An exempt organization (EO) may have officers such as a president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and CEO (chief executive officer). As used here, the term officer includes anyone who holds a position of trust, authority, or command within an organization.

The Internal Revenue Code defines corporate officers as employees for FICA, FUTA, and FITW purposes. However, an officer of a corporation who does not perform any services or performs only minor services and who neither receives nor is entitled to receive, directly or indirectly, any remuneration, is not an employee of the corporation.

Volunteer officers/workers

Many exempt organizations have officers who are volunteers and not paid for their services. These officers may receive reimbursement or an allowance for out-of-pocket expenses. For example, if an officer is required to attend a convention representing the EO, the EO might pay for the trip. Similarly, an EO may provide a monthly allowance to an officer for automobile use.

How this reimbursement/allowance is paid and accounted for will determine its employment tax treatment. The payments issued to the officer may be made under an accountable plan or a nonaccountable plan.

A plan under which an employee or volunteer is reimbursed for expenses or receives an allowance to cover expenses is an accountable plan only if:

  • There is a business connection for the expenses;
  • The employee/volunteer adequately accounts for these expenses within a reasonable period of time; and
  • The employee/volunteer returns any amounts of excess expenses within a reasonable period of time.

If these conditions are not met, the plan is a nonaccountable plan. For more information, see Chapter 11 in Publication 535 PDF.

The substantiated and deductible business expenses under an accountable plan may be excluded from an employee's or officer's gross income and are not subject to income tax withholding and employment taxes. Moreover, accountable plan payments need not be reported on Form W-2. Amounts paid under a nonaccountable plan are included in the employee's or officer's gross income, reported on Form W-2, and subject to all applicable employment taxes.

If an expense allowance or reimbursement arrangement is partially an accountable plan and partially a nonaccountable plan, the arrangement is treated as two separate arrangements. One part is an accountable plan and the other as a nonaccountable plan.