Question: Providing parking validations to low-income patients is not costing the hospital anything; however, we are not receiving payment for parking when the validations are issues. Can we count the lost revenue as a cost of the validations a quantified community benefit?

Recommendation: Providing vouchers for parking represents an "opportunity cost" — revenue that you could have received — rather than an actual net cost to the hospital. Therefore, we recommend not counting free parking unless you can establish that the hospital is incurring an actual expense. If, by offering free parking to low-income patients, spaces no longer are available to patients with the ability to pay, then a case can be made to count the lost revenue as community benefit. Also, check with your finance department to see if the parking costs are imbedded in the overhead of the organization to determine whether the cost is already accounted for most patients in need (charity care and Medicaid patients).

Question: We have a contract for valet parking for our emergency room. The cars are moved to our parking garage, and there is no charge for this service regardless of how many hours or days they are parked there. Can we claim the valet parking as a community benefit as it makes health care more accessible to the public?

Recommendation: We recommend not reporting valet parking as community benefit. While valet parking is a convenience, it is unlikely to address the basic problem of health care access.

(November 2011)

Please Take Note: The information provided does not constitute legal or tax advice. The material is provided for informational/educational purposes only. Please consult with counsel regarding your organization's particular circumstances.