Private Foundations: Safeguard Against Conflict-Of-Interest With Strict Policies

While conflict-of-interest policies are essential for all non-profit organizations, it’s imperative for private foundations to exercise heightened caution in their adherence. Foundations are subject to more stringent regulations in general. An assumption might arise that transactions involving individuals within the organization are permissible as long as they yield benefits for the foundation. However, this assumption is erroneous. While such transactions could find acceptance in 501(3)(c) non-profits, they are unequivocally prohibited for foundations. Precisely, transactions between private foundations and ‘disqualified persons,’ including specific insiders, are explicitly disallowed.

Conflict-of-Interest | A Wide Net When Defining ‘Disqualified Persons’

The IRS casts a wide net when defining ‘disqualified persons.’ Its definition includes substantial contributors, managers, officers, directors, trustees, and people with large ownership interests in corporations or partnerships that make substantial contributions to the foundation. Their family members are disqualified, too. In addition, when a disqualified person owns more than 35% of a corporation or partnership, that business is considered disqualified.

Prohibited transactions can be hard to identify because there are many exceptions. But, in general, you should ensure that disqualified persons don’t engage in these activities with your foundation:

  • Selling, exchanging, or leasing property
  • Making or receiving loans
  • Extending credit
  • Providing or receiving goods, services, or facilities
  • Receiving compensation or reimbursed expenses

Disqualified persons also shouldn’t agree to pay money or give property to government officials on your behalf.

Possible Penalties

What happens if you violate the rules? The disqualified person may be subject to an initial excise tax of 10% of the amount involved and, if the transaction isn’t corrected quickly, an additional tax of up to 200% of the amount. What’s more, an excise tax of 5% of the amount involved is imposed on a foundation manager who knowingly participates in an act of self-dealing, unless participation wasn’t willful and was due to reasonable cause. An additional tax of 50% is imposed if the manager refuses to agree to part or all of the correction of the self-dealing act.

Although liability is limited for foundation managers ($40,000 for any one act), self-dealing individuals enjoy no such limits. In some cases, private foundations that engage in self-dealing lose their tax-exempt status.

Go The Extra Mile

If you lead a private foundation, you must go the extra mile to avoid anything that might be perceived as self-dealing. Transactions between foundations and disqualified persons are firmly prohibited, and violating this rule can be costly. But it’s easy to get tripped up by IRS rules. So, contact us to help ensure you’re in compliance with regulations and safeguarding against conflict-of-interest.

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