Unrelated Business Income Tax
The University of Southern Mississippi is exempt from taxation under Section 115 of
the Internal Revenue Code. However, the University is required to pay Federal income
tax on net income from activities unrelated to the exempt mission of the University:
education, research and public service.
It is very important that all unrelated business activities of the University be reported
on the Federal tax return. The Internal Revenue Service can and will assess costly
penalties and interest charges for underpayment of taxes.
Three elements must be considered to determine if an activity is subject to unrelated
business income tax. The activity must:
- Be conducted as a trade or business
- Be regularly carried on
- Not be substantially related to the tax exempt mission of the University
Trade or Business: Includes any activity carried on for the production of income from selling goods
or performing services.
Regularly Carried On: UBIT applies only to a business activity that is regularly carried on, as opposed
to transactions that are sporadic or infrequent. An activity is considered regularly
carried on if it is conducted with a frequency and manner comparable to the conduct
of a similar activity by a taxed business.
Not Substantially Related: The activity must not be substantially related to the exempt mission of the University. To decide if an activity
is related or unrelated, determine the nature of the activity and how essential it
is to accomplish the mission of the University: education, research and public service.
The following are examples of activities that are not related to the mission of the University and subject to unrelated business income tax:
- Computer time sold to an outside company
- Income from advertising placed by a company in an athletic or performing arts program.
- Income from advertising on the Internet.
- Sale of mailing lists or other data to commercial entities.
- Sale of CDs, DVDs, and other gift items by the bookstore.
- Gift shop sales (evaluated on an item-by-item basis).
- Sale of advertising space in a Journal or regularly scheduled periodical.
- Sales of art objects at exhibits.
- On-line stores (i.e. charity malls) or auctions linked to the USM web site.
- A hyperlink from the USM web site to a sponsor’s web site where an endorsement appears
by USM for the sponsor’s product.
- Commercially sponsored scientific research if the results are not made available to
the public or directed toward benefiting the public.
- Rental of apartments to the general public where the building is financed by tax exempt
- Rental of sports facilities such as stadiums, soccer fields, etc. where services are
- A travel tour programs operated by a college/department or the alumni association
that are not authentic educational activities (i.e. sightseeing, recreational, social,
- Rental payments for the lease of space on antenna towers and transmission facilities.
- Summer Sports Camps that are not part of educational programs offered by the University.
- Corporate sponsorship payments where the sponsor receives a substantial return benefit
that has a fair market value of more than 2 percent of the entire payment.
- Pharmacy sales to the general public.
- Sale of merchandise (evaluated on an item-by-item basis).
- Pet boarding and grooming services for the general public.
- Commercial activities exploiting the University’s educational purpose.
- Joint ventures with for-profit organizations such as technology transfers forming
partnerships with individuals, corporations, or limited liability companies that do
not serve the University’s charitable purposes and do benefit the for-profit partner
- Professional entertainment events operated in a commercial manner and not part of
an educational program.
- Exclusive provider arrangements where the University performs substantial services.
- Direct operation of parking lots.
- Advertising in the telephone directory or yearbook.
- Dual use of assets or facilities for public events including evening hours.
- Intellectual property where substantial services are provided in connection with the
activity (facts and circumstances must be evaluated).
- A fitness center sells memberships to the general public.
- Book publishing where the University owns the rights to a book which does not relate
to the educational purposes of the University (i.e. exploits the book in a commercial
The following are examples of activities that are related to the mission of the University:
- Computer time sold to university departments.
- Income from advertising placed on the University newspaper when the newspaper is run
by the students as part of an educational program.
- Sale of books and class material by the bookstore.
- Meetings, conferences and seminars where education or training is provided by USM.
However, tangible personal property provided as part of the meeting packages can be
unrelated (i.e. audio/visual equipment).
- Non-patient diagnostic laboratory testing performed by a teaching hospital on specimens
needed for the conduct of its teaching activities.
- The sale of broadcasting rights for athletic events.
- Sponsoring entertainment events for the appearance of professional theater companies
and symphony orchestras that present drama and musical performances for students,
faculty, and the general public.
- Intellectual property royalties as a result of licensing to a third party.
Certain exclusions exist to the criteria set forth above. An activity that would ordinarily
be considered unrelated and subject to income tax is exempt from UBIT if any of the
following conditions exist:
Member Convenience: An unrelated activity conducted by the University for the benefit of its members
(students, faculty, and staff) is not subject to UBIT unless the income is generated
from sales to non-members. In this case, only non-members sales are taxed. Examples
of activities that are not subject to UBIT under the convenience exception include:
- Laundry facility for the students
- Rental of parking spaces to university students and employees
Volunteer Work: UBIT does not apply to income from an activity in which substantially all of the
work is performed without compensation.
Donated Property: Income from the sale of merchandise, substantially all of which has been donated
by a gift or contribution.
Government Research: Income from research conducted for the U.S., its instrumentalities or agencies, or
any State, or its instrumentalities or political subdivisions.
Tax-Exempt Colleges, Universities, and Hospitals: Income from research and all deductions directly connected with the income for tax-exempt
colleges, universities, and hospitals.
Rental of Real Property: In general, the rental of real property is not subject to unrelated business income
tax unless personal services are rendered that are not customarily or usual to the
rental of space.
Dividends, Interest, Annuities, and Royalties: In general, not subject to UBIT.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How do we know if we owe this tax? If the project or activity is selling goods or providing services to the general
public, a taxable UBIT evaluation must take place and the true “general public” net profit of the activity will be subject to this tax. Some exceptions may apply.
With the current financial position of the University, wouldn’t generating revenue
be a good thing? Yes, it can be a good thing, but this tax is a cost of doing business. The activity
will owe this tax, and the tax should be factored in when pricing and planning the
Please download the UBIT Questionnaire and submit the completed questionnaire to taxcomplianceFREEMississippi.