As an update on an important matter that we raised during McDermott’s May 8 Tax Symposium, it is critical to promptly assess whether to report any excise taxes imposed under Section 4960 as the deadline for filing Form 4720 is May 15, 2019 for calendar year taxpayers. Section 4960 of the Internal Revenue Code imposes a 21% excise tax on compensation over $1 million paid to the five highest paid employees of a tax exempt organization, including a private foundation (PF). For purposes of applying Section 4960, the Internal Revenue Service includes compensation paid by related taxable organizations, which may include publicly held or privately held corporations that control who sits on the PF’s board of trustees.

Set forth below are the key issues relevant to establishing a reasonable, good faith position under Notice 2019-9 that the Section 4960 excise tax should not apply to volunteer officers of a PF who receive all of their compensation from taxable organizations related to such PF. What is important to understand is that the Section 4960 excise tax only applies if volunteer officers are treated as employees of the related PF. Whether an employee relationship exists is a facts and circumstances test, and having someone serve as an officer to meet state law nonprofit corporation requirements does not result, by itself, in employee status.

We have also provided steps that companies may follow in developing the facts necessary to establish such reasonable, good faith position pending the issuance of proposed regulations. Please feel free to contact us for assistance in developing such position or with any questions concerning Section 4960.


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One of the more controversial and complex provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has been the 21 percent excise tax on certain nonprofit executive compensation. On December 31, 2018, the IRS issued interim guidance that addresses how this tax will apply in various situations that commonly arise for tax-exempt employers. Establishing internal systems