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Behavior of Nonprofit Organizations in For-Profit Markets: The Curious Case of Unprofitable Revenue-Raising Activities

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  • Maxim Sinitsyn
  • Burton A. Weisbrod

Abstract

When nonprofit organizations in the U.S. engage in activities that are "substantially related" to their legal mission they pay no profits taxation, but profit from "unrelated business" (UB) activities is taxed. Since UB activity has no apparent justification other than to generate revenue, we attempt to explain why no profit is so frequently reported. We examine the accounting allocation of joint costs, such as depreciation, between the taxed and untaxed activities in six industries - including health, education, and the arts - and also the specific kinds of UB activities undertaken. We find evidence that the reported unprofitability of UB activity masks true profitability.

Suggested Citation

  • Maxim Sinitsyn & Burton A. Weisbrod, 2008. "Behavior of Nonprofit Organizations in For-Profit Markets: The Curious Case of Unprofitable Revenue-Raising Activities," Journal of Institutional and Theoretical Economics (JITE), Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, vol. 164(4), pages 727-750, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:mhr:jinste:urn:sici:0932-4569(200812)164:4_727:bonoif_2.0.tx_2-
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James R. Hines Jr., 1999. "Non-Profit Business Activity and the Unrelated Business Income Tax," NBER Chapters,in: Tax Policy and the Economy, Volume 13, pages 57-84 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Khanna, Jyoti & Sandler, Todd, 2000. "Partners in giving:: The crowding-in effects of UK government grants," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 44(8), pages 1543-1556, August.
    3. Joseph J. Cordes & Burton A. Weisbrod, "undated". "Differential Taxation of Nonprofits and the Commercialization of Nonprofit Revenues," IPR working papers 97-15, Institute for Policy Resarch at Northwestern University.
    4. Okten, Cagla & Weisbrod, Burton A., 2000. "Determinants of donations in private nonprofit markets," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(2), pages 255-272, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. David, Guy & Lindrooth, Richard C. & Helmchen, Lorens A. & Burns, Lawton R., 2014. "Do hospitals cross-subsidize?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 198-218.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L31 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Nonprofit Institutions; NGOs; Social Entrepreneurship
    • L33 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprise and Nonprofit Institutions; Privatization; Contracting Out
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • M41 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Accounting - - - Accounting

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