Posts made in October 2018

Common Form 990 errors for Nonprofit Organizations

Many Forms 990 are prepared incorrectly or incompletely.

Because the Form 990 is a public document — nearly all are posted on GuideStar.com and many organizations post them on their websites — it is important that the Form 990 be prepared completely, correctly and consistently.

An incorrect Form 990 could reflect negatively on the organization when reviewed by possible donors, the community or even the media. More importantly, an incorrect Form 990 might be viewed as an incomplete filing by the IRS, subjecting the organization to late filing and other penalties even though a Form 990 was filed.

Here are some of the most common errors we have encountered.

Missing the deadline. The 990 is due on the 15th day of the 5th month after the organization’s year-end.  That means May 15th for calendar year organizations and November 15th for organizations with a June 30th year-end.  There is a 6-month extensions available but this has to be filed by the deadline.  Final deadline after all extensions is November 15th for calendar year-end organizations and May 15th for June 30th organizations.  Late filing fees can be as high as $50,000.  Failure to file for 3 consecutive years results in loss of exempt status.  If the organization has unrelated business income, it must file an extension for the 990 and a separate extension for the 990-T.

Filing an incomplete return.  The IRS can consider an incomplete return as never filed in which case late filing penalties up to $50,000 can apply.  Missing schedules is one of the most common reasons for incomplete returns.  Listed below are some of the most common schedules.  Keep in mind that some schedules only apply to organizations filing a 990 and some schedules apply to both the 990 and the 990-EZ.

  • Schedule A – Required of all public charities
  • Schedule B – Required of organizations that received donations of $5,000 or more from a donor
  • Schedule C – Lobbying activities are reported in this schedule
  • Schedule D – Most common reasons for filing this schedule are fixed assets, endowment funds, escrow funds, and/or audited financial statements.  Endowment funds includes those administered by someone else such as a community foundation.  An example of escrow funds is security deposits from building tenants.
  • Schedule G – Required if the organization had over $15,000 in expenses for professional fundraisers (not employees) or if it had over $15,000 in gross income from either fundraising events or gaming activities.
  • Schedule I – Required if the organization gave more than $5,000 in grants and contributions to other organizations or individuals in the United States.  Schedule F is completed if the grants were given to organizations or individuals located outside of the United States.
  • Schedule M – Required if the organization received over $25,000 in donated non-cash contributions.  Common mistake is not realizing that donated stock is considered a non-cash contribution.
  • Schedule R – Required if the organization was related to any other organizations or if it owns 100% of a disregarded entity.

Voting members of the governing body.

Line 3 of Part I asks for the number of voting members of the governing body.  This should be the number as of the end of the organization’s year end.  For a calendar year organization, this is the number of voting board members at December 31.  This number should never be more than the number of board members listed in Part VII.  Part VII should include the name of any individual that served on the organization’s board at any time during the fiscal year.  There may be individuals listed in Part VII that were not board members as of the last day of the organization’s year but served earlier in the year.

New significant programs.

Line 2 of Part III asks if the organization took on any significant program services during the year which were not listed on the prior form.  Nonprofits need to check this box yes and provide a description for any new programs that began during the year.  When an organization applies for tax-exempt status, it must describe its program services in its application for exemption.  It is important the nonprofit notify the IRS of any new programs so that the IRS can ensure that these new programs coincide with the organization’s exempt purpose.  The IRS may be able to challenge any new programs as unrelated which could result in unrelated business income taxes.

Policies.

Part VI asks if the organization has various policies in place.  Nonprofits will not lose their exempt status simply because they do not have these policies in place; however, it is best practices to have them.  Two of the questions address provisions of the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act.  Although most provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act apply to public companies, two provisions apply to nonprofit organizations – a whistle-blower policy and document retention and destruction policy.  In addition, if a nonprofit is required to file Schedule L, Transactions with Interested Persons which reports financial transactions or arrangements between the organization and disqualified persons, there should be a conflict of interest policy in place.

In-kind.

Donated services and facilities should not be recorded in Part VIII as revenue or in Part IX as expenses.  Items such as donated advertising or the use of materials, equipment or facilities are recorded in the organization’s financial statements prepared using generally accepted accounting principles but they are excluded from Form 990.

FORM 990, PAGE 1, PART I

Page 1 of Form 990 includes summary information relating to the organization and creates a first impression for the reader.

Organizations should consider a concise description that fits in the allotted space on the first page, so the reader can gain a clear idea of the organization’s most significant activity without searching through the voluminous disclosures in Schedule O.

Part I of Page 1 also includes summary information regarding the number of voting board members, employees and volunteers. Unpaid board members are considered volunteers for purposes of reporting the number of volunteers on Page 1.

Organizations with unpaid board members often fail to count them as volunteers on Form 990.

FORM 990, PART VI

Total members of the governing body and total independent members of the governing body are often counted incorrectly on Form 990.

The IRS instructions ask for the total number of voting members of the governing body, which may not be the same number listed in Part VII of Form 990.

In addition, the concept of independent members of the governing body is defined differently for purposes of Form 990 completion. Often, members of the governing body who are compensated for services performed outside their service as a board member, as well as members of the governing body who have interested person transactions reported on Schedule L, are counted as independent board members in error.

Business and family relationships often are not disclosed as required in question 2. Exempt organizations that have large numbers of board members — more than 20 — or are located in rural areas are likely to have a business or family relationship with fellow board members. This question is often answered “no” in error.

FORM 990 PARTS VIII & IX

While reporting revenue and expenses of an exempt organization should be routine, many times items of revenue or expense are not properly reported. Common reporting issues include:

  • Reporting fees paid for services rendered (contract services) incorrectly.
  • Contributions and revenue reported in the incorrect column.
  • Security sales, fundraising and/or gaming events not reported properly.
  • Incorrect or lacking allocations of a reasonable amount of expense to either management G&A or fundraising expense.

SCHEDULE A PUBLIC CHARITY STATUS

Schedule A reports the public charity status of an organization. Many times, organizations select the wrong public charity type in Part I. For organizations classified as publicly supported, one of the public support tests included in Part I or Part II must be completed.

These computations often are completed inaccurately with incorrect amounts reported throughout. A common error is the omission or incorrect computation of excluded support on Line 5 of Part II or Line 7 of Part III.

SCHEDULE L TRANSACTIONS WITH INTERESTED PERSONS

Schedule L reports a variety of transactions with interested persons. Many organizations define interested persons too narrowly and only inquire as to possible transactions with board members.

Interested persons are defined differently depending on the type of transaction reported on Schedule L, and inquiries regarding these transactions should include not only officers, directors and trustees but also key employees, highest-paid employees and, in some cases, certain donors.

Organizations should take care to inquire about interested-person transactions regarding all interested persons.

Once a transaction with an interested person is identified, the organization reports certain information in Schedule L. Business transactions tend to be the most often reported transaction on Schedule L. Part IV requests the name of the interested person (and not the ODTKE), the relationship and amount of the transaction. In many cases, the ODTKE of the organization is reported in error as the interested person.

SCHEDULE O MISCELLANEOUS DISCLOSURES

Schedule O is used to provide required disclosures based on the answers to certain questions contained in the core form of Form 990. The disclosures range from expanded program service descriptions and internal Form 990 review processes to availability of certain documents for public access and compensation-setting processes.

Often the disclosures are incomplete, not updated for current reporting information or so lengthy the purpose of the disclosure is lost to the reader.

Care should be taken to read each disclosure to ensure it answers the question or describes the issue completely, correctly and concisely.

Please contact us to review your current Form 990 for any errors or let us prepare your Form 990 and we will make sure you comply with the IRS requirements.  Also, we work with our clients on a daily basis so we typically know the organization very well which also contributes to a better prepared return with little effort from our busy clients.

 

 

Common Financial Statement Errors for Not-for-Profit Entities

The top 4 categories of common financial reporting and disclosures errors include the following:

  • Revenue recognition (ASU 2018-08) as more government grants will be treated as conditional contributions rather than previously recognized as an exchange transaction.  This is based on the fact that both parties must receive value for it to be an exchange transaction under the new revenue recognition standards.
  • Net asset classifications for the new accounting standards
  • Financial Statement presentation as listed for each financial statement
  • Disclosure errors as listed in the notes to the financial statements

The following series is a listing of some of the financial statement errors found in Not-for-Profit organizations.   I have broken it down by the different financial reports.

The Statement of Financial Position which is commonly referred to as a Balance Sheet may have the following financial statement errors:

  • Display of current/noncurrent assets without displaying current/noncurrent liabilities when a classified statement is used.
  • Improperly including items in cash and cash equivalents, such as cash held or other assets that are restricted or not available for current use.
  • Failure to report cash, contributions receivable, and other assets that are restricted for a long-term purpose separately from unrestricted cash and cash equivalents, contributions receivable or other assets.
  • Recording deferred revenue for amounts received under a “grant” instead of recording temporarily restricted revenue in circumstances where the “grant” is, in substance, a temporarily restricted contribution and not a true cost-reimbursement arrangement.
  • Improper reporting of beneficial interests in assets or net assets held by others, such as in the instance of an entity transferring assets to a community foundation and naming itself beneficiary.
  • Failure to distinguish between operating leases and capital leases and apply the proper accounting under the circumstances. A capital lease is recorded as both an asset and a liability on the statement of financial position. An operating lease is not reported on the statement of financial position and is expensed as incurred.
  • Missing one or more of the required totals: total assets, total liabilities, total net assets, permanently restricted net assets, temporarily restricted net assets, and unrestricted net assets.
  • Include Cash and Cash equivalents items that are board designated or donor designated and not available for current use.
  • Failure to capitalize certain costs of internal use software: ASC 350-40.
  • Failure to account for operating lease liability when cash outlay doesn’t match up with lease.

The Statement of Activities which is commonly referred to as an income statement or statement of revenues and expenses may have the following financial statement errors:

  • Improperly releasing temporarily restricted net assets that are subject to both a time and purpose restriction when one, but not the other, restriction is met.
  • Reporting revenues from exchange transactions as increases in restricted net assets. Only those revenues related to contributions with donor-imposed restrictions can result in restricted net assets.
  • Reporting amounts receivable under a cost-reimbursement contract/grant as temporarily restricted (may be legally limited as to use, but it is an unrestricted activity for which unrestricted costs have been incurred).
  • Recording amounts as a receivable under cost-reimbursement contract/grant for which costs have not been incurred.
  • Failing to properly classify revenue transactions (or portions thereof) as contribution or exchange transactions.  Improperly including expenses in temporarily or permanently restricted net assets. Expenses should decrease unrestricted net assets.
  • Erroneously reporting just one program service function when the NFP has more than one major class of program services. For example, an NFP may have programs for health or family services, research, disaster relief, and public education, among others.  One program service activity could be fine for private foundations, supporting organizations, or potentially a smaller organization.
  • Failure to recognize contributions of services that meet the recognition criteria or recognizing
    contributed services that do not meet the criteria as discussed in paragraphs 16-17 of FASB ASC 958- 605-25.
  • Not reporting contribution revenue for gifts-in-kind (free or below-market rent, services provided by another organization, donated supplies, donated media, food, facilities, entertainment and so on.)  Would nonprofit purchase this service if it was not donated?
  • Not reporting costs of soliciting contributions, including costs of soliciting contributed services that do not meet the recognition criteria, as fundraising costs.  Generally, an organization that reports contributions will have fundraising expenses.  Remember, the costs of recruiting volunteers is fundraising
  • Management and general expenses include Business management, General recordkeeping, Payroll, and Human resources, and administering grant and contract financial reporting, annual report, and all other management and administration except for the direct conduct or direct supervision of program services or fundraising activities.

The Statement of Cash Flows may have the following financial statement errors:

  • Failing to display donor restricted capital-type contributions (permanently restricted gifts, gifts restricted for acquisition of property) as a financing activity.
  • Failing to display information about noncash gifts for endowment or property, plant and equipment purposes.
  • Failing to disclose indebtedness incurred for the acquisition of assets as a noncash activity.
  • Netting amounts for purchases and sales of property, plant and equipment.  This should be reported at gross.
  • Improperly reporting unrestricted contributions that were subsequently designated by the governing board for long-term purposes as a financing activity rather than an operating activity.
  • Failure to report as investing activities the cash flows from purchases, sales, and insurance recoveries of unrecognized, noncapitalized collection items.
  • Reporting net cash flows for purchasing and sales of investments, purchases and sales of property and equipment, and borrowings and repayments on long term debt.

The Statement of Functional Expenses may have the following financial statement errors:

  • Failing to include certain expenses in the statement (for example, expenses netted against revenues or non-operating expenses).
  • Failing to include the statement when one is required (voluntary health and welfare entities).
  • Management and general expenses are inappropriately or completely reallocated to other functional categories. For example, costs associated with soliciting funds other than contributions, including applications for and administering certain grants and contracts, are allocated to program services or fundraising activities.
  • Within the listing of natural expenses in a Statement of Functional Expenses, including a function or program line item. For example, within the listing of natural expenses listing the line item “grant expenses” which might have already been allocated such items as payroll, occupancy and supplies.
  • Commonly excluded items include expenses netted against the revenues:
    • Special event expenses
    • Costs of Goods Sold
    • Costs of Rental Activities

The Notes to the Financial Statements may have the financial statement errors:

  • Failing to include the required disclosure for summarized financial information.
  • Failing to disclose an adequate description of the organization’s activities, including each major class of programs
  • Failing to disclose the capitalization policy for property, plant and equipment.
  • Failing to disclose discount rates used in present value measurements, such as in measuring unconditional promises to give or split-interest agreements.
  • Failing to disclose information about the nature of permanent restrictions include the following:
    • Donations to be invested in perpetuity
    • Collections items or other assets to be held in perpetuity
    • Endowment disclosures
  • Failing to disclose information about the nature of temporary restrictions include the following:
    • Support for specific programs
    • Use in future periods
    • Acquisition of long term assets
    • Unappropriated endowment earnings
  • Failing to disclose information about the programs or activities for which contributed services were used.
  • Failing to present reclassifications which are in effect corrections of errors as restatements. However when reclassifications are not corrections or errors, failing to describe the nature of reclassifications made to prior-year amounts to conform to current year presentation when such reclassifications are significant, even if such reclassifications had no effect on the prior year’s change in net assets.
  • Failing to disclose total fundraising costs. When a statement of functional expenses is presented and certain fundraising costs have been netted against revenue, such netted costs need to be included in total fundraising costs.
  • Failing to disclose total program expenses if the components of total program expenses are not evident from the details provided on the face of the statement of activities (for example, if cost of sales is not identified as either program or supporting services).
  • Consider whether information disclosed is consistent with or compliments: annual report, website, Form 990, or strategic plan.
  • Failure to disclose material related party transactions as set forth in FASB ASC 850-10. Related parties include, but are not limited to, the following: officers, board members, founders, substantial contributors, and their immediate family members; members of any related party’s immediate family; parties providing concentrations in revenues and receivables; supporting organizations; financially interrelated entities; or other entities whose officers, governing board members, owners, or employees are members of the NFP’s governing board or senior management, if those individuals have significant influence to an extent that one or more of the transacting parties might be prevented from fully pursuing its own separate interests.

We hope you find this list helpful as your review and evaluate your current financial statements.   The notes to the financial statements are typically only included in the audited financial statements which means the organization is typically unaware of these disclosures.  We work with our clients on a daily basis to review and update the financial statements on a regular basis so let us know if you would like us to review and update your financial reports.

We have found the following types of errors in the Net Asset Classifications:

  • Errors in endowment calculations and related reporting (beware of large spreadsheets)
  • Debit balances in net assets with donor restrictions (except for underwater endowment funds) and released net assets without donor restrictions
  • Recording board designated net assets in net assets with donor restrictions instead of net assets without donor restrictions
  • Reporting pledges receivable without donor restrictions due in future years as without restrictions
  • Reporting reclassifications of amounts between net asset categories when the reason is other than changes in donor designation
  • Improperly presenting expenses as net assets with donor restrictions
  • Not releasing restrictions with first dollar spent

We can help you to present your net asset classification properly so please contact us to help you review your reports and make suggestions for improvements and proper reporting.

Simplifying FY2018-2019 Implementation of the new Nonprofit Financial Reporting Standards

Fiscal Year 2018-2019 should be implementing the new Nonprofit Financial Reporting and Accounting Standards.  We are providing this simplified guide to assist your organization with this implementation.  We can help you modify your accounting software to meet this requirements so just let us know how we can assist your organization.

Update:

White Paper Available: “Understanding. Preparing. Implementing.  FASB ASU 2016-14 reporting requirements for Not-for-Profit Organizations

Overview

In November 2011, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) added a project to its agenda focusing on the financial reporting of not-for-profit (NFP) entities. The project has resulted in the issuance of Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2016-14, Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958): Presentation of Financial Statements of Not-for-Profit Entities. The update strives to improve how a NFP organization classifies its net assets and provides information in its financial statements and notes about its financial performance, cash flows and liquidity.  We have summarized the full 270-page standard into this brief guide which outlines the primary changes to the financial statements of not-for-profit organizations.

Net Asset Classes

  • Replaces the current three net asset classes with the following two:
    • Net assets with donor restrictions
    • Net assets without donor restrictions
  • Removes hardline distinction between temporary and permanent restrictions
  • Enhances disclosure requirements:
    • Amounts and purposes of board-designated net assets
    • How restrictions affect the use of resources

In order to implement the new changes, you will need to modify your financial report formats and chart of accounts to insure your internal financial reports are modified for the new financial reporting requirements.  You will need to determine appropriate level of disaggregation of the net assets for Statement of Financial Position, Statement of Activities, and footnote disclosures.

What to know: Previously, not-for-profit organizations had three distinct net asset classifications: unrestricted, temporarily restricted, and permanently restricted. ASU 2016-14 combines temporarily restricted and permanently restricted net assets into “net assets with donor restrictions” and renames unrestricted net assets as “net assets without donor restrictions.” This reflects the fact that permanently restricted net assets can be spent as long as the organization acts prudently.

Previously reported New reporting
Unrestricted Net assets without donor restrictions
Temporarily restricted Permanently restricted Net assets with donor restrictions

Organizations should consider reformatting their internal financial statements to comply with the two net asset classifications, which is not a significant change. However, these two net asset classes are required at a minimum; further disaggregation of net assets can be disclosed in the footnotes. Net assets with time or purpose restrictions could be segregated from those held in perpetuity (such as an endowment) if this is beneficial to the users of the financial statements.

Not-for-profit organizations are required to disclose board- designated net assets either on the face of the financial statements or in the notes to the financial statements. Board-designated net assets are net assets without donor restrictions that are subject to self-imposed limits by action of the governing board. They may be earmarked for a specific purpose, for example, and they can be undesignated at the board’s discretion.

Smaller organizations may need to adopt new policies and practices for tracking board-designated net assets. They should identify all board-designated net assets and understand the purpose of such funds for disclosure purposes. Funds unnecessarily designated may need to be undesignated.

Underwater Endowments

  • Presents deficits relative to original gift amounts of donor-restricted within the donor-imposed restrictions class of net assets
  • Enhances disclosure requirements:
    • Governing board’s policy related to appropriations from such funds
    • Any action taken during the period related to such funds
    • Original gift amount or level otherwise required to be maintained by the donor or law
    • Amount of the underwater endowments in the aggregate

In order to implement the changes, you will need to recast your note to conform to the new two net asset categories.  Remember that the underwater portion of endowments is now presented entirely in net assets with donor restrictions.  The investment return is now presented net of external and direct internal investment expenses, and does not require a separate break-out of the components of investment return.

Organizations should have an investment policy that clearly complies with UPMIFA and addresses how management, within prudence, interprets spending funds from endowments. Organizations should take advantage of the opportunity to communicate their stories and decision-making processes in this area of the disclosures.

Expiration of Restrictions – Long-lived Assets

  • Requires use of the “placed-in-service approach” for determination of when restrictions expire
  • No longer allows the recognition of the expiration of restrictions over the asset’s useful life

Statement of Cash Flows

  • May continue to elect either the direct or indirect method
  • When using the direct method, no longer requires the reconciliation of changes in net assets to cash flows from operating activities

The statement of cash flows update does not change the underlying transactions in the statement. In deciding whether to switch from the indirect to the direct method, organizations should consider the needs of their financial statement users. The direct method of presenting the statement of cash flows is more intuitive and generally more understandable,    as it provides more visibility into the sources and uses of the organization’s funds. In ASU 2016-14, FASB noted that many organizations that implemented the direct method found that it was not that difficult or costly, particularly after the first year. If an organization switches to the direct method, in the year of adoption it should build a good template for use in future years.

Liquidity and Availability of Resources

  • Requires disclosure of qualitative information about how liquid resources are managed
  • Requires disclosure of quantitative information related to availability of financial assets to meet cash needs for general expenditures within one year, including impact of the following on financial assets:
    • Nature of the financial assets
    • External limits by donors, grantors, laws and contracts
    • Internal limits by the governing board

In order to implement the changes, you will need identify all financial assets, and any limitations on availability for expenditure in the next 12 months.   You will need to determine the format to present the required quantitative disclosure.   You can either display amounts of financial assets then adjustments to arrive at an available for expenditures amount or you can display only the net amounts available for expenditure.  You could determine whether presenting a classified statement of financial position could enhance or simplify the quantitative disclosure requirements considering other effects elsewhere in the financial statements and related notes.  You might want to develop a formal policy for managing the organization’s liquidity needs which might be disclosed in the qualitative portion of the note disclosure.

The use of liquidity ratios such as days of unrestricted cash available can be an important tool in monitoring cash reserves. Management should have a realistic forecast of revenues, expenses, and capital expenditures. If a negative result is anticipated, management should implement actions such as capital campaigns, key donor requests, or expense by department analysis to reduce costs. Areas that aren’t strategic to the entity’s mission can be analyzed to determine if they are an effective use of the organization’s resources. In addition, the organization should monitor a cash flow forecast regularly with the help of all supervisors. Organizations should also consider whether alternate sources of funds could be obtained through a fundraising campaign or a line of credit to improve liquidity.

Investment Return

  • Requires external and direct internal investment expenses to be net against investment returns
  • Removes requirement to disclose amount of investment expenses net against investment returns
  • Clarifies what activities constitute direct internal investing activities:
    • Salaries and related expenses of staff responsible for the development and execution of investment strategy
    • Allocable costs associated with internal investment management and supervising, selecting, and monitoring of external investment management firms
  • Permits separate, appropriately labeled line items on the statement of activities for net investment return managed differently or derived from different sources
  • Eliminates the requirement to present investment return components for changes in endowment net assets

Reporting of Expenses

  • Requires all NFPs to report expenses by nature
  • Retains requirement to report expenses by function
  • Requires expense analysis by nature and function to be presented in one location, in either:
    • The statement of activities
    • A separate statement of expenses (similar to the statement of functional expenses)
    • A schedule in the notes
  • Enhances disclosures related to methods used to allocate costs among functions
  • Updates descriptions of management and general activities

In order to implement the changes, you will need to determine where and how to present all expenses by nature and function in one place which might a in the statement of functional expense, statement of activities, or a note to the financial statements.  You will need to evaluate whether your current accounting system will support preparation of this required information.  You will need to develop formal allocation methodologies to be used to allocate expenses among program and supporting services categories.  You will need to draft note disclosure of the methods utilized in the expense allocation process.  It might be time to put together a formal cost allocation plan.

ASU 2016-14 includes clarifying guidance on the definition of management and general activities to assist in better depicting costs that can (or cannot) be allocated among program or support functions. Supporting activities are clarified to mean those “that are not directly identifiable with one or more program, fundraising, or membership development activities.” The update does not change the definition of program expense or supporting service.

Organizations should take the opportunity to revisit their existing functional allocation methodologies and substantiate assumptions used. Research time may be needed to properly allocate items such as employee time between program and supporting activities. Inconsistencies in allocation methods should be identified, and a line-by-line analysis of accounts may be needed. Certain areas such as information technology should be analyzed for direct supervision or direct conduct of program activities.

Organizations should also consider revising their chart of accounts to easily identify natural expenses. Consider whether accounts with programmatic descriptions, such as “Local and Global Outreach,” “Missionary Support,” “Easter Services,” or “Adult and Youth Programs,” should be eliminated and replaced with accounts that have natural expense descriptions for the related costs.

Effective Date and Transition

  • Annual financial statements issued for fiscal years beginning after Dec. 15, 2017
  • Early application is permitted
  • Requires adoption on retrospective basis for all years presented, except for:
    • Analysis of expenses by nature and function
    • Disclosures related to liquidity and availability of resources

Don’t forget to take advantage of our free resource.   “Understanding. Preparing. Implementing.  FASB ASU 2016-14 reporting requirements for Not-for-Profit Organizations