Myths and realities – how Photographic Society of America is managed – Through the President’s Viewfinder

Myths and realities – how Photographic Society of America is managed – Through the President’s Viewfinder – Column

James H. Turnbull

Through the years that I have been working in various PSA administrative and other positions, I have heard many misconceptions about how our Society functions, how it is sturctured, its legal and tax limitations, etc.

While detailed knowledge on such matters may not be essential for all members, wrong impressions and incorrect information will often distort efforts to improve our Society. They are distracting, they lead to wasted effort and expense and they often go undetected for many months, or even years, while interfering with the efficiency and performance of our volunteer workers and generally hurting morale.

Our Treasurer, Jean E. Thomson, FPSA, outlined some of these misconceptions in the February PSA Journal article “Dollar$ & Sen$e & PSA,” that accompanied the annual Audit Report. I would like to reinforce her comments and also offer some Myths I have heard, along with the appropriate Reality:

* Myth: PSA is just a camera club on a large scale and thus should have the same operating privileges and independence as any local club.

* Reality: PSA is a registered Illinois business corporation and is subject to all federal and state laws and practices applying to any business company. In addition, the Society must operate in pursuit of the purposes for which it was legally formed, our accounting and related financial procedures must conform to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). We also must be audited annually by an outside public accounting firm.

Further, PSA enjoys a 501C(3) “Not for Profit” status with the Internal Revenue Service. This requires the Society to be carefully administered within all applicable IRS regulations. It is this IRS status that, among other benefits, permits the tax deductibility of properly made donations to PSA. Without such direct or indirect donations from members your Society’s path would be much more difficult. So it is obviously imperative that we jealously guard that IRS status.

* Myth: As a “tax exempt” organization, PSA does not pay income taxes.

* Reality: PSA does not pay taxes on income generated from activities serving our tax exempt purposes, but–as required by applicable IRS regulations–we do pay taxes on income not directly related to those purposes. For instance, we must pay tax on income from advertisements in our PSA Journal, and sale of paraphernalia, books, etc. These types of activities, while obviously beneficial to the Society, are of a commercial nature and income is subject to federal taxation.

* Myth: The president and other National Officers (Executive Committee) receive a salary for their PSA positions and earn free convention/conference registration, etc.

* Reality: Our Constitution & By Laws specifically forbids any elective officer from receiving cash remuneration for serving in office.

Executive Committee members, as well as volunteer workers may be reimbursed for authorized and budgeted out-of-pocket expenses, but do not receive a salary. The Executive Committee members may request reimbursement (not exceeding 50 percent) for round trip economy air fare from their home to the place of an official Executive Committee business meeting. However, all other expenses (e.g. hotel, meals, etc.) related to such Executive Committee business meetings are not reimbursable. Also Executive Committee members, as well as volunteer workers pay the same registration, tour, and meal function fees applicable to all convention/conference attendees. The only exception to the registration fee policy is for program presenters.

* Myth: PSA dues are higher than other comparable organizations.

* Reality: The only other international organization that I view as comparable to PSA (size, structure, services, purpose, etc.) is The Royal Photographic Society. Their dues are considerably higher. As of January 1, 1992, their dues for an “Ordinary” (equals our “Individual”) member was 54 British Pounds which, if converted to U.S. dollars at the current exchange rate, amounts to $97.20. This is nearly three times our annual “Individual” dues of $35. Holders of their “Distinctions” (equal to our “Honors”) pay even more.

* Myth: PSA’s insurance coverage also protects member organizations such as camera clubs, councils, federations, etc.

* Reality: PSA carries insurance on its business property (e.g., contents at headquarters), liability in the event of injury (etc.) to a third party, Workers Compensation for our headquarters staff and so forth. But no Society insurance directly extends to any member, whether individual or group. Of course, Chapters, Divisions, and Committees are legal subdivisions of the Society and, as such, are protected by the Society’s covers to the extent of the protection obtained.

* Myth: PSA member Camera Clubs and Councils (etc.) must follow PSA competition rules in their own local and interclub competitions.

* Reality: PSA promulgates and publishes the “Consolidated Exhibition Standards” (CES) that serve as guidelines for International Exhibitions (salons) seeking recognition and Journal listing by PSA. This document outlines rules that are designed to protect the interests of the exhibitors and their entries. However, the CES document has no bearing on any other organization nor does PSA have any other involvement in or responsibility for “local” competition rules. Local clubs (etc.) may decide to follow some features of the CES, but that is their decision. Similarly, any competitive rules adopted by (for instance) PSA Divisions for their internal constest activities do not affect local organizations.

My list of “Myths” goes on but my space does not. I will sign off for now and we shall perhaps revisit this subject down the road.

COPYRIGHT 1992 Photographic Society of America, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group