Press Release

4 Things Your Nonprofit Must Know About Unemployment Insurance

As an unemployment tax alternative for nonprofit organizations, UST fields a wide variety of questions about unemployment claims and unemployment tax options from members and non-members alike. Stemming from this, we have compiled a list of the top 4 things that every nonprofit must know about their unemployment insurance taxes to ensure that the organization is not wasting money.
What is the Unemployment Tax? And how does the unemployment insurance program work?

The Department of Labor (DOL) provides a short overview of the program on their website, and summarizes it by saying: "Unemployment Insurance is a federal-state program jointly financed through Federal and state employer payroll taxes. Generally, employers must pay both state and Federal unemployment taxes...However, some state laws differ from the Federal law and employers should contact their state workforce organizations to learn the exact requirements."

The program itself works to provide jobless workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own with temporary, partial wages while they search for a new position. For more information on how unemployment insurance works, read our more complete overview on the state program.

Is Your Nonprofit Liable?

501(c)(3) nonprofits are exempt from federal unemployment taxes, but may be liable for state contributions if they meet something called the “4 for 20″ provision. This provision is triggered when four or more individuals are employed on the same day for 20 weeks in a calendar year, though not necessarily for consecutive weeks. It is important to note that who is considered “employed” for these purposes is not always straightforward – see Independent Contractors below.

Why Independent Contractors May Still Be Considered Employees

There are different rules and tests used by government organizations to determine independent contractor status, because different organizations are responsible for separate aspects of law. For the purposes of unemployment insurance, the Department of Labor uses something called the “ABC test”, which makes it sound simple, but is more complicated when applied to real situations.

The ABC Test establishes criteria that an work relationship must meet in order to for the services of that individual to not be considered employment. The three parts of the ABC Test relate to employer control/direction of the worker, place(s) of business or courses of business, and proof that the worker is independently established in the trade. A nonprofit may have to pay unemployment taxes even if the IRS or their state revenue services determine that, for income tax purposes, individuals may be independent contractors.

Cost-Saving Alternatives

The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) provides an alternative to paying into the state unemployment tax system, and can be a cost-saving option for nonprofits with more than 10 employees. Through UST, organizations directly reimburse the state only for the claims of their former employees, rather than paying the state unemployment insurance tax which covers all employers throughout the states.

And, because keeping unemployment costs low is vital to so many organizations across the U.S., we've added state-by-state information for taxable wage bases from the Department of Labor so you can see where your organization falls on the tax scale.

We encourage nonprofits to be proactive in learning what their options are, and what types of unemployment tax alternatives best suit their needs. Complete a complimentary Savings Evaluation to see if your organization could save money on its unemployment costs.
 
This post does not constitute official or legal advice. A version of this article originally appeared on blog.nonprofitmaine.org by Molly O'Connell.