Nonprofit Board Member Alert
May 05, 2016
If you are a volunteer board member for a nonprofit organization, one specific issue to keep in mind is the IRS’s trust fund recovery penalty. If any entity — nonprofit or for-profit — fails to properly remit Social Security taxes and/or income taxes withheld from employees’ wages, the IRS will directly approach the organization’s “responsible persons” for the tax payments and a potential 100% penalty.
In general, the penalty will not be imposed on any unpaid, volunteer member of the board of a tax-exempt organization if the member: (1) is solely serving in an honorary capacity, (2) does not participate in the day-to-day operations of the organization, (3) does not participate in the financial operations of the organization, and (4) does not have actual knowledge of the failure on which the penalty is based.
However, for an active member who has governing responsibilities, it is still important to ask questions about who is handling these tax payments (a staff member, the executive director, a payroll service, an accountant?) and what checks and balances are in effect to make sure no problems arise. Annual reviews or audits may also be helpful to verify compliance.