Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Non-Profit Series: 7. Benefits of 501(c)(3) Status

Written by Sagan L. Carman-Downer

The previous article in this series explained what the term 501(c)(3) means, and briefly which organizations can qualify for tax-exempt status under 501(c)(3). As explained in that article, many non-profit entities seek tax-exempt status under this provision as charitable organizations.

In order to qualify under the charitable portion of 501(c)(3), your organization must be operated for a purpose that is recognized by the federal government as “charitable.” Purposes that are recognized include:

Relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged;
Advancement of religion;
Advancement of education or science;
Erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works;
Lessening the burdens of government;
Lessening neighborhood tensions;
Eliminated prejudice and discrimination;
Defending human and civil rights secured by law; and
Combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.

When seeking tax-exempt status, the non-profit organization must go through an application process to be recognized as having 501(c)(3) status. During this process, the organization must ensure that they operate for one or more of the purposes listed above to qualify as a charitable organization.

If the organization’s application is approved, it will be considered tax-exempt for purposes of federal law. There are two major tax benefits to obtaining 501(c)(3) status. First, the organization is exempt from paying federal income tax. Second, the organization can receive tax deductible contributions. This allows people who donate to the organization to deduct their contribution from their income, which may lower the income tax they would otherwise owe. This provides a direct benefit to the donors, and an indirect benefit to the organization. Because the donors’ contributions may help lower their tax burden, it can encourage donors to contribute to an organization that has 501(c)(3) status over one that doesn’t.

If you believe your organization could benefit from having status as 501(c)(3), it is best to speak with an attorney in your state to discuss the requirements further. This article provides general guidelines, but you should seek advice specific to your situation to determine whether this is the best option for your organization.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

We're Hiring!

Fye Law Office seeks candidates for an Associate Attorney position. Applicants with all levels of experience are encouraged to apply. A successful candidate will have an interest in family law, juvenile law, estate planning/probate. Interest in other areas of law is also welcome. Travel to counties in South Central NE should be expected. Applicants must either be admitted to practice law in the State of Nebraska or eligible to apply for admission.

A cover letter, resume, and references may be submitted to: Tana Fye, Fye Law Office, 713 Fourth Avenue, Holdrege, NE 68949, or fyelaw@gmail.com.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Non-Profit Series: 6. What is a 501(c)(3)?

Written by Sagan L. Carman-Downer

The term 501(c)(3) is commonly used to refer to a non-profit organization. But what, exactly, is a 501(c)(3)? This goal of this post is to explain what this term means, and what types of organizations have 501(c)(3) status.

501(c)(3) is not actually a term that describes an entity itself, but instead describes its status (a non-profit corporation can’t technically BE a 501(c)(3), but it can have 501(c)(3) status). The term 501(c)(3) refers to the provision in the United States Code (federal law) that grants certain entities an exemption from paying federal income tax. Section 501(c)(3) is a specific part of Section 501. Section 501, appropriately captioned “Exemption from tax on corporations, certain trusts, etc.,” provides, with detail, what entities are exempt from paying federal income tax. Here is a link to a website that displays the actual language of Section 501 if you are interested in reading it https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/501.

Section 501, as a whole, includes the provisions allowing the exemption. The wording of the section is broken down into subsections, paragraphs, subparagraphs, etc. In the term 501(c)(3), 501 is the section, (c) is the subsection, and (3) is the paragraph. Subsection (c) provides a specific list of what entities are allowed the exemption, each one explained in a separate paragraph. There are 29 categories of entities (and thus 29 paragraphs) listed under Subsection (c) that are allowed the exemption; Paragraph (3) is just one of those 29.

Although there are 29 categories, many non-profit organizations fall under the category in Paragraph 501(c)(3), which provides that the following entities are exempt, “Corporations, and any community chest, fund, or foundation, organized and operated exclusively for religious, charitable, scientific, testing for public safety, literary, or educational purposes…” The explanation of entities included in this paragraph continues, but many non-profit corporations fall under the “charitable” portion of this paragraph. Thus, if you are a charitable non-profit corporation, you are exempt from having to pay federal income tax pursuant to paragraph 501(c)(3).

Simply stating that a non-profit corporation’s activities are charitable, though, isn’t enough to qualify for this tax exemption. To be exempt under this provision, your activities must meet the federal government’s definition of “charitable.” To learn about what activities are considered “charitable” check back for the next article in this series.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Meet the Staff (Part 1)

At Fye Law Office, we have some great staff. And we want our clients, potential clients, and friends to have the opportunity to learn a little bit about them, and to hear some advice and thoughts from them. Today, you get to meet Destinee, one of the legal secretaries in our office.

How long have you worked for Fye Law Office?
     Started in October 2015

What is your work experience/education/training prior to coming to work for Fye Law Office?
     I worked for Lincoln County Attorney's office for 2.5 years while completing my AAS in business degree. I then moved to Holdrege. I worked as an office manager for 4 years before taking a job with Tri-Basin Natural Resource District as a secretary then moving into a public education position. I worked there for 4.5 years before starting with Fye Law Office.

What advice do you have to potential clients who are meeting with an attorney for the first time?
     Be as upfront and honest as you can. Attorneys can only deal with the information they are given and it is better for them to find out right away then to have something pop-up in court and not be prepared to deal with the information.

 What advice do you have to clients in working more effectively with their attorneys?
     Keep them up-to-date with any information that may change. It is hard to get a hold of clients when addresses or phone numbers change and we do not know about it. Also, remember that you are not their only client. They are good which keeps them busy.

Do you have any memorable experiences since working at Fye Law Office that you'd like to share?
      It is amazing how open some people are about what is going on. It is also interesting some of the stories the clients can come up with. We have definitely heard some good ones.

What do you like about working in a law office?
    I love how everyday is a different day. Each case is different. It is not the same thing day after day.

What is your favorite type of case or matter to work on? Why?
    I really love doing the adoptions. It is great knowing that a child is finding a forever home. Children need that acceptance it's great to see that happen.

Thanks to Destinee for sharing a little bit about herself, as well as her thoughts with all of you.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Non-profit Series: 5. What Happens at Meetings?

Written by Sagan L. Carman-Downer

There are a few different types of meetings that can be held by a nonprofit corporation. Some meetings are required under state law, and others can be held at the discretion or need of the corporation.

The first meeting that will be held will be an organizational meeting. This meeting is typically held after the articles of incorporation are signed and filed with the State. This meeting is held by the initial directors if they are named in the articles of incorporation, or by the individuals that started the corporation if there were no directors named in the articles of incorporation. The purpose of this meeting is to elect directors (if there are none yet), appoint officers and adopt bylaw. Other matters can be addressed at the meeting as necessary.

Corporations are typically also required to have annual meetings. The time and place of these regular annual meetings should be stated in the bylaws. The directors, officers and members are all invited to attend the annual meeting. At this meeting, the president and treasurer will report on the activities of the corporation and the financial condition of the corporation. Other matters that will usually be addressed include re-electing directors and officers if their term has expired (the term of directors and officers should be set in the articles of incorporation or bylaws). Past and future activities of the corporation will also be discussed at these meetings, and decisions can be made about what activities or transactions the corporation will pursue. What actions the corporation takes will be determined by taking a vote of the directors or members. Whether the directors or members are authorized to vote will depend on the proposed action and any provisions included in the articles of incorporation or bylaws specifying voting authority. For example, state law may require that some actions be authorized a two-thirds majority vote in favor by the directors, or the bylaws may provide that certain actions can be authorized by a 51% vote in favor by the members.

Additional meetings, usually called special meetings, can also be conducted in between annual meetings. These meetings are usually held when the corporation needs to make decisions about whether to engage in activities that need to be addressed before the next scheduled annual meeting. To hold special meetings, there must be proper notice provided to those that are allowed to attend. This notice must include the purpose of the meeting (what will be discussed), and the time and place of the meeting. There are usually specific requirements regarding how far in advance of the meeting notice must be provided. This will depend on state law, so it is important to make sure you check your state’s requirements to make sure you provide adequate notice.

Meetings are where individuals involved in non-profit corporations make decisions about what activities they will pursue and how they will spend their money to further their purpose. Annual meetings provide an opportunity to have regular updates about how the corporation is performing. When matters come up throughout the year that need to be addressed before the next annual meeting, corporations can use special meetings to address those things, but they need to ensure that proper notice is provided.