Sunday, March 04, 2007

Non-profit CEO pay keeps hitting the fan

I had a really bad travel day on Thursday but it was a whole lot better than a bunch of non-profit executives and groups who have just been nailed to the wall by the IRS, as described in that day's New York Times. In addition to finding that dozens of organizations had failed to properly disclose executive salaries, the agency "asked 40 individuals to pay a total of $20 million in excise taxes, which is the penalty it imposes when it determines a nonprofit executive has been paid excessively."

That ain't good, even a little bit. The names of the guilty have not yet been revealed.

It is a condition of federal tax-exempt status that salaries paid not exceed a reasonable range for jobs of comparable responsibility in the local market. That has not been something which has received consistent IRS attention, in part because until the 1990s the agency had no recourse short of the "death penalty" (revoking an organization's tax-exempt status) which was obviously not a politically-plausible threat against established beloved institutions. However now the feds can impose fines and penalties such as the excise taxes noted above, against both an organization and an individual.

The above discoveries have "convinced the agency that it needed to do more in the area of compensation at nonprofits" according to the article. Yea I bet...we can add to this pile the truly-outrageous case of the chief of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, described by Trent Stamp of Charity Navigator. The guy was already the highest-paid museum official in the U.S.A., and then two wealthy board members created a trust through which to secretly pay him millions more!

Unbelievable. I hope the state attorney general and the IRS nail all concerned to the wall. Clearly there are plenty of people in this sector who need wakeup calls.

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