December 11, 2018

IRS Provides Guidance on the Determination of the Nondeductible Portion of Parking Fringe Expenses and Unrelated Business Taxable Income (article)

Glasses sit on top of tax form.

The IRS has provided guidance and examples for calculating the nondeductible portion of parking expenses. In addition, the IRS has provided guidance to tax-exempt organizations to help such organizations determine how unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) will be increased by the nondeductible amount of such fringe benefit expenses paid or incurred. The IRS also has provided transitional estimated tax penalty relief to tax-exempt organizations that offer qualified transportation fringe benefit expenses and were not required to file a Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return, last filing season.

Parking Fringe Expenses

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L. 115-97) added Code Sec. 274(a)(4) to preclude employers from deducting Code Sec. 132(f) qualified transportation fringe benefits expenses paid or incurred after December 31, 2017. Qualified transportation fringe benefits include van pools, transit passes, bicycle commuting, and qualified parking. There are two types of calculations. The first is for cases where the employer pays a third party for the use of its parking lot for the employer’s employees. The second is for cases where the employer owns or leases the parking lot.

Employer contracts with third party. When an employer contracts with a third party for the use of the parking lot, the disallowance under Code Sec. 274(a)(4) is generally the amount that the employer pays to the third party. However, if that monthly amount exceeds $260 an employee, the employer must treat the excess as additional compensation. Thus, the monthly amount in excess of $260 is excluded from the disallowance amount.

For example, if Employer A pays $300 per month for each of the employer’s ten employees to park, $31,200 (($260 x 10) x 12) is disallowed under Code Sec. 274(a)(4). The remaining $4,800 (($40 x 10) x 12) is not subject to the Code Sec. 274(a)(4) and remains deductible.

Employer owns or leases the parking lot. According to the IRS, until it issues further guidance, employers may use any reasonable method to calculate the Code Sec. 274(a)(4) disallowance in cases where the employer owns or leases the parking lot. The IRS has provided a four-step reasonable method:

  • (1) Calculate the disallowance for reserved employee spots.
  • (2) Determine the primary use of the remaining spots (for the general public (over 50 percent) or for employees).
  • (3) Calculate the allowance for reserved nonemployee spots.
  • (4) Determine the remaining use and allocable expenses.

For example, an Employer E, owns a surface parking lot adjacent to its plant. E incurs $10,000 of total parking expenses. E’s parking lot has 500 spots that are used by its visitors and employees. E has 50 spots reserved for management and has approximately 400 employees parking in the lot in non-reserved spots during normal business hours on a typical business day. Additionally, E has 10 reserved nonemployee spots for visitors.

Step 1. Because E has 50 reserved spots for management, $1,000 ((50/500) x $10,000) is the amount of total parking expenses that is nondeductible for reserved employee spots.

Step 2. The primary use of the remainder of E’s parking lot is not to provide parking to the general public because 89% (400/450 = 89 percent) of the remaining parking spots in the lot are used by its employees. Therefore, expenses allocable to these spots are not excluded from the Code Sec. 274(a)(4)

Step 3. Because 2 percent (10/450) of E’s remaining parking lot spots are reserved nonemployee spots, the $200 allocable to those spots ($10,000 x 2 percent)) is not subject to the Code Sec. 274(a)(4) disallowance. That amount continues to be deductible.

Step 4. E must reasonably determine the employee use of the remaining parking spots during normal business hours on a typical business day and the expenses allocable to employee parking spots. Further guidance will be issued on these and other issues in the form of proposed regulations at a later date.

Increase Unrelated Business Taxable Income

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L. 115-97) added Code Sec. 512(a)(7), which requires exempt organizations to increase UBTI by any amount for which a deduction is not allowable under Code Sec. 274 and which is paid or incurred after December 31, 2017, for any qualified transportation fringes and any parking facility used in connection with qualified parking.

Thus, the rules governing tax-exempt organizations mirror the rules for employers under Code Sec. 274(a)(4). Therefore, the expenses for a parking facility used in connection with qualified parking and as part of the provision of qualified parking are nondeductible under Code Sec. 274(a)(4) as expenses for qualified fringe benefits and result in an increase in UBTI under Code Sec. 512(a)(7). In addition, until the IRS releases further guidance, a tax-exempt organization with only one unrelated trade or business can reduce the increase to UBTI under Code Sec. 512(a)(7) to the extent that the deductions directly connected with the carrying on of that unrelated trade or business exceed the gross income derived from such unrelated trade or business.

Estimated Tax Penalty Relief

An exempt organization may be subject to the unrelated business income tax under Code Sec. 511 at corporate rates. The organization reports its unrelated business income on Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return, if its gross income from unrelated business is $1,000 or more. Further, the organization must make quarterly estimated tax installment payments under Code Sec. 6655 if its estimated tax is expected to be $500 or more.

Code Sec. 6655 imposes an addition to tax for failure to make a sufficient and timely estimated income tax payment. To avoid the underpayment penalty, each installment generally must equal at least 25 percent of the lesser of:

  • - 100 percent of the tax shown on the current year's tax return or of the actual tax if no return is filed (current-year safe harbor); or
  • - 100 percent of the tax shown on the corporation's return for the preceding tax year, provided a positive tax liability was shown and the preceding tax year consisted of 12 months (preceding-year safe harbor).

The IRS has recognized that Code Sec. 512(a)(7) may cause some exempt organizations to owe unrelated business income tax and have to pay estimated income tax for the first time. These organizations would not be able to use the preceding-year safe harbor, and may need more time to develop knowledge and processes to comply with estimated tax payment requirements.

In light of this, the IRS is waiving the addition to tax for failure to make estimated income tax payments for an exempt organization that:

  • (1) provides qualified transportation fringes to an employee for which estimated income tax payments, affected by changes made by TCJA to Code Sec. 274 and Code Sec. 512, would otherwise be required to be made on or before December 17, 2018;
  • (2) was not required to file a Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return, for the tax year preceding the organization’s first tax year ending after December 31, 2017; and
  • (3) timely pays the amount reported for the tax year for which relief is granted.

Taxpayers that do not qualify for this relief can avoid an addition to tax for underpayment of estimated income tax if they meet one of the statutory safe harbor or exception provisions under Code Sec. 6654 or Code Sec. 6655.

To claim the waiver, the exempt organization must write "Notice 2018-100" on the top of its Form 990-T.

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