many years of employment. Similarly, large contributions / payments toward the very end of employment may trigger an excess benefit situation, or the appearance of same, that may create adverse consequences for the executive and the organization.

The Wake-Up Call

Most compensation committees spend most of their time on decisions about current cash compensation (i.e., salary, bonus and incentive) matters for executives. Clearly, these are important matters and ones that require the committee’s attention in light of the disclosure of this information to external stakeholders and the public. I am not suggesting the committee members spend any less time on them.

I am however suggesting that compensation committees incorporate an immediate and recurring review of the organization’s retirement program to ensure that all documentation, administration and funding are in accordance with the organization’s policy, on track to meet stated objectives and fully compliant with pertinent regulatory and reporting requirements. Regular checkups may also be beneficial in helping the organization to be more attentive and proactive on succession / transition needs. As we have pointed out, delay on these matters is the enemy of effective solutions.

Executive management also has a role to play in this wake up call. Steps should be taken to ensure that the compensation committee has access to all internal and external information and advice that will assist them in their efforts to ensure that all steps have been taken to ensure that the retirement arrangements pose no obstacles to the inevitable retirement and leadership succession that every organization faces.

This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” newsletter (Fall 2018). Copyright © 2018 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com

IRS Provides Guidance On New UBTI Rules

By Marc Berger, CPA, JD, LLM

On Aug. 21, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Notice 2018-67 (Notice), providing tax-exempt organizations and their tax advisors some much-needed guidance with respect to new Internal Revenue Code Section 512(a)(6). This is the provision in the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that requires calculation of unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) separately with respect to each unrelated trade or business.

While the IRS still intends to issue proposed regulations on this issue sometime in the future, the Notice provides some guidelines which will help exempt organizations compute their UBTI in the short-term.

Prior to enactment of Section 512(a)(6), organizations with multiple sources of unrelated business income calculated their UBTI by aggregating the gross income from all unrelated trades or businesses less the aggregate deductions allowed with respect to such unrelated trades or businesses. Section 512(a)(6), effective for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017, requires UBTI to be calculated separately for each trade or business, and that UBTI for any such trade or business shall not be less than zero. In effect, the provision prevents an organization from using a net loss from one trade or business to offset net income from another trade or business.

In enacting Section 512(a)(6) Congress did not provide criteria for determining whether an exempt organization has more than one unrelated trade or business or how to identify separate unrelated trades or businesses. While the proposed regulations to be issued will address these areas, the Notice provides interim guidance that exempt organizations can rely on in reporting UBTI on their 2018 Form 990-Ts, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return (and proxy tax under section 6033(e)).

The Notice provides that in determining whether an exempt organization has more than one unrelated trade or business, it may rely on a reasonable, good-faith interpretation of the law considering all of the facts and circumstances, and that a reasonable good-faith interpretation includes using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) six-digit codes. Exempt organizations filing Form 990-T already are required to use the six-digit NAICS codes when describing the organization’s unrelated trades or businesses in Block E on page 1 of the return. For example, all of an organization’s advertising activities and related services, reported under NAICS code 541800, might be considered one unrelated trade or business activity, regardless of the source of the advertising income.

Perhaps the most important part of the Notice pertains to the reporting of an organization’s income from investment partnerships. Section 512(c) requires an exempt organization that is a partner in a partnership that conducts a trade or business that is an unrelated trade or business with respect to the exempt organization to include in UBTI its distributive share of gross partnership income (and directly connected partnership deductions) from such unrelated trade or business. Reacting to comments it received from the exempt organization community regarding the potential significant reporting and administrative burden imposed by Section 512(a)(6) on exempt organizations with numerous investments in multi-tier partnership structures that generate UBTI, the IRS intends to issue proposed regulations treating certain investment activities of an exempt organization as one trade or business for purposes of Section 512(a)(6)(A). This would permit exempt organizations to aggregate gross income and directly connected deductions from such “investment activities.”

Until the regulations are issued the Notice provides an interim rule which allows an organization to aggregate its UBTI from its interest in a single partnership with multiple trades or businesses, including trades or businesses conducted by lower-tier partnerships. The interim rule can be used as long as the directly held partnership interest meets the requirements of either the de minimis test or the control test, which provide:

De minimis test – The partnership interest qualifies as long as the exempt organization holds directly no more than 2 percent of the profits interest and no more than 2 percent of the capital interest. Percentage interests held by certain related organizations and individuals are included in this determination.

Control test – The partnership interest qualifies as long as the exempt organization (i) directly holds no more than 20% of the capital interest in the partnership; and (ii) does not have control or influence over the partnership. Similar to the de minimis test, certain related organizations and individuals are included in this determination.

In determining the exempt organization’s percentage interest in the partnership for these tests, the organization may rely on the information provided to them on Schedule K-1.

The Notice provides a transition rule for partnership interests acquired prior to Aug. 21, 2018. This rule treats each partnership interest as a single trade or business, whether or not there is more than one trade or business conducted by the partnership or lower-tier partnerships. Thus, an exempt organization can treat each partnership interest acquired prior to Aug. 21, 2018 as comprising a single trade or business for purposes of computing UBTI under Section 512(a)(6).

When Section 512(a)(6) was enacted organizations feared having to report and track the annual net income or loss from each partnership investment separately. The gist of these interim and transition rules is that an organization with numerous investment partnership interests may be able to aggregate and treat those investments as one trade or business under Section 512(a)(6).

The Notice also addresses several other issues relating to Section 512(a)(6), including the effect of new Section 512(a)(7), which increases UBTI for certain qualified transportation fringe benefits and qualified parking. The Notice states that UBTI created from 512(a)(7) is not income derived from an unrelated trade or business, and as a result, any amount included in UBTI under Section 512(a)(7) is not subject to Section 512(a)(6).

Along the same lines, the Notice provides that income reported as unrelated business income under Section 512(a)(4), reporting unrelated debt-financed income, 512(b)(13), reporting specified payments from controlled entities, and 512(a)(17), reporting certain insurance income, does not have a nexus to an unrelated trade or business. However, the Notice provides that aggregating income included in UBTI under these provisions “may be appropriate in certain circumstances.”

Finally, the Notice sheds some light on the use of net operating loss (NOL) carryforwards from years beginning prior to the effective date of Section 512(a)(6) (Pre-2018 NOLs). These NOL carryforwards are allowed to be used against UBTI as calculated under Section 512(a)(6). The organization will first calculate UBTI for each separate trade or business under Section 512(a)(6)(A), and then apply an NOL carryforward to those trades or businesses with UBTI under Section 512(a)(6)(B). This will have the effect that post-2017 NOLs will be calculated and taken before pre-2018 NOLs (because UBTI with respect to each separate trade or business is calculated under Section 512(a)(6)(A) before calculating total UBTI under 512(a)(6)(B)).

Notice 2018-67 is a good first step in providing exempt organizations some guidance on this one provision in the new law. Stay tuned for additional guidance in the future with respect to all of the tax changes affecting exempt organizations.

This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” newsletter (Fall 2018). Copyright © 2018 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com

Are Grants Subject To Revenue Recognition?

By Lee Klumpp, CPA, CGMA

The FASB clarifies longstanding question for nonprofits.

Nonprofits received long-awaited clarification on a key accounting question from the Financial Accounting Standards Board. As discussed in the article on page 1, the FASB released a final accounting standards update (ASU), Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958): Clarifying the Scope and the Accounting Guidance for Contributions Received and Contributions Made. The ASU aims to standardize how grants and other contracts are classified across the sector, as either an exchange transaction or a contribution.

Classifying grants as either a contribution or exchange transaction is the first step in implementing revenue recognition. The clarified guidance in ASU 2018-08 aims to help nonprofits complete that first step in a consistent way across the sector.

This article outlines a practical example of the process to evaluate a grant under the new ASU.

Practical Example: How to evaluate a grant under the new guidance

Description of ‘Nonprofit A’:  A large research association that specializes in space exploration. Its mission is advancing scientific discoveries and supporting the advancement of new technology. The organization receives funding from various individuals, corporations and governments to support its efforts.

Description of the grant: Nonprofit A received a $15 million grant from the federal government to finance the costs of a research initiative to test the effectiveness of newly developed technology.

How should Nonprofit A classify the $15 million grant? This grant could be classified as either an exchange transaction or a contribution, depending on the exact parameters of the funding. Let’s examine both scenarios:

  Classify the grant as an
exchange transaction if:
Classify the grant as a
contribution if:
Specific provisions of the grant The resources are paid by the federal government as the work is incurred (cost reimbursement) and request for payment is submitted. The federal government specifies the protocol of the testing, material the technology is made of, and the type and duration of testing that must take place.

The federal government requires a detailed report of the test outcome within two months of its conclusion and any intellectual property (IP) as a result of the grant belongs to the federal government.

Nonprofit A makes all decisions about research protocol, material the technology is made of, and the type and duration of testing that must take place.

In addition, the nonprofit retains all the commercial rights for any IP that is developed as a result of the research. Nonprofit A still has to produce the detailed report of the test outcome within two months.

Deciding factor: Reason for classifying the grant as an exchange transaction or contribution This example would be an exchange transaction because of how prescriptive the grant is, and because the government owns the IP. Therefore, in this case the federal government is receiving something of commensurate value. In this scenario, the transaction would be considered a contribution because there is no commensurate value being exchanged.

Even though Nonprofit A is expected to produce a report, the FASB does not consider this an equal exchange of value. The ASU deems filing this type of specified report to be administrative in nature and not a performance standard.

Is the grant
subject to the new revenue recognition standard?
Yes. All exchange transactions are subject to Accounting Standards Codification Topic 606, Revenue Recognition from Contracts with Customers. No. The above scenario is a conditional contribution, which is not subject to revenue recognition. The condition is met as the work is incurred in accordance with the grant agreement.

Determining whether a grant is conditional or unconditional can be difficult. The ASU states that determining if a donor-imposed condition exists is the key to determining when the contribution can be recognized as revenue. The first consideration is whether the grant agreement has a right-of-return requirement in which the grantee must return to the promisor (grantor) assets transferred as part of the agreement or a right to release of the promisor from its obligation to transfer assets. The scenario in the above does not meet any of these requirements.

Additionally, the ASU has provided the following indicators that  could create a barrier and make the grant conditional:

  • The inclusion of a measurable performance-related barrier or other measurable barrier.
  • Whether a stipulation is related to the purpose of the agreement.
  • The extent to which a stipulation limits discretion by the recipient.

Disclaimer: These examples are for illustrative purposes only. Changing even one fact in the example could significantly change the accounting treatment.

What types of organizations need to take action?

  • Grantees: All nonprofits that receive grants from foundations, governments or other funding entities will need to assess how they are accounting for contributions. Colleges, universities, research institutions and social services organizations that rely heavily on grants and contracts could see the greatest impact.
  • Grantors: Non-governmental organizations like public and private foundations, as well as for-profit entities that issue grants to nonprofits, will need to think about how they write their grants and contracts.

What organizations will not experience a significant impact?

  • Public charities: As organizations that derive the bulk of their funding from individual contributions, they will be less impacted by this guidance.
  • Local, state and federal governments: Nonprofits will still need to assess how they classify federal and state funding, but governmental bodies are not within the FASB’s scope and do not need to comply with this guidance. Governments are subject to standards issued by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board.

What’s next for nonprofits?

Accounting changes are like a relay race. Today, the FASB handed off clarified guidance on accounting for contributions and answered a long-standing question for the sector. And now it’s up to nonprofits to apply it to their own books and run the rest of the race to implement revenue recognition and finish strong.

This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” newsletter (Fall 2018). Copyright © 2018 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com

Final ASU 2018-08 Issued On Guidance For Contributions

By Lee Klumpp, CPA, CGMA

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued Accounting Standards Update (ASU) 2018-08, Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958): Clarifying the Scope and the Accounting Guidance for Contributions Received and Contributions Made in June 2018 to clarify the accounting guidance related to contributions made or received. This ASU applies to all entities (including business entities) that make or receive contributions of cash and other assets, including promises to give and grants. The final ASU can be accessed here.

Background

The purpose of the ASU is to address long-standing diversity in practice and the difficulties in determining whether grants and similar contracts are exchange transactions or contributions. In addition, the ASU addresses the evaluation of whether a contribution is conditional or unconditional, which affects the timing of the revenue recognition. And finally, the ASU addresses the issue of when a contribution is restricted.

As we discussed in our Spring 2018 newsletter in the article entitled, Updates to FASB Proposed Guidance for Contributions, the introduction of the new revenue recognition standard also made it imperative for the diversity in practice to be addressed. The distinction between contributions and exchange transactions is important because it determines whether an entity should follow the guidance in Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 988-605, Not-for-Profit Entities – Revenue Recognition, if the transaction is deemed to be a contribution, or the guidance in ASC Topic 606, Revenue from Contracts with Customers, if deemed to be an exchange transaction. Contributions are scoped out of Topic 606.

Main Provisions

Characterizing Grants and Similar Contracts in Reciprocal Exchanges or Contributions

The ASU clarifies and improves the scope and accounting guidance for both contributions received and made to assist all entities in evaluating whether a transaction should be accounted for as a contribution or an exchange transaction. The ASU provides sample indicators of a contribution and exchange transaction to assist entities in making this determination.

The amendments in the ASU clarify how an entity determines whether a resource provider is participating in an exchange transaction by evaluating whether the resource provider is receiving commensurate value in return for the resources transferred or on the basis of the following:

  • The resource provider is not one and the same with the general public. Benefits received by the public as a result of the assets transferred is not equivalent to comparable value received by the resource provider.
  • Exercise of the resource provider’s mission or the positive sentiment from acting as a donor doesn’t constitute comparable value received by the resource provider for purposes of determining whether the transfer of assets is a contribution or an exchange.

If the resource provider itself is not receiving comparable value for the resources provided, an entity must determine whether a transfer of assets represents a payment from a third-party payer on behalf of an existing exchange transaction between the recipient and an identified customer. If this is the case, this should be accounted for under Topic 606 or other guidance that applies.

In completing this analysis, the type of resource provider should not factor into the determination.

See ASC 958-605-15-6 for specific transactions that should be excluded from this analysis of contribution versus exchange.

Determining Whether a Contribution is Conditional

The ASU amendments require an entity to determine whether a contribution is conditional based on whether an agreement includes a barrier that must be overcome and either a right of return of assets transferred or a right of release of a promisor’s obligation to transfer assets. If the agreement includes both of these, it is deemed to be conditional, and the recipient is not entitled to the transferred assets until it has overcome the barriers in the agreement.

The amendments include the following indicators to determine whether an agreement contains a barrier:

  • The inclusion of a measurable performance-related barrier or other measurable barrier.
  • The extent to which a stipulation limits discretion by the recipient on the conduct of an activity.
  • Whether a stipulation is related to the purpose of the agreement.

A probability assessment about the likelihood of the recipient meeting the stipulation is not a factor in determining if there is a barrier.

Examples of barriers are provided in the amendments.  Depending on the facts and circumstances some indicators may be more significant than others, but no single indicator is determinative.

The right of return or right of release must be determinable from the agreement or another document referenced in the agreement.  The agreement does not have to specifically include the phrases “right of return“ or “release from obligations“; however, the agreements should be sufficiently clear to be able to support a reasonable conclusion about whether the recipient would be entitled to the transfer of assets or release of obligation. In the absence of any apparent indication that a recipient is only entitled to the transferred assets if it has overcome a barrier, the transaction should be deemed a contribution without donor-imposed conditions.

In the case of ambiguous donor stipulations, a contribution containing stipulations that are not clearly unconditional should be presumed to be a conditional contribution.

If a contribution has been deemed to be unconditional, the entity should then consider whether the contribution is restricted on the basis of the existing definition of the term “donor-imposed restriction.” The definition of a donor-imposed restriction includes a consideration of how broad or how narrow the purpose of the agreement is, and whether the resources are available for use only after a specified date.

Simultaneous Release Option

The ASU provides a nonprofit entity with the ability to elect a policy to report donor-restricted contributions whose restrictions are met in the same reporting period as the revenue is recognized as support within net assets without donor restrictions. To do this the entity must have a similar policy for reporting investment gains and income, report consistently from period to period and disclose its accounting policy. If this policy is elected for donor-restricted contributions that were initially conditional contributions, they may do so without electing this for other donor-restricted contributions.  The election of this policy has to be used consistently from year to year and be disclosed.

Transition

The amendments in the ASU should be applied on a modified prospective basis; however, retrospective application is permitted as well.

In the financial statements in the year of adopting the ASU under the modified prospective basis the amendments should be applied to all agreements that are either not completed as of the effective date or entered into after the effective date. A completed agreement is an agreement for which all revenue (of a recipient) or expense (of a resource provider) has been recognized before the effective date under the current guidance. The amendments in the ASU should be applied only to the portion of revenue or expense that has not yet been recognized under current guidance before the effective date of the ASU. No prior period statements should be restated and there should be no cumulative effect to opening net assets or retained earnings balances at the beginning of the year of adoption. Standard disclosures for the accounting change should be included in the footnotes in the year of adoption. The ASU contains additional clarifying transition guidance to assist entities if they choose this adoption basis.

Effective Date

The effective dates vary depending on whether you are a resource recipient or resource provider and the nature of the entity as outlined below. The effective dates for resource recipients were established so that the effective date of the ASU would align with the effective date of ASC Topic 606. The effective dates for resource providers was delayed by one year. Early adoption of the ASU is permitted.

Resource Recipient

Public business entities and nonprofits that have issued, or are a conduit bond obligor for, securities that are traded, listed or quoted on an exchange or over-the-counter market should apply the amendments in the ASU on contributions received to annual periods beginning after June 15, 2018.

All others should apply the amendments for transactions in which the entity serves as a resource recipient to annual periods after Dec. 15, 2018.

Resource Provider

Public business entities and nonprofits that have issued, or are a conduit bond obligor for, securities that are traded, listed or quoted on an exchange or over-the-counter market should apply the amendments in the ASU for transactions in which the entity serves as a resource provider to annual periods beginning after Dec. 15, 2018.

All other entities should apply the ASU for transactions in which the entity serves as the resource provider to annual periods beginning after Dec. 15, 2019.

Conclusion

The ASU contains implementation guidance and practical illustrations to assist with the implementation.

The ASU will likely result in more grants and contracts being accounted for as unconditional or conditional contributions rather than exchange transactions compared to current guidance.

This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” newsletter (Fall 2018). Copyright © 2018 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com

10 Things Keeping Internal Audit Up At Night

By Ken Eye and Andrea Wilson

The internal audit (IA) function is vital to the health of any nonprofit, regardless of mission or scope. The audit committee and its individual members are crucial partners in safeguarding the integrity, purpose and, ultimately, the success of organizations.

But, they often face challenges navigating a strained regulatory environment, all while trying to do more with less. Adjusting to these new realities means that proper management is more important than ever. This article outlines the top 10 challenges keeping internal auditors up at night, and providing remedies to help them continue their critical work.

  1. CHANGES TO OPERATIONS OR STRATEGY

For most nonprofit organizations, change is inevitable. As the needs of communities, internal dynamics, priorities and leadership transform, nonprofits adjust their mission and strategies. While this dynamism is essential for organizations to further their work, change can create strain for internal auditors. Whether its expanding operations to a new location, working with new donors or rolling out a new organizational structure, internal auditors are often left scrambling to ensure compliance.

THE REMEDY: Change is unavoidable, but compliance headaches don’t have to be. Nonprofits should be proactive about integrating internal audit into large scale organizational changes. This means allocating IA resources to evaluate emerging compliance and legal requirements, incorporating IA into the strategic decision-making process at the outset, revising policies and procedures with the new compliance environment, and developing succession plans to facilitate smooth personnel changes. And, IA should not just be involved in the change process—organizations should allow internal auditors to conduct post-implementation assessments to ensure ongoing compliance.

  1. ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE

The organizational culture of nonprofit organizations usually centers on a mission that employees are passionate about. This passion attracts staff personally motivated to help the overall organization succeed, but can come at the cost of internal controls. For nonprofits, “the cause” can often be promoted at any cost. Mid-level management professionals can be highly skilled in technical areas, but may lack knowledge in compliance, financial accountability and oversight. A lack of interactive communication between key administrative and program units within the organization can result in insufficient internal controls.

THE REMEDY: To balance maintaining organizational culture with proper operational management, communication is essential. Nonprofits should develop a sound communication strategy that brings the internal audit and compliance functions in regular contact with the rest of the staff. During these interactions, IA professionals should be sure to communicate how risk management practices align with overall organizational strategy and mission objectives. Bringing people together in this way helps make IA an integral part of an organization, rather than an afterthought.

Even when strong communications are in place, breakdowns are sometimes inevitable. Organizations should conduct regular assessments of business processes to determine where breakdowns in communication between business units occur. These assessments should help identify gaps that could pose significant risks to the organization.

Based on the results of these assessments, organizations should design and implement remediation plans, including scheduling necessary trainings for all employees and rolling out new process flows and accountability points to close any gaps.

  1. NEW TECHNOLOGY

Technological advances help organizations store and share data, but new technology is often implemented without the knowledge or involvement of the internal audit function, to potentially disastrous and costly results. Ideally, internal auditors should assess new technology well before it’s utilized to review issues like control over sensitive data, continuity of the technologies between offices, and adherence to compliance and regulatory requirements. Without this review, nonprofits leave themselves open to a number of risky consequences, as well as operational inefficiencies.

THE REMEDY: Technology can be a huge boon to nonprofit organizations, but only when it’s used wisely. IA should work with nonprofit leaders to first assess technology currently being used organization-wide, and then identify what the organization still needs to address. Internal auditors can assist with researching and proposing approved technologies for organization-wide usage, to facilitate cohesion and compliance and to help management improve system efficiencies.

Organizations also need to implement proper internal controls to ensure they’re mitigating technology risk as much as possible. IA can conduct a risk assessment of each technology used and implement policies to restrict or prevent the use of high-risk programs or devices. Organizations should also require similar checks and risk assessments for all new technology prior to usage.

  1. CYBERSECURITY

With new technologies exploding in popularity, cybersecurity risks abound. Nonprofit organizations often mistakenly believe they aren’t of interest to cyber criminals, but the amount of personal data they store from donors and employees, and the tendency to underinvest in cybersecurity measures, make them an ideal target. It can be difficult for nonprofits to maintain up-to-date technology and hardware, keep pace with technological changes and navigate the shifting regulatory landscape with their limited funding. Nonprofits also frequently partner with technology suppliers and other contractors that leave them open to third-party cyber risks.

THE REMEDY: The first step to mitigating cyber risk is to conduct an organization-wide cybersecurity risk assessment that includes partner, contractor and technology supplier cybersecurity as part of the due diligence process. This assessment should shed light on where internal and external gaps exist. Following the assessment, organizations should implement additional controls by updating policies, procedures and internal controls to address identified gaps.

A startling number of cyber incidents arise from employees unknowingly exposing the organization to bad actors. Training staff to recognize these exposures is fundamental to their prevention. Nonprofits need to regularly communicate risks to employees and vendors to ensure everyone is adhering to established policies.

Monitoring cyber risk needs to be an ongoing effort. Nonprofits should develop a risk assessment schedule to examine internal partner, contractor and technology supplier cybersecurity on a quarterly or annual basis. Internal audit can assist with implementing these assessments.

  1. COMPLIANCE WITH FUNDER REQUIREMENTS

Nonprofit organizations often have the unique challenge of negotiating compliance requirements across multiple funding sources including government entities, individuals, private foundations or other organizations. This challenge is only growing as budget cuts force organizations to focus on diversifying revenue streams and expanding donor pools, and with a recent increase in donor audits of specific grant activity at the materiality level. Further complicating the matter is a growing emphasis on international accounting standards (as opposed to relying on U.S. generally accepted accounting principles).

THE REMEDY: To clarify exactly what funding requirements an organization faces, it should conduct a compliance assessment, comparing requirements across all donor agreements to determine areas of overlap and areas of discontinuity. These agreements should then be compared against written policies and current practices to identify gaps.

Remediation plans can amend policies and procedures, and staff trainings should be conducted to ensure all levels and functions understand their role in maintaining compliance with funding requirements.

Staying current is critical. Nonprofits should develop a compliance assessment schedule, and IA and compliance departments need to stay on top of new funding streams and emerging trends so they can pivot when necessary.

  1. FINANCIAL CONTROLS

Even though nonprofits are motivated by making an impact rather than money, organizations still face a host of hurdles when it comes to financial management. Many international nonprofits operate in countries with cash-based economies, making it tough to maintain adequate control of funds and sufficient supporting documentation. And new payment technologies, while enabling new and widespread operational tools, are often accompanied by verification and other control challenges. Nonprofits also face resource constraints and may have a limited number of finance staff to oversee financial management processes, which can be manual and prone to human error. For organizations with several offices, branches often operate with little to no centralized oversight over their accounting and cash management procedures.

THE REMEDY: Nonprofits should review cash management procedures and evaluate typical expenditure cycles to identify potential risk areas across the entirety of an organization. Internal audit is central in assisting management in testing cash management controls.

  • Organizations can then implement additional controls in keeping with best practices, like limiting cash handling or volume of cash transactions where possible. Nonprofit managers should consider investing in technologies and resources that limit high risk processes.

Standardizing procedures will help cut down on variance of practices between offices. All branches should centralize accounting and reporting procedures. At a minimum, each location should maintain copies of supporting documentation of all expenditures and financial reporting and should regularly review them with staff.

  1. RELIANCE ON THIRD PARTIES

Vendor actions can create extremely adverse consequences for nonprofit organizations. Concerns range from reputation damage to the vendor’s illegal acts being attributed to the nonprofit organization. This risk applies to all types of organizational relationships with vendors and nonprofits, especially those administering federal grant programs given increased subrecipient monitoring and due diligence requirements.

Despite the risks, most nonprofits rely on partners or contractors for critical program functions. This makes it difficult to conduct due diligence reviews and monitoring activities, particularly when the partners/contractors are numerous, geographically dispersed or operating overseas. Partners are normally tasked with self-reporting, meaning frauds like ghost employee payments are easily hidden. Contractors also usually have access to organizational networks and information, creating an additional layer of risk.

THE REMEDY: Organizations should review current policies and procedures to ensure robust due diligence and monitoring processes are in place for all third-party relationships. This should include an assessment of partner/contractor access to project data, systems and networks, and the limitation of access where possible.

Nonprofits need to implement additional monitoring and verification processes, including:

  • Conducting regular spot reviews or investigations of reported data
  • Requiring partners and contractors to certify financial and programmatic assertions
  • Verifying number of partner/contractor staff and salary payment amounts
  • Conducting unannounced site visits
  • Considering third-party verification systems

These processes should be re-evaluated on a regular basis to ensure their effectiveness.

  1. PROCUREMENT PROCEDURES

Nonprofit organizations rely heavily on non-competitive procurement processes due to several reasons. Often, procurement procedures, selection criteria and selection decisions are inadequately documented, leaving organizations unable to show that there was no bias in the selection process. Preferred vendor lists are rarely updated, and control of vendor solicitation, selection and site visits is often left with just a few individuals.

THE REMEDY: IA should review current procurement procedures against industry standards and donor requirements. They should also be transparent about their procurement policies including:

  • Publicly announcing tenders as much as possible
  • Updating vendor lists through open competition as frequently as possible
  • Verifying vendors and prices through in-person or third-party checks
  • Comparing bids against market prices
  • Documenting criteria and selection procedures to bid samples with procurement files
  • Ensuring procurement/selection committees are rotated on a regular basis
  1. TRANSPORTATION AND DISTRIBUTION

For organizations that distribute goods, inventory management and oversight can prove to be major sources of stress for internal auditors. Often, nonprofits have difficulties verifying receipt of goods or services by their intended beneficiary, and confirming the goods provided are in the same quality and quantity as what was purchased. Diversion, theft and product substitution are especially difficult to identify. Despite resource and capacity issues, recent increased scrutiny of internal controls and supply chain management means that organizations need to address these issues sooner rather than later.

THE REMEDY: To help combat issues in the distribution chain, organizations need to shore up monitoring procedures by:

  • Establishing monitoring teams for critical points along the supply chain
  • Implementing two-step or three-step verification procedures at each critical stage
  • Hiring a third party to conduct site visits and monitor transportation and distribution
  • Using technology to assist in tracking and monitoring, including unique identifiers on products for inventory and tracking purposes and requiring distributors to take time-stamped photos/videos of deliveries
  • Another effective risk mitigation strategy is to communicate directly with beneficiaries. Organizations can hold pre-distribution meetings with communities to review any past issues or concerns. Detailed packing lists and/or photographs of parcel contents should be inside packages. Nonprofits can include in the contract clauses with distributors to withhold payments to distributors until delivery is confirmed. This further ensures the distributor is holding up its end of the agreement.
  1. FRAUD AND CORRUPTION

It’s the job of the internal audit function to uncover fraud, waste and abuse in nonprofit organizations, but often they are set up for failure. Due to a lack of communication between functional and program units within organizations, increased used of third parties, outdated systems, increased regulations (and the list goes on…), the opportunity to exploit a nonprofit’s controls is growing at a time when IA resources are shrinking and reputational risk for organizations is at an all-time high.

THE REMEDY: Preventing fraud starts within an organization itself. Stakeholders should evaluate current fraud prevention, detection and investigation measures against regulatory requirements and develop a plan to remediate any identified gaps. They should also be sure to provide accessible fraud reporting mechanisms for all employees, partners, grantees/beneficiaries and stakeholders.

  • Despite resource constraints, organizations need to ensure IA has the appropriate level of resources to detect and investigate potential cases of fraud. Funds should also be set aside for visits to third parties and office locations and the establishment of a fraud hotline. Put a process in place to notify any impacted funders in a timely manner and in line with donor requirements to prevent exacerbating the impact when fraud does occur.

It’s also key to establish a fraud prevention and detection assessment schedule so practices can stay up-to-date and make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Internal auditors at nonprofits have a tough, but essential job that’s key to keeping the organization focused on mission fulfillment. By assessing current practices, developing action plans and regularly monitoring activities, organizations can mitigate risk and serve their beneficiaries more effectively.

This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” newsletter (Summer 2018). Copyright © 2018 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com

5 Suggestions to Perfect Your Audit Committee Charter

By Lewis Sharpstone, CPA

The quality and completeness of the audit committee charters that I have seen typically range from very good to great. This is why there is no mention in this article, other than here, of core audit committee responsibilities such as auditor appointment, audit review, monitoring of whistleblowing incidents, or conflicts of interest reporting. However, here are my top five suggestions that should be considered for strengthening even a great audit committee charter.

  1. Incorporate all your state audit committee requirements into the charter

For example, under California law there are stated guidelines as to who can and cannot serve on the audit committee. The most well-known California rule is that no more than 50 percent of the audit committee can comprise finance committee members. Most California audit committee charters I see cover this rule. But many California audit committee charters I see don’t include the lesser known but equally important rules. For example, in California the chair of the audit committee is also prohibited from serving on the finance committee. Make sure you know your state audit committee requirements, if any, and ensure that they are embedded into your charter.

  1. Minutes of meetings

Part VI, Section A, question 8 of IRS Form 990 reminds us that as a best practice, organizations should memorialize all board meetings with documented minutes. This also applies to all meetings of subcommittees of the board. The audit committee is a subcommittee of the board, so documented minutes should be produced for each meeting. Accordingly, this should be stated in the charter.

  1. Executive sessions

Most audit committees build into their charter the notion that they can hold executive sessions with specific parties. In almost all cases it is either written or implied that executive session means organization staff members are excused from the meeting and the audit committee meets alone with the external auditors or other parties. However, executive sessions can be much broader than this and should probably be defined as such. For example, since the responsibility of audit committees includes a broad understanding of risk, and since a significant risk facing any organization today is cybersecurity, it is probably appropriate for the audit committee to want to meet in executive session with the chief information officer.

  1. The authority to independently consult with and retain outside legal counsel

The audit committee should be collaborative most of the time but function objectively all the time. The authority of the audit committee to retain outside legal counsel, if needed, is recommended to be included in the charter. If the need arises, having this documented within the charter will be important to the audit committee in exercising its responsibilities. Conversely, it might prove almost impossible in certain circumstances for the audit committee to exercise its duties without this authority.

  1. Self-review

Self-review is a powerful and useful process if performed correctly and periodically. It provides an appropriate time and forum for members of a committee to voice suggestions to improve the effectiveness of the committee on which they serve. Certainly, the absence of an appropriate time and forum to voice these suggestions for improvement can lead to problems down the road. This is why embedding a periodic audit committee effectiveness self-review requirement and process into the charter is highly recommended. The audit committee charter should also be self-reviewed periodically.

This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” newsletter (Summer 2018). Copyright © 2018 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com

Transportation Fringe Benefits Are Now Ubi—Effective Jan. 1, 2018

By Laura Kalick, JD, LLM in Taxation

Does your tax-exempt organization provide transportation and parking benefits to employees? If so, you may have another commuter headache: a new tax. Under the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017 (the Act), a provision was added to the Internal Revenue Code that is likely to require many tax-exempt organizations to pay unrelated business income tax (UBIT). Certain costs of qualified transportation, including transit passes, qualified parking and more, will now be taxed as unrelated business income at 21 percent.

The Act added the following provision to the Internal Revenue Code: Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 512(a)(7): Increase in unrelated business taxable income by disallowed fringe.

This provision was an attempt to put exempt organizations on the same footing as taxable organizations that will no longer be able to deduct these costs. The provision is effective for amounts paid or incurred after Dec. 31, 2017.

Under this provision, certain qualified transportation fringe benefits, including those relating to parking garages, must be reported as unrelated business income (UBI). All tax-exempt organizations (and a college or university owned and operated by a state or other governmental unit) will have to include as unrelated business taxable income any amounts paid or incurred for any qualified transportation fringe benefit, including the following:

• A ride in a commuter highway vehicle between the employee’s home and workplace.
• A transit pass.
• Qualified parking.

Qualified parking is parking you provide to your employees on or near your business premises. It includes parking on or near the location from which your employees commute to work using mass transit, commuter highway vehicles, or carpools. If an organization has its own garage that is used for parking that is already reported as UBI (e.g., parking for the general public), then the percentage of those costs attributable to the amount already included in its UBI does not have to be included in the amount treated as UBI under the new provision.

The UBIT on these employer costs is 21 percent at the federal level and state taxes may apply as well. Organizations should consider making estimated tax payments on these taxes.

These employee fringe benefits are still excluded from an employee’s income. Employers can generally exclude the value of transportation benefits provided to an employee during 2018 from the employee’s wages up to the following limits:

• $260 per month for combined commuter highway vehicle transportation and transit passes.
• $260 per month for qualified parking.

See IRS Publication 15-b for more information.

Even if the benefit is provided under a compensation reduction agreement, the payment will still result in UBIT for the organization. The only way the organization can avoid counting these benefits as UBI is to have the employee pay for the benefits with after-tax dollars.

COMPENSATION REDUCTION AGREEMENT EXAMPLE:

For 2018, the monthly limit on the amount that may be excluded from an employee’s income for qualified parking benefits is $260. Commuter employees can receive both the transit and parking benefits up to $520 per month tax-free.

On a per employee basis, for commuter and transit passes only, $260 monthly is $3,120 annually, and the UBI tax on this amount at 21 percent is $655 plus state taxes, if applicable. With 100 employees, the federal tax alone would be $655 per employee and approximately $65,500 in total. To the extent your organization provides a commuter benefit of up to $520 per month, the UBI tax can be much more.

Next Steps:

• Organizations should determine whether they provide these transportation and parking benefits, and if so, to how many employees, what kind and how much?
• Calculate the estimated tax payments for Federal UBI and the state, if applicable.
• If your organization has not filed Form 990-T in the past, enroll the organization in the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System in order to remit the taxes.

This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” newsletter (Summer 2018). Copyright © 2018 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com