William & Mary Business Law Review


Emily Cohen


The recent spread of Benefit Corporations formally challenges the assumption that for-profit companies are strictly profit maximizing entities. Businesses can now incorporate under charitable business purposes that were once restricted to 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. While incorporating under a charitable purpose is no longer restricted to only non-profit entities, Benefit Corporations are not able to receive the same income tax exemption under the Internal Revenue Code. While for-profit entities do receive some tax benefits for their charitable behavior, such as the charitable donation deduction, the current tax structure does not provide an equal amount of tax benefits for charitable behavior when performed by a Benefit Corporation as it does for a 501(c)(3). This Note argues that the Internal Revenue Code’s entity classification for non-profits and forprofits does not accommodate the mixed-purpose structure of the Benefit Corporation. This Note will explore the Internal Revenue Code’s treatment of non-profit 501(c)(3)s and charitable behavior by for-profit entities and posits that the Internal Revenue Code attempts to treat the charitable behavior of an entity favorably more than it attempts to treat an entity as a whole favorably. Because charitable behavior is not considered a trade or business under the Internal Revenue Code, Benefit Corporations will now be regularly engaging in charitable behavior, the expense of which will not be categorized as either a charitable deduction or as ordinary and necessary business expenses. This Note suggests that a possible way to give Benefit Corporations the same tax treatment for its charitable behavior as non-profits engaging in the same behavior is to create a “Benefit Expense” deduction akin to the ordinary and necessary business expense deduction currently available to for-profit entities.

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