We are renting a commercial building from a non-profit. Can our company (s-corp) buy things and have someone on our payroll do things for the non-profit? Not asking for a donation receipt. Just wanting to support the non-profit. It would reflect as a regular expense on our side. Example: just built a carport for the non-profit on their grounds.
Yes. The S-Corp can deduct up to the amount it actually incurred in expenses.
If your actual expenses to build the carport were $1000, then the $1000 would be deductible, and your business should be able to show $1000 in receipts or inventory changes. Note you cannot deduct beyond your actual expenses even if you would normally charge more. For example, suppose you invoiced the non-profit $2000 for the carport, and once the bill was paid you turned around and donated the $2000 back to the non-profit. In that case you would be deducting $1000 for your cost + $2000 donation for a total of $3000. But, you also would have $2000 in income so in the end you would end up with a $1000 loss which is exactly what your expenses were to begin with.
It would probably be a good idea to be able to explain why you did this for free. If somehow you personally benefit from it then it could possibly be considered income to you, similar to if you bought a TV for your home with company funds. It would probably be cleaner from an accounting perspective if you followed through as described above- invoice the non-profit and then donate the payment back to them. Though not necessary, it could lesson any doubt about your motives.