Another member of the board of our nonprofit rape crisis center asked about the salary and benefits for the Executive Director who works 20 hours a week. We found a 2006 Form 990 that shows it exceeds $90,000. Is that acceptable for part time under 501(c)(3) rules? It has slipped by over the years through blind trust on the part of board members.
I can’t tell from here whether it is reasonable compensation, but it is a question of “excess benefit” that both the board and the Exec should care about. The IRS has promulgated rules by which the organization and the Exec can obtain a “rebuttable presumption” that the compensation is fair and reasonable. (See Ready Reference Page: “Charities Must Avoid Excess Benefit Transactions”) If the IRS concludes that total compensation is too much, the Exec will owe a tax and have to return the excess. A director who knowingly approved the excess may also have to pay a tax. The IRS wants charities to follow the procedures and the new Form 990 tax information return asks whether the organization has done so. (See Ready Reference Page: “New ‘Core Form’ 990 Presents Revised Look for Nonprofit Finances – Part I-VII”)
It is odd that you had to look at an old tax return to find out the information. The current information should be available to a director simply upon request. The new Form 990 also asks whether everyone on the governing body has seen the return before it is filed. Although you are not required to show it to everyone, it is a good idea so that everyone can see the information and compensation will not be able to “slip by” through “blind trust.”