Inurement: a funny word the IRS doesn’t like!

The IRS uses an unusual word that most of us don’t know the meaning of: inure or inurement. Here’s how the IRS uses it in their definition of a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization:

A section 501(c)(3) organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests, such as the creator or the creator’s family, shareholders of the organization, other designated individuals, or persons controlled directly or indirectly by such private interests. No part of the net earnings of a section 501(c)(3) organization may inure to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual. A private shareholder or individual is a person having a personal and private interest in the activities of the organization. (emphasis added)

Source: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/charitable-organizations/inurement-private-benefit-charitable-organizations

What does inurement mean?

“Inurement” means “benefit.”  The IRS forbids a tax exempt organization to use its income or assets to directly or indirectly benefit an individual, a person with a close relationship with the organization or a person who is able to exercise significant control over the organization. These can be board members or donors.

Jeramie Fortenberry an attorney, gives an excellent explanation of inurement in his website article “The Inurement Prohibition & Non-Profit Organizations.”

Non-profit organizations are subject to what is known as the nondistribution constraint.  Simply stated, this means that non-profit organizations cannot distribute profits to those who control it.  The nondistribution constraint is the fundamental distinction between non-profit organizations from for-profit organizations.  (emphasis added)

Any time assets of the organization flow through to benefit the organization’s insiders, whether directly or directly, inurement is an issue.

What are some examples of inurement?

  • A nonprofit executive used the organization’s money to pay his child’s college tuition, lease a luxury car for his wife, have his kitchen remodeled, and rent a vacation house at the beach.
  • The CEO at a tax-exempt hospital used charitable assets to pay for personal items such as liquor, china, crystal, perfume, an airplane, and theater tickets.
  • A nonprofit art gallery exhibits artwork created by its members for a fee but grants board members the same service without cost.
  • The nonprofit organization’s sole activity is conducting seminars and lectures based on the program owned by its president and his for-profit company.
  • An educational organization had four board members who voted themselves free tuition to the program for their children. This benefit ranged from $2,000-$4,000 per board member per academic year.

Sources: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/what-is-private-inurement.html and https://boardsource.org/resources/private-benefit-private-inurement-self-dealing/ and https://www.forpurposelaw.com/the-private-benefit-rule-three-more-examples/

What happens if a nonprofit practices inurement?

I would hope inurement would never happen in a homeschool group, by Mr. Fortenbury discusses the IRS’s options against a nonprofit organization.

The inurement restriction is absolute: An organization that violates this prohibition will not qualify (or will cease to qualify) for tax exemption.

In cases involving inurement, the IRS may impose the penalties in lieu of or in addition to the revocation of tax exempt status. 

This system effectively gives the IRS two options to enforce the nondistribution constraint.  In blatant violations of the inurement prohibition, the IRS can both revoke tax exemption and impose monetary penalties under the intermediate sanction regimes. In less severe cases, the IRS may seek to correct the situation through intermediate sanctions alone.

For the full article visit: https://www.fortenberrylaw.com/inurement-prohibition-nonprofit-organizations,

 

So, please homeschool leaders, stay away from inurement (giving benefits or the assets that belongs to the nonprofit) to any insiders (those who exercise control over the organization).

We’re homeschoolers and we’re better than that.

Carol Topp, CPA