Enterprise Zone – Nonprofits May be Allowed Net Interest Deduction
California provides for special tax incentives to encourage investment in specific geographic areas targeted for economic revitalizing called Enterprise Zones within the state. One of these incentives is the net interest deduction. It is available to banks and other lenders. The requirements are simple. If a bank or lender makes a qualified loan to a qualified debtor, it is allowed to deduct the net interest received from such loan against its California taxable income. To be a qualified transaction, the loan must be made to a debtor that is engaged in a “trade or business” in an Enterprise Zone. The term “trade or business” is generally defined for tax purposes as “an activity engaged in for profit.” When a bank or lender makes an otherwise qualified loan to a nonprofit organization, the question arises as to whether a nonprofit is engaged in a trade or business, and thus considered to be a qualified debtor for the purposes of the net interest deduction.
In the past, we disallowed debts made to nonprofit organizations based on the general presumption that nonprofit organizations are not engaged in a trade or business as defined under various tax provisions in the Internal Revenue Code and the California Revenue and Taxation Code.
However, we recently revised this policy based on statutory authority in the California Corporation Code that suggests a nonprofit could be recognized as being engaged in a trade or business. The California Corporation Code which governs nonprofit entities affirms the nonprofit’s right to “carry on a business at a profit,” and use that profit for any lawful activity.” Many nonprofit organizations accept donations, conduct fundraising activities, or charge fees. This revenue is used to sustain the organization, pay salaries, interest, fund capital improvements, expansions, etc. These activities are similar to a trade or business engaged to earn a profit.
Therefore, qualified loans made to nonprofit organizations can qualify for the Enterprise Zone net interest deduction if the debtor meets all the other required qualifications.