IRS Warning on Hospital Charity Care

On Hospital Community Benefit Laws 

By Staff ReportersOslo Port

According to an Internal Revenue Service survey of nearly 500 not-for-profit hospitals in May 2006, only nine percent of total revenues were dedicated to community charity care. The report warned charity [Samaritan] and not-for-profit healthcare entities that attempts to set a percentage threshold for determining tax-exempt compliance may have a:

disproportionate impact on hospitals, depending upon their size, where they are located their community benefit mix, and other hospital and community demographics.”

In a follow-up, February 12, 2009, the IRS reported on executive compensation of the same tax-exempt hospitals”.


Existence Justification

HO-JFMS-CD-ROMWhile the question whether  tax-exempt hospitals are providing enough charity care to justify their tax exemption remains, the report failed to reach specific conclusions on whether existing community benefit standards are appropriate and if tax-exempt hospital executives are being compensated too richly. The findings also serve as a caution to long term acute care hospital [LTACH] governance and compensation committees.  The CEOs and CFOs of these entities should note that a similar survey may be performed on for-profit hospitals in the near future.

Defining “Community Benefits”

According to Jason Greis, of the Gries Guide on LTACHs, on February 12, 2009:

“The current ‘community benefit’ standard was established by the IRS in 1969 in Revenue Ruling 69-545.  The standard sets out factors to be considered in measuring community benefit, including: (i) a board made up of a broad base of community members; (ii) an open medical staff; (iii) participation in Medicare and Medicaid; (iv) application of surplus funds toward improving facilities, equipment, patient care, medical training, research, and education; and (v) a full-time emergency room open to all regardless of ability to pay (the emergency room standard applies differently to tax-exempt Long Term and Acute Care Hospitals [LTACH] that do not maintain a full array of emergency department services).  Under the current community benefit standard, individual hospitals are given flexibility to determine what services will-best serve their communities.”

Today, some pundits suggest that if Congress doesn’t establish new charity care requirements imminently, the IRS should revert to its community benefit standard above, and revise down or eliminate the tax exemption.



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