As the implementation deadline of the new revenue recognition standards (ASU 2014-09) approaches, there are many companies and organizations scrambling to grasp the impact that the forthcoming changes will have on their financial reporting. For non-public entities, the changes are effective for reporting periods beginning after December 15, 2017. Not-for-profit entities are having an even more difficult time than others, as there are already differences in practice in various components of revenue transactions. The new revenue recognition standards do not address these differences in practice, and in fact, actually make the current differences more ambiguous.
If your not-for-profit solicits funds online — or uses other fundraising methods that cross state boundaries — it may need to register in multiple jurisdictions. We’ve answered some commonly asked questions.
My charity receives occasional contributions from out-of-state donors. Do I need to register with those states? Yes, but only if you’re actually asking for donations in those states. The critical activity is soliciting, not accepting, funds. Remember, email and text blasts and social media appeals are likely to be considered multistate solicitations.
Individuals who report illegal or unethical practices may risk their careers, or take other kinds of risks, when they do. Whistleblower policies help protect them. No federal law specifically requires not-for-profits to have such policies in place, but several state laws do. And IRS Form 990 asks nonprofits to state whether they have adopted a whistleblower policy.
In recent years, the IRS has increased its scrutiny — including actual audits — of not-for-profits. Do you know what to do if your organization receives an audit letter?
What is an audit?
An audit begins with the initial contact from the IRS and continues until a closing letter is issued. Before closing an audit, an officer of your nonprofit, your CPA and the IRS agent will discuss the agent’s conclusions at a closing conference. Both the conference and letter will explain your appeal rights.
If your not-for-profit is “stuck” and you’re not sure how to move forward, consider adopting some for-profit business practices. The essential missions of businesses and nonprofits are different, but the ways to achieve them often are the same.
Make a plan
For tax year 2014, there were 43,965,083 individual tax returns filed that itemized deductions on Schedule A. The total amount of itemized deductions in 2014 were $1,206,705,085. Deductions relating to charitable cash contributions were $155,455,063 and other than cash contributions were $65,330,485.
Your not-for-profit likely has a growing list of email addresses for donors, members, volunteers and other supporters. Are you making the most of it? If you send every one of your organization’s communications — donation requests, newsletters, meeting announcements — to everyone, you probably aren’t using these addresses as effectively as you could. Email segmentation can help you get the right messages to the right people.