Unrelated business income is the income from a trade or business that is regularly carried on by an exempt organization and that is not substantially related to the performance by the organization of its exempt purpose or function, except that the organization uses the profits derived from this activity.
Certain trade or business activities are not treated as an unrelated trade or business. See Excluded Trade or Business Activities, later.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067460
The term "trade or business" generally includes any activity carried on for the production of income from selling goods or performing services. An activity does not lose its identity as a trade or business merely because it is carried on within a larger group of similar activities that may, or may not, be related to the exempt purposes of the organization.
For example, the regular sale of pharmaceutical supplies to the general public by a hospital pharmacy does not lose its identity as a trade or business, even though the pharmacy also furnishes supplies to the hospital and patients of the hospital in accordance with its exempt purpose. Similarly, soliciting, selling, and publishing commercial advertising is a trade or business even though the advertising is published in an exempt organization's periodical that contains editorial matter related to the organization's exempt purpose. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067461
Business activities of an exempt organization ordinarily are considered regularly carried on if they show a frequency and continuity, and are pursued in a manner similar to comparable commercial activities of nonexempt organizations.
For example, a hospital auxiliary's operation of a sandwich stand for 2 weeks at a state fair would not be the regular conduct of a trade or business. The stand would not compete with similar facilities that a nonexempt organization would ordinarily operate year-round. However, operating a commercial parking lot every Saturday, year-round, would be the regular conduct of a trade or business. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067462
A business activity is not substantially related to an organization's exempt purpose if it does not contribute importantly to accomplishing that purpose (other than through the production of funds). Whether an activity contributes importantly depends in each case on the facts involved.
In determining whether activities contribute importantly to the accomplishment of an exempt purpose, the size and extent of the activities involved must be considered in relation to the nature and extent of the exempt function that they intend to serve. For example, to the extent an activity is conducted on a scale larger than is reasonably necessary to perform an exempt purpose, it does not contribute importantly to the accomplishment of the exempt purpose. The part of the activity that is more than needed to accomplish the exempt purpose is an unrelated trade or business.
Also in determining whether activities contribute importantly to the accomplishment of an exempt purpose, the following principles apply.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067463
Ordinarily, selling products that result from the performance of exempt functions is not an unrelated trade or business if the product is sold in substantially the same state it is in when the exempt functions are completed. Thus, for an exempt organization engaged in rehabilitating handicapped persons (its exempt function), selling articles made by these persons as part of their rehabilitation training is not an unrelated trade or business.
However, if a completed product resulting from an exempt function is used or exploited in further business activity beyond what is reasonably appropriate or necessary to dispose of it as is, the activity is an unrelated trade or business. For example, if an exempt organization maintains an experimental dairy herd for scientific purposes, the sale of milk and cream produced in the ordinary course of operation of the project is not an unrelated trade or business. But if the organization uses the milk and cream in the further manufacture of food items such as ice cream, pastries, etc., the sale of these products is an unrelated trade or business unless the manufacturing activities themselves contribute importantly to the accomplishment of an exempt purpose of the organization. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067464
If an asset or facility necessary to the conduct of exempt functions is also used in commercial activities, its use for exempt functions does not, by itself, make the commercial activities a related trade or business. The test, as discussed earlier, is whether the activities contribute importantly to the accomplishment of exempt purposes.
For example, a museum has a theater auditorium designed for showing educational films in connection with its program of public education in the arts and sciences. The theater is a principal feature of the museum and operates continuously while the museum is open to the public. If the organization also operates the theater as a motion picture theater for the public when the museum is closed, the activity is an unrelated trade or business.
For information on allocating expenses for the dual use of assets or facilities, see Deductions in chapter 4.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067465
Exempt activities sometimes create goodwill or other intangibles that can be exploited in a commercial way. When an organization exploits such an intangible in commercial activities, the fact that the income depends in part upon an exempt function of the organization does not make the commercial activities a related trade or business. Unless the commercial exploitation contributes importantly to the accomplishment of the exempt purpose, the commercial activities are an unrelated trade or business.
For the treatment of expenses attributable to the exploitation of exempt activities, see Deductions in chapter 4. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067466
The following are examples of activities that were determined to be (or not to be) unrelated trades or businesses using the definitions and principles just discussed.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067467
An agricultural organization, whose exempt purposes are to promote better conditions for cattle breeders and to improve the breed generally, engages in an unrelated trade or business when it regularly sells cattle for its members on a commission basis. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067468
An organization whose exempt purpose is to stimulate and foster public interest in the fine arts by promoting art exhibits, sponsoring cultural events, and furnishing information about fine arts leases studio apartments to artist tenants and operates a dining hall primarily for these tenants. These two activities do not contribute importantly to accomplishing the organization's exempt purpose. Therefore, they are unrelated trades or businesses. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067469
An exempt educational organization regularly sells membership mailing lists to business firms. This activity does not contribute importantly to the accomplishment of the organization's exempt purpose and therefore is an unrelated trade or business. Also see Exchange or rental of member lists under Excluded Trade or Business Activities, later. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067470
An exempt hospital leases its adjacent office building and furnishes certain office services to a hospital-based medical group for a fee. The group provides all diagnostic and therapeutic procedures to the hospital's patients and operates the hospital's emergency room on a 24-hour basis. The leasing activity is substantially related to the hospital's exempt purpose and is not an unrelated trade or business.
The hospital also operates a gift shop patronized by patients, visitors making purchases for patients, and employees; a cafeteria and coffee shop primarily for employees and medical staff; and a parking lot for patients and visitors only. These activities are also substantially related to the hospital's exempt purpose and do not constitute unrelated trades or businesses.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067471
An exempt organization engages primarily in activities that further its exempt purposes. It also owns the publication rights to a book that does not relate to any of its exempt purposes. The organization exploits the book in a commercial manner by arranging for printing, distribution, publicity, and advertising in connection with the sale of the book. These activities constitute a trade or business regularly carried on. Because exploiting the book is unrelated to the organization's exempt purposes (except for the use of the book's profits), the income is unrelated business income.
However, if the organization transfers publication rights to a commercial publisher in return for royalties, the royalty income received will not be unrelated business income. See Royalties under Exclusions in chapter 4. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067472
An exempt vocational school operates a handicraft shop that sells articles made by students in their regular courses of instruction. The students are paid a percentage of the sales price. In addition, the shop sells products made by local residents who make articles at home according to the shop's specifications. The shop manager periodically inspects the articles during their manufacture to ensure that they meet desired standards of style and quality. Although many local participants are former students of the school, any qualified person may participate in the program. The sale of articles made by students does not constitute an unrelated trade or business, but the sale of products made by local residents is an unrelated trade or business and is subject to unrelated business income tax. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067473
An exempt school has tennis courts and dressing rooms that it uses during the regular school year in its educational program. During the summer, the school operates a tennis club open to the general public. Employees of the school run the club, including collecting membership fees and scheduling court time.
Another exempt school leases the same type of facilities to an unrelated individual who runs a tennis club for the summer. The lease is for a fixed fee that does not depend on the income or profits derived from the leased property.
In both situations, the exempt purpose is the advancement of education. Furnishing tennis facilities in the manner described does not further that exempt purpose. These activities are unrelated trades or businesses. However, in the second situation the income derived from the leasing of the property is excluded from unrelated business taxable income as rent from real property. See Rents under Exclusions in chapter 4.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067474
An exempt university leases its football stadium during several months of the year to a professional football team for a fixed fee. Under the lease agreement, the university furnishes heat, light, and water and is responsible for all ground maintenance. It also provides dressing room, linen, and stadium security services for the professional team.
Leasing of the stadium is an unrelated trade or business. In addition, the substantial services furnished for the convenience of the lessee go beyond those usually provided with the rental of space for occupancy only. Therefore, the income from this lease is rent from real property and unrelated business taxable income. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067475
An exempt collegiate athletic conference conducts an annual competitive athletic game between its conference champion and another collegiate team. Income is derived from admission charges and the sale of exclusive broadcasting rights to a national radio and television network. An athletic program is considered an integral part of the educational process of a university.
The educational purposes served by intercollegiate athletics are identical whether conducted directly by individual universities or by their regional athletic conference. Also, the educational purposes served by exhibiting a game before an audience that is physically present and exhibiting the game on television or radio before a much larger audience are substantially similar. Therefore, the sale of the broadcasting rights contributes importantly to the accomplishment of the organization's exempt purpose and is not an unrelated trade or business.
In a similar situation, an exempt organization was created as a national governing body for amateur athletes to foster interest in amateur sports and to encourage widespread public participation. The organization receives income each year from the sale of exclusive broadcasting rights to an independent producer, who contracts with a commercial network to broadcast many of the athletic events sponsored, supervised, and regulated by the organization.
The broadcasting of these events promotes the various amateur sports, fosters widespread public interest in the benefits of the organization's nationwide amateur program, and encourages public participation. The sale of the rights and the broadcasting of the events contribute importantly to the organization's exempt purpose. Therefore, the sale of the exclusive broadcasting rights is not an unrelated trade or business.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067476
An exempt organization receives income from the sale of advertising in its annual yearbook. The organization hires an independent commercial firm, under a contract covering a full calendar year, to conduct an intensive advertising solicitation campaign in the organization's name. This firm is paid a percentage of the gross advertising receipts for selling the advertising, collecting from advertisers, and printing the yearbook. This advertising activity is an unrelated trade or business. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067477
An exempt organization, organized and operated for the prevention of cruelty to animals, receives unrelated business income from providing pet boarding and grooming services for the general public. These activities do not contribute importantly to its purpose of preventing cruelty to animals. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067478
An exempt art museum operates a dining room, a cafeteria, and a snack bar for use by the museum staff, employees, and visitors. Eating facilities in the museum help to attract visitors and allow them to spend more time viewing the museum's exhibits without having to seek outside restaurants at mealtime. The eating facilities also allow the museum staff and employees to remain in the museum throughout the day. Thus, the museum's operation of the eating facilities contributes importantly to the accomplishment of its exempt purposes and is not unrelated trade or business. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067479
A halfway house organized to provide room, board, therapy, and counseling for persons discharged from alcoholic treatment centers also operates a furniture shop to provide full-time employment for its residents. The profits are applied to the operating costs of the halfway house. The income from this venture is not unrelated trade or business income because the furniture shop contributes importantly to the organization's purpose of aiding its residents' transition from treatment to a normal and productive life. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067480
Travel tour activities that are a trade or business are an unrelated trade or business if the activities are not substantially related to the purpose for which tax exemption was granted to the organization. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067481
A tax-exempt university alumni association provides a travel tour program for its members and their families. The organization works with various travel agencies and schedules approximately ten tours a year to various places around the world. It mails out promotional material and accepts reservations for fees paid by the travel agencies on a per-person basis.
The organization provides an employee for each tour as a tour leader. There is no formal educational program conducted with these tours, and they do not differ from regular commercially operated tours.
By providing travel tours to its members, the organization is engaging in a regularly carried on trade or business. Even if the tours it offers support the university, financially and otherwise, and encourage alumni to do the same, they do not contribute importantly to the organization's exempt purpose of promoting education. Therefore, the sale of the travel tours is an unrelated trade or business.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067482
A tax-exempt organization formed for the purpose of educating individuals about the geography and the culture of the United States provides study tours to national parks and other locations within the United States. These tours are conducted by teachers and others certified by the state board of education. The tours are primarily designed for students enrolled in degree programs at state educational institutions, but are open to all who agree to participate in the required study program associated with the tour taken. A tour's study program consists of instruction on subjects related to the location being visited on the tour. Each tour group brings along a library of material related to the subjects being studied on the tour. During the tour, 5 or 6 hours per day are devoted to organized study, preparation of reports, lectures, instruction, and recitation by the students. Examinations are given at the end of each tour. The state board of education awards academic credit for tour participation. Because these tours are substantially related to the organization's exempt purpose, they are not an unrelated trade or business. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067483
An organization that acts as a group insurance policyholder for its members and collects a fee for performing administrative services is normally carrying on an unrelated trade or business. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067484
Organizations whose exempt activities may include the provision of insurance benefits, such as fraternal beneficiary societies, voluntary employees beneficiary associations, and labor organizations, are generally exceptions to this rule.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067485
An association of credit unions with tax-exempt status as a business league publishes a consumer-oriented magazine four times a year and makes it available to member credit unions for purchase.
By selling a magazine to its members as a promotional device, the organization furnishes its members with a regular commercial service they can use in their own operations. This service does not promote the improvement of business conditions of one or more lines of business, which is the exempt purpose of a business league.
Since the activity does not contribute importantly to the organization's exempt function, it is an unrelated trade or business. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067486
A business league publishes an annual directory that contains a list of all its members, their addresses, and their area of expertise. Each member has the same amount of space in the directory and its format does not emphasize the relative importance or reputation of any member. The directory contains no commercial advertisement and is sold only to the organization's members.
The directory facilitates communication among the members and encourages the exchange of ideas and expertise. Because the directory lists the members in a similar noncommercial format without advertising and is not distributed to the public, its sale does not confer private commercial benefits on the members. The sale of the directory does contribute importantly to the organization's exempt purpose and is not an unrelated trade or business. This directory differs from the publication discussed next because of its noncommercial characteristics. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067487
A national association of law enforcement officials publishes a monthly journal that contains articles and other editorial material of professional interest to its members. The journal is distributed without charge, mainly to the organization's members.
The organization sells advertising space in the journal either for conventional advertising or to merely identify the purchaser without a commercial message. Some of the noncommercial advertising identifies the purchaser in a separate space, and some consists of listings of 60 or more purchasers per page. A business firm identified in a separate space is further identified in an Index of Advertisers.
The organization solicits advertising by personal contacts. Advertising from large firms is solicited by contacting their chief executive officer or community relations officer rather than their advertising manager. The organization also solicits advertising in form letters appealing for corporate and personal contributions.
An exempt organization's sale of advertising placed for the purchaser's commercial benefit is a commercial activity. Goodwill derived by the purchaser from being identified as a patron of the organization is usually considered a form of commercial benefit. Therefore, advertising in an exempt organization's publication is generally presumed to be placed for the purchaser's commercial benefit, even if it has no commercial message. However, this presumption is not conclusive if the purchaser's patronage would be difficult to justify commercially in view of the facts and circumstances. In that case, other factors should also be considered in determining whether a commercial benefit can be expected. Those other factors include:
- The normal manner in which the publication is circulated,
- The territorial scope of the circulation,
- The extent to which its readers, promoters, or the like could reasonably be expected to further, either directly or indirectly, the commercial interest of the advertisers,
- The eligibility of the publishing organization to receive tax-deductible contributions, and
- The commercial or noncommercial methods used to solicit the advertisers.
In this situation, the purchaser of a separate advertising space without a commercial message can nevertheless expect a commercial benefit from the goodwill derived from being identified in that manner as a patron of the organization. However, the purchaser of a listing cannot expect more than an inconsequential benefit. Therefore, the sale of separate spaces, but not the listings, is an unrelated trade or business. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067488
A bar association publishes a legal journal containing opinions of the county court, articles of professional interest to lawyers, advertisements for products and services used by the legal profession, and legal notices. The legal notices are published to satisfy state laws requiring publication of notices in connection with legal proceedings, such as the administration of estates and actions to quiet title to real property. The state designated the bar association's journal as the place to publish the required notices.
The publication of ordinary commercial advertising does not advance the exempt purposes of the association even when published in a periodical that contains material related to exempt purposes. Although the advertising is directed specifically to members of the legal profession, it is still commercial in nature and does not contribute importantly to the exempt purposes of the association. Therefore, the advertising income is unrelated trade or business income.
On the other hand, the publication of legal notices is distinguishable from ordinary commercial advertising in that its purpose is to inform the general public of significant legal events rather than to stimulate demand for the products or services of an advertiser. This promotes the common interests of the legal profession and contributes importantly to the association's exempt purposes. Therefore, the publishing of legal notices does not constitute an unrelated trade or business. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067489
An art museum that exhibits modern art sells greeting cards that display printed reproductions of selected works from other art collections. Each card is imprinted with the name of the artist, the title or subject matter of the work, the date or period of its creation, if known, and the museum's name. The cards contain appropriate greetings and are personalized on request.
The organization sells the cards in the shop it operates in the museum and sells them at quantity discounts to retail stores. It also sells them by mail order through a catalog that is advertised in magazines and other publications throughout the year. As a result, a large number of cards are sold at a significant profit.
The museum is exempt as an educational organization on the basis of its ownership, maintenance, and exhibition for public viewing of works of art. The sale of greeting cards with printed reproductions of artworks contributes importantly to the achievement of the museum's exempt educational purposes by enhancing public awareness, interest, and appreciation of art. The cards may encourage more people to visit the museum itself to share in its educational programs. The fact that the cards are promoted and sold in a commercial manner at a profit and in competition with commercial greeting card publishers does not alter the fact that the activity is related to the museum's exempt purpose. Therefore, these sales activities are not an unrelated trade or business. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067490
An art museum maintained and operated for the exhibition of American folk art operates a shop in the museum that sells:
- Reproductions of works in the museum's own collection and reproductions of artistic works from the collections of other art museums (prints suitable for framing, postcards, greeting cards, and slides),
- Metal, wood, and ceramic copies of American folk art objects from its own collection and similar copies of art objects from other collections of artworks,
- Instructional literature and scientific books and souvenir items concerning the history and development of art and, in particular, of American folk art, and
- Scientific books and souvenir items of the city in which the museum is located.
The shop also rents originals or reproductions of paintings contained in its collection. All of its reproductions are imprinted with the name of the artist, the title or subject matter of the work from which it is reproduced, and the museum's name.
Each line of merchandise must be considered separately to determine if sales are related to the exempt purpose.
The sale and rental of reproductions and copies of works from the museum's own collection and reproductions of artistic works not owned by the museum contribute importantly to the achievement of the museum's exempt educational purpose by making works of art familiar to a broader segment of the public, thereby enhancing the public's understanding and appreciation of art. The same is true for the sale of literature relating to art. Therefore, these sales activities are not an unrelated trade or business.
On the other hand, the sale of scientific books and souvenir items of the city where the museum is located has no causal relationship to art or to artistic endeavor and, therefore, does not contribute importantly to the accomplishment of the museum's exempt educational purposes. The fact that selling some of these items could, under different circumstances, be held related to the exempt educational purpose of some other exempt educational organization does not change this conclusion. Additionally, the sale of these items does not lose its identity as a trade or business merely because the museum also sells articles which do contribute importantly to the accomplishment of its exempt function. Therefore, these sales are an unrelated trade or business.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067491
A business league, whose purpose is to retain and stimulate trade in a downtown area that has inadequate parking facilities, operates a fringe parking lot and shuttle bus service. It also operates, as an insubstantial part of its activities, a park and shop plan.
The fringe parking lot and shuttle bus service operate in a manner that does not favor any individual or group of downtown merchants. The merchants cannot offer free or discount parking or bus fares to their customers.
The park and shop plan allows customers of particular merchants to park free at certain parking lots in the area. Merchants participating in this plan buy parking stamps, which they distribute to their customers to use to pay for parking.
Operating the fringe parking lot and shuttle bus service provides easy and convenient access to the downtown area and, therefore, stimulates and improves business conditions in the downtown area generally. That activity contributes importantly to the organization's accomplishing its exempt purpose and is not an unrelated trade or business.
The park and shop plan encourages customers to use a limited number of participating member merchants in order to obtain free parking. This provides a particular service to individual members of the organization and does not further its exempt purpose. Therefore, operating the park and shop plan is an unrelated trade or business.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067492
An exempt organization, whose purpose is to provide for the welfare of young people, rents rooms primarily to people under age 25. The residence units are operated on, and as a part of, the premises in which the organization carries on the social, recreational, and guidance programs for which it was recognized as exempt. The facilities are under the management and supervision of trained career professionals who provide residents with personal counseling, physical education programs, and group recreational activities. The rentals are not an unrelated trade or business because renting the rooms is substantially related to the organization's exempt purpose. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067493
An exempt charitable organization's purpose is to provide for the welfare of young people. The organization conducts charitable activities and maintains facilities that will contribute to the physical, social, mental, and spiritual health of young people at minimum or no cost to them. Nominal annual dues are charged for membership in the organization and use of the facilities.
In addition, the organization organized a health club program that its members could join for an annual fee in addition to the annual dues. The annual fee is comparable to fees charged by similar local commercial health clubs and is sufficiently high to restrict participation in the program to a limited number of members of the community.
The health club program is in addition to the general physical fitness program of the organization. Operating this program does not contribute importantly to the organization's accomplishing its exempt purpose and, therefore, is an unrelated trade or business.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067494
An exempt youth welfare organization operates a miniature golf course that is open to the general public. The course, which is managed by salaried employees, is substantially similar to commercial courses. The admission fees charged are comparable to fees of commercial facilities and are designed to return a profit.
The operation of the miniature golf course in a commercial manner does not contribute importantly to the accomplishment of the organization's exempt purpose and, therefore, is an unrelated trade or business.taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067495
A tax-exempt hospital, whose primary activity is rehabilitation, sells hearing aids to patients. This activity is an essential part of the hospital's program to test and evaluate patients with hearing deficiencies and contributes importantly to its exempt purpose. It is not an unrelated trade or business. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067496
Nonpatient laboratory testing performed by a tax-exempt teaching hospital on specimens needed for the conduct of its teaching activities is not an unrelated trade or business. However, laboratory testing performed by a tax-exempt non-teaching hospital on referred specimens from private office patients of staff physicians is an unrelated trade or business if these services are otherwise available in the community. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067497
An exempt scientific organization enjoys an excellent reputation in the field of biological research. It exploits this reputation regularly by selling endorsements of laboratory equipment to manufacturers. Endorsing laboratory equipment does not contribute importantly to the accomplishment of any purpose for which exemption is granted to the organization. Accordingly, the sale of endorsements is an unrelated trade or business. taxmap/pubs/p598-004.htm#en_us_publink100067498
An exempt university has a regular faculty and a regularly enrolled student body. During the school year, the university sponsors the appearance of professional theater companies and symphony orchestras that present drama and musical performances for the students and faculty members. Members of the general public also are admitted. The university advertises these performances and supervises advance ticket sales at various places, including such university facilities as the cafeteria and the university bookstore. Although the presentation of the performances makes use of an intangible generated by the university's exempt educational functions—the presence of the student body and faculty—such drama and music events contribute importantly to the overall educational and cultural functions of the university. Therefore, the activity is not an unrelated trade or business.