This bill — known as the Lessening Impediments from Taxes (LIFT) for Charities Act — would eliminate a tax provision that requires charities, churches, and other traditionally tax-exempt organizations to pay federal taxes on employee benefits. It’d amend the Internal Revenue Code to modify how the unrelated business taxable income of tax-exempt organizations is determined, so that certain fringe benefits for which a tax deduction isn’t currently allowed -- such as transportation benefits, parking, or an on-premises athletic facility -- would no longer be taxed.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The house has not voted
- The senate has not voted
Committee on FinanceIntroducedAugust 1st, 2018
- senate Committees
What is Senate Bill S. 3332?
Cost of Senate Bill S. 3332
In-Depth: Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), introduced this bill to protect churches, charities, and other non-profit organizations from a provision in the new tax law that would tax some employee benefits for the first time. The LIFT Act would repeal a section in the tax code that would require some tax-exempt organizations to pay federal taxes on employee benefits such as parking, meals, or transportation benefits for the first time by filling out IRS Form 990s (which many churches have never had to fill out before):
“Tax reform was designed to simplify tax filing, not make it more complicated or burdensome. By definition, tax-exempt organizations do not typically file tax returns. But, a glitch in last year’s tax reform bill would become a huge burden to churches, charities, and non-profit organizations. Most churches and non-profits… especially in rural locations, are not equipped to handle major tax code changes. Non-profit, tax-exempt entities are designed to better our communities and our nation. I look forward to joining my colleagues to find ways to address this unfortunate situation. [This bill is a] common-sense solution that protects the non-profit backbone of our society, as they give back to our communities in ways that are invaluable to us as a nation.”
House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) — one of the architects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that created this new rule — defended the change, arguing that it will simplify the tax code when it comes to how workers are compensated. Through his spokesman, Rob Damschen, Rep. Brady states:
“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act included provisions that provided greater parity in the tax treatment of different types of employee compensation. These provisions apply to both employers that are taxable entities and those that are tax-exempt entities. Providing this greater parity helps to reduce the extent to which decisions about the elements included in the employee compensation package are driven by tax consideration.”
In response to Rep. Brady’s claims, Mike Batts, chairman of the board of the ECFA, says:
“The whole idea of tax exemption for nonprofit organizations that are doing charitable, religious and educational work is for them not to be on the same playing field as for-profit businesses when it comes to taxes, in order to incentivize the good work they do to make our society better.”
The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Cal Nonprofits, and the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) support this bill. EFCA has circulated a position statement that has been signed by over 2,600 churches and nonprofits, advocating for the provisions’ repeal by either legislation or action by the Treasury Department. In this position statement, ECFA states:
“This new tax was purportedly added to the law to put tax‐exempt employers on the same footing as taxable employers with respect to employer‐provided parking. (Taxable employers are no longer able to deduct the cost of certain parking benefits provided to their employees.) This premise is flawed at its core. The very purpose of tax exemption for nonprofit organizations is not to have their charitable, religious, and educational activities on the same footing as taxable businesses because of their important work and the inherent challenges associated with raising money to support such work. Furthermore, the federal income tax on unrelated business income is intended to apply to income generated from unrelated commercial activities conducted by tax‐exempt organizations. Providing parking to employees does not constitute generating income from an unrelated commercial activity and there is no sound policy basis for applying a tax intended for commercial activity to the essential element of parking by employees of tax‐exempt organizations. The idea that tax‐exempt organizations should be taxed on parking they provide to their employees is highly inappropriate and must be stopped. [emphasis original]”
There are no cosponsors of this bill.
Of Note: Currently, the new tax code will require churches and nonprofits to begin paying a 21% tax on employee benefits such as parking, transportation, and other related benefits. This provision will cause nonprofit organizations to file federal income tax returns and pay unrelated business income tax on the benefits they provide to employees. Additionally, many nonprofit employers affected by this new law will also be required to file state income tax returns, possibly incurring a state income tax as a result of the new federal income tax.
Compliance with this new rule could cost churches’ and nonprofits’ somewhere in the tens of millions of dollars annually.
A range of nonprofits, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Goodwill Industries, the YMCA, and the National Council of Nonprofits have requested that the new tax obligation on employee benefits at least be delayed, arguing that it is unfair to ask them to pay a levy many of them still don’t fully understand.
- Sponsoring Sen. James Lankford (R-OK)
- Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) Position Statement (In Support)
- OU Advocacy Press Release (In Support)
- Countable - Should Churches Pay Taxes? (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStock.com / Roman Tirapolsky)