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Should officer use personal credit card for (c)(3) purchases?

Your Legal Questions Answered

Should officer use personal credit card for (c)(3) purchases?

An officer of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit uses his personal credit card to pay the organization’s bills, and then submits a voucher to be reimbursed the money so he can earn a 2% credit for goods purchased and keep it for his personal use. There is an established executive board with office managers and an accountant who are responsible for the payment of the bills. Should the officer be doing this on a regular basis? 

No. Unless the organization is treating this windfall as compensation, it is probably an excess benefit transaction. The officer, a disqualified person, is getting more from the organization than he is giving in return. He is personally taking the 2% discount that would be available to the charity if it used its own card and is providing nothing in return. If he and the charity were to argue that he is providing a service by making the purchases and charging them on his own card, they are making the argument for the IRS that this is a 2% commission.  But receipt of a commission is compensation, and if it isn’t reported annually, the IRS is likely to call it an automatic excess benefit.

Even if it is reported as compensation, it would violate most conflict of interest policies that say service to the organization is not to be used for personal gain. And, if the organization is in a state that has a state sales tax, the organization might be losing the benefit of an exemption if its goods and services are being paid for by an individual. All in all, this is not a very good idea, and one that would probably not survive general scrutiny.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

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