Home Aplos Short Do Nonprofits Pay Taxes?

Do Nonprofits Pay Taxes?

by Megan DeCosta

Do nonprofits pay taxes? In short, the answer is both yes and no.

For the most part, nonprofits and churches are exempt from the majority of taxes that for-profit businesses are responsible for. However, they aren’t completely free of tax liability. There are some instances when nonprofits and churches are still required to pay taxes.

Taxes Nonprofits DON’T Pay

Nonprofits and churches do not have to pay federal income tax, nor do they have to pay any state or local income tax. That said, you’ll want to check your local rules in case they differ from federal ones. Additionally, nonprofits and churches are exempt from paying all property taxes.

By not collecting these taxes, more funds are able to be deployed toward the mission. In most cases, it’s a win-win for the government and the nonprofit or church. The government creates a better society for its people, while the nonprofit or church is able to put more resources toward their cause.

Taxes Nonprofits DO Pay

Nonprofits and churches aren’t completely off of Uncle Sam’s hook. They must pay payroll tax, all sales and use tax, and unrelated business income.

Employees collecting a payroll check from a nonprofit or church are just as liable as the rest of us making a living. Not only will the employee pay their share of taxes, the organization is also liable for the accompanying payroll taxes involved. But volunteers and contractors are not on payroll and do not accrue payroll tax. So use them as much as you can.

Unrelated Business Income

Let’s say you have a fundraising event, and you want to market it with some t-shirts that you sell for $10 each. That’s OK, and the income is not taxable. The key phrase here is fundraising event. In other words, you will need to record the transactions of the sales to a specific fund related to your cause. In this case, it could be for a new building or equipment used to achieve your mission. Luckily, there is fund accounting software made specifically for nonprofits and for churches that will allow you to easily do this.

However, if your sales of t-shirts are used to fund expenses like office supplies or payroll, that income could be taxable because it’s unrelated directly to the mission your nonprofit is supporting. Other examples include thrift stores or coffee shops owned and run by nonprofits. Some of these businesses could be liable for taxes depending on the volume and purpose of the transactions. It can be a pretty gray area, so you should consult with a local CPA or tax professional. Learn more about unrelated business income from IRS Publication 598.

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Melvin whitmore July 24, 2017 - 7:37 pm

Very good information, if you organize a nonprofit organization and go to the state to be Inc., and you are refused. Then you go to the united states treasury and they incorporate you . Does the state then have any authority over that federal organization.

What Is An Unrelated Business Income? - Aplos Academy July 25, 2017 - 3:24 pm

[…] This video provides a good example of what an unrelated business expense might be for a nonprofit or church: Say you’re selling shirts to raise money for a fundraiser. This wouldn’t be unrelated business income because it’s a one-off event. You may have additional fundraisers in the future, and that’s fine, but as long as you’re not selling the same good or performing the same service regularly (refer to rules 1 and 2), then it’s acceptable. In the scenario where you were selling a good or service on a regular basis to support your organization, then the act itself of selling these goods and services is unrelated to the mission of your organization, even if the mission of your organization will someday benefit from this revenue. […]


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