Intermediate sanctions - excess benefit transactions


An excess benefit transaction is a transaction in which an economic benefit is provided by an applicable tax-exempt organization, directly or indirectly, to or for the use of a disqualified person, and the value of the economic benefit provided by the organization exceeds the value of the consideration received by the organization.

To determine if an excess benefit transaction occurred, include all consideration and benefits exchanged between or among the disqualified person and the applicable tax-exempt organization and all entities it controls.

In addition, if a supporting organization makes a grant, loan, payment of compensation, or similar payment to a substantial contributor of the organization, the arrangement is an excess benefit transaction. The entire amount of the payment is taxable as an excess benefit.

In an excess benefit transaction, the general rule for the valuation of property, including the right to use property, is fair market value. Fair market value is the price at which property, or the right to use property, would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy, sell, or transfer property or the right to use property, and both having reasonable knowledge of all relevant facts.

An excess benefit can occur in an exchange of compensation and other compensatory benefits in return for the services of a disqualified person, or in an exchange of property between a disqualified person and the applicable tax-exempt organization.

Certain transactions to which donor-advised funds or supporting organizations are parties are excess benefit transactions.

Date an Excess Benefit Transaction Occurs

An excess benefit transaction occurs on the date the disqualified person received the economic benefit from the applicable tax-exempt organization for federal income tax purposes. However, when a single contractual arrangement provides for a series of compensation payments or other payments to a disqualified person during the disqualified person’s taxable year, any excess benefit with respect to theses payments occurs on the last day of the disqualified person’s taxable year.

Section 4958 applies to all excess benefit transactions occurring on or after September 14, 1995. However, Section 4958 does not apply to excess benefit transactions that occurred under a written contract, if the contract was binding on September 13, 1995 and at all times thereafter before the excess benefit transaction occurred.

Correcting the Excess Benefit

A disqualified person corrects an excess benefit transaction by undoing the excess benefit to the extent possible, and by taking any additional measures necessary to place the organization in a financial position not worse than that in which it would be if the disqualified person were dealing under the highest fiduciary standards. The organization is not required to rescind the underlying agreement; however, the parties may need to modify an ongoing contract with respect to future payments.

A disqualified person corrects an excess benefit transaction by making a payment in cash or cash equivalents equal to the correction amount to the applicable tax-exempt organization.  The correction amount equals the excess benefit plus the interest on the excess benefit.  The interest rate may be no lower than the applicable Federal rate.  There is an anti-abuse rule to prevent the disqualified person from effectively transferring property other than cash or cash equivalents.

With the agreement of the applicable tax-exempt organization, a disqualified person may make a payment by returning the specific property previously transferred in the excess benefit transaction.  The return of property is considered a payment of cash (or cash equivalent) equal to the lesser of:

  • The fair market value of the property on the date the property is returned to the organization, or
  • The fair market value of the property on the date the excess benefit transaction occurred.

If the payment resulting from the return of property is less than the correction amount, the disqualified person must make an additional cash payment to the organization equal to the difference.

If the payment resulting from the return of the property exceeds the correction amount, the organization may make a cash payment to the disqualified person equal to the difference.

Interactive Training

Learn more about the benefits, limitations and expectations of tax-exempt organizations by attending 10 courses at the online Small to Mid-Size Tax Exempt Organization Workshop.