College hat, diploma and money

The Internal Revenue Service moved to soften the hit from a controversial provision in last year’s tax overhaul that imposes a tax on some coveted benefits for employees at nonprofits.

The law sets a 21% tax rate for nonprofits on so-called fringe benefits — such as free parking and fare for mass transit — they provide to employees. Previously, nonprofits didn’t have to pay tax on the perks. Religious groups have pressured top Republican leaders, including House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, to repeal the tax this year.

(Related: How Tax Law Impacts 5 Types of Advisors)

Nonprofits, such as churches and colleges, would be given some leeway when calculating the cost of parking benefits and won’t face penalties this year if they were confused about how much they owed, according to guidance released by the IRS on Monday.

The IRS gave the new interpretation, including the transitional relief provision, in IRS Notice 2018-100.

Brady, who had previously defended the provision, called for its elimination in a revised year-end tax package he released Monday afternoon.

“We want those nonprofit organizations to focus on their core missions,” Brady told reporters. “Repealing this allows them the certainty to do that.”

The IRS guidance is intended to provide certainty until Congress can change the law, a Treasury official said during a call with reporters.

The 21% tax on benefits has also faced some opposition in the Senate. Senators James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican, and Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, asked the Treasury Department last month to delay the implementation of the tax until next year.

Preventing non-profits and for-profits from deducting transportation fringe benefits saves the federal government $17.7 billion over a decade, according to estimates from the non-partisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

Why this could matter to agents

If you have any clients or prospects who work for an affect nonprofit, they may welcome hearing from you about the new taxes that might be coming, and some of the compliance flexibility that might be coming.

Resources

A copy of the IRS notice is available here.

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