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May director lend funds for bargain sale purchase?

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May director lend funds for bargain sale purchase?

We have potential donors who might want to sell their home, which is listed now for $899,000, to our 501(c)(3) organization for $100,0000. They would then take a tax deduction for the difference between its value and the $100,000 we pay. Can a board member give us an interest free loan to purchase the home so we can sell it and make a profit?

Your question raises a number of important issues. The answer to your specific question is Yes.  Assuming your 501(c)(3) organization is a public charity and not a private foundation, a director (or anyone else) may make an interest free loan to it — and will not have to recognize imputed interest as income so long as the loan is less than $250,000.

The gift technique that you describe is called a bargain sale, but your donors ought not to assume that they will be able to take a charitable contribution deduction for $799,000, which is the difference between the list price and the bargain sale price. They will have to obtain an independent appraisal of the value of the property and file a Form 8283 with the income tax return on which they claim the deduction. The IRS could contest the valuation, especially if the property has been listed for a while at $899,000 (or higher) and not sold. In addition, you will have to file a Form 8282 if you sell the property within three years and tell the IRS exactly what you got for it. If there is a significant discrepancy, the IRS is more likely to challenge the valuation.

Finally, since you are not going to use the property for your own program, you should be sure that you are willing to own it, that it has no environmental issues, and that is readily salable. You will have significant carrying costs for things like insurance, maintenance and real estate taxes while you hold it and will also have significant costs of sale. Try to determine whether the “donors” are more interested in helping you or in getting rid of “dog” real estate. You have to be very careful in accepting real estate that the owner has been unable to sell or that is offered at the end of the year so that the donor can claim a quick charitable contribution deduction. My general rule for people who don’t regularly deal in real estate is that if it has to be done immediately, especially in this kind of market, it probably shouldn’t be done at all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

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Comments

Property taxes are not applied to 501(c)(3) organizations in my state. --A.V. via email

You may be correct for your state, but in most states property owned by charities must also be used for charitable purposes in order to qualify for exempt status. Ownership alone would not be sufficient, and merely holding a vacant property until it can be sold for the revenue, and not as a means to further the organization's charitable purpose, would not qualify for exemption. --Don Kramer

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