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Covering sports: A glossary of terms

Whether you come to the business of sports beat as a sports reporter or from the business desk, you’ll need to be familiar with business terms.

Here are some terms you would find in the financial records for non-profit organizations, which run sports-related businesses in small and large communities. Keeping this list of terms handy will remind you of places to look for financial records:

501(c) – This is the designation by the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt non-profit organizations. This tax-exempt status allows non-profit organizations to not pay taxes on revenue and donations made to the non-profit are tax deductible.IRS form 990

Form 990 – This is the name of the tax return that non-profit organizations file with the IRS. Non-profits must, by law, make their three most recent years of 990 forms available for public viewing. You can also see the most recent filings for free at guidestar.org. For a subscription fee, you can pay to view records at guidestar that in some cases go back 10 years.

Total Revenue – This is all the money, including donations and investment income, that comes in for the year.

Total Expenses – These are all the costs, including salaries, benefits and money given away, during the year.

Revenue less expenses – This is the bottom line for the year. Like a successful private business, this should be a positive number.

Net assets or fund balances – This is the total amount of money the non-profit has. This is a historical measurement as money can accrue over time, and major non-profits like college bowl games could have tens of millions of dollars in net assets or fund balances.

Reportable compensation – This is the salary, bonus or other income of employees. Make sure you look to see if employees are getting compensation from organizations related to the non-profit. Also, look at Schedule J to see if any of the officers are getting additional perks like first-class travel or having their health club dues paid for by the non-profit. (That actually does occur).

Contractors – These are organizations that do business with a non-profit. A non-profit on Schedule O has to list the compensation of its top five contractors. This is a good place to look to see if there are questionable business relationships.

About the Author

Craig Harris is a senior reporter for The Arizona Republic in Phoenix. He has been a reporter for 20 years, and he’s worked at six daily newspapers. Since late 2009, he has been investigating the financial dealings of college football’s Fiesta Bowl and potential illegal campaign contributions made by bowl employees. Those stories have led to criminal investigations by the state attorney general and Maricopa County attorney. Harris is a 1989 graduate of the University of Oregon, where he received a bachelor’s degree in journalism

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