Does my association need to file the 1120-H or the 1120 federal income tax forms? What is the difference? Isn’t my association exempt from taxes? Is my association subject to franchise and income tax in North Carolina? These are questions that come up for community association board of directors.
Under North Carolina law, a homeowners or property owners association is exempt from state franchise and income tax as long as the association is comprised solely of residential property Associations organized for commercial property (such as office condominiums). However, they are not exempt under the law. This is a common misconception for board members. We sometimes see commercial property associations having to amend prior years’ tax returns and pay the franchise and income taxes for past years, plus penalties and interest.
If your association is comprised solely of residential property, income from member assessments is exempt from income taxes for both federal and state filings. What is defined as membership income? Essentially, it is income derived from members for the preservation, maintenance and management of the association. Some examples are the dues or assessments paid by members, late fees, interest charges on delinquent dues, and special assessments. Income generated from the clubhouse rentals, amenity rentals, as well as interest income generated from CDs and interest-bearing bank accounts is considered to be outside the purpose of the association.
Which tax form needs to be filed?
The standard form for a homeowners association is the federal form 1120-H. The “H” stands for homeowners association. This is a straightforward one-page form on which both exempt and non-exempt income is listed. The tax rate associated with this form is a flat 30 percent applied to the taxable net income only. Remember, this form is for homeowners associations specifically.
An association has the option to use form 1120, but this will subject the association to being treated as a for-profit corporation for tax purposes. This could expose the association to closer scrutiny by the IRS. The tax rate on the federal form 1120 is only 15 percent on the first $50,000 in taxable income. Many board members view this as a big savings on the association’s tax liability, but the board must weigh the increased risk for an IRS audit before choosing to use form 1120.
The fact that your association’s income may all be tax exempt does not eliminate the requirement to file tax returns. Failing to file can subject the association to additional or higher preparation fees for these unfiled returns, plus penalties and interest. In addition, the North Carolina Secretary of State will often suspend the corporation’s charter until all returns have been filed.
Let us know if you have questions about your association’s tax or audit needs. Reach out to the LBA Haynes Strand team for your no-cost consultation.