By John Stylianou, Accountant
Writing up the minutes of board of directors’ meetings is not exactly a high priority for most business owners. Yet well-documented corporate minutes can provide valuable supporting evidence if your tax positions are ever questioned.
Minutes are especially important where any kind of related-party transactions occur, such as payments, loans, or distributions between the company and its owners. For example, the IRS may challenge the amount of compensation paid to a business owner as unreasonable. Corporate minutes that document the factors considered by the board in approving the compensation can be a strong defense against such a challenge.
Another area that receives close scrutiny from the IRS is the amount of earnings that are retained in the business rather than distributed as taxable dividends. A penalty applies to retained earnings over a certain limit unless they can be justified by business needs. Corporate minutes can be a strong piece of supporting evidence if they clearly spell out the reasons that the company needs to retain funds — for example, to purchase assets or for working capital.
If your company has a tax-qualified retirement plan or a stock option plan, the minutes should show decisions by the board adopting or modifying the plan. They should also document annual decisions on the percentage of contribution to profit-sharing plans and any decisions on fringe benefits such as medical reimbursement accounts.
Corporate minutes need not be lengthy, but they should provide a clear record of corporate actions and the business factors that were considered when those actions were taken. You should think of your minutes as a key element of your tax planning strategy.