Republican tax proposal would whack nonprofit executive pay at Penn, Jeff and more

APTOPIX Trump Tax Overhaul
The Republican tax bill released Thursday would tax excess executive pay at nonprofits. Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Rya (left) hands President Trump an example of what a new tax form may look like during a meeting on tax policy with Republican lawmakers in the Cabinet Room of the White House on Thursday. At right is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Rep. Kevin Brady (R., Texas).

The Republican tax bill released Thursday takes aim at high levels of pay at nonprofits, proposing a 20 percent tax on total remuneration over $1 million for the five highest paid employees at nonprofits.

Brian Pinheiro, a compensation and benefits lawyer at Ballard Spahr, said the proposal jumped off the page. His reaction was, “Wow, they are really trying to hammer the executives that work for these tax exempt organizations.”

The proposal would affect not just university presidents like Amy Gutmann of the University of Pennsylvania, whose pay totaled $3.5 million in 2015, and high-paid physicians at Penn, Jefferson, and elsewhere, but also coaches like Penn State football coach James Franklin, who has a contract paying him $5.74 million a year until at least 2022, according to the Daily Collegian.

A spokesman for Penn, the largest nonprofit in the Philadelphia region, said the university was aware of the proposal and awaiting further discussion in Congress.

The bill contains a carve-out for Roth IRA contributions. Otherwise, it is broad, including non-cash items like cars, country-club memberships, and benefits.

The bill also contains a rule change for pay at publicly traded companies, which for years have not been allowed to take a tax deduction for pay over $1 million, unless it is incentive-based.  “This law takes away performance-based compensation exception,” Pinheiro said.

“Private for-profits of which there are millions out there aren’t subject to either one of those rules, so they have an advantage in this respect,” he said.